Editors’ Note: This week we're sharing stories of invisibility within the LGBT Christian community. On Monday we published the story of Daniel, an HIV-positive gay man. For today's post we've asked a bisexual friend to write about her experience.
Rosemary Jones is a wife, mother, and artist. She likes to create beautiful things, lift heavy things, and question most everything. INFJ & Ravenclaw—because those are important too.
by Rosemary Jones
Being LGBTQ is hard for anyone, especially as a follower of Jesus. Being bisexual, the invisible “B” in an already marginalized group, offers its own unique challenges. But being a bisexual woman, married to a man, and loving Jesus? Pass me the Invisibility Cloak.
People I share my story with must wonder: What’s the point of being out? At first glance, it would seem to offer no benefits, and in fact would seem to only complicate things. Being bi (and specifically, being bi with an opposite-gender partner) means I am too queer for straight spaces and too straight for queer spaces. Going into a gay bar with my husband could be greeted with all the side-eye and annoyance over straight-crashers. Mentioning my bisexuality in hetero, churched spaces is sometimes greeted with discomfort and inappropriate questions about our marriage and sex life. They’d all be far more comfortable if I would just remain silent. It doesn’t confuse them if I let my partner create my visibility.
How much easier it would be to simply embrace my “straight privilege.” I can hold my husband’s hand while we’re walking down the street and not be afraid of ugly looks or hateful comments or assault. I don’t have to worry about losing my job or my housing. My child could attend a religious school if I wanted her to. I could serve in a church that would otherwise hold me back.
But it’s not so simple. The thing about “straight privilege” for me is that it is not privilege. It’s being put back in the closet over and over and over again. And unless I specifically spell out my bisexual lens for people, there’s always a part of me that remains unseen. The whole of me is not visible.
And it’s not just about me being seen—it’s about representation and solidarity. When I met my first bi friend as a young teenager, I finally found someone I could relate to and I felt less alone. When I still meet other bi people, I get SO excited because I feel less alone. Being bi is so much more than who I'm having sex with, just like your being straight/gay is about more than who you're having sex with. The world's straight lens—heteronormativity—is EVERYwhere and it's considered the standard.
My bisexual brain, my lens, is how I've always seen the world, and it's different from the “norm.” It's how I relate to any marginalized group, how I have an affinity to creation that breaks boundaries, how I can encourage friends in a similar place, how I see myself, how I see God, how I vote, how I create my art, how I parent my child, how I love and relate to my husband. It impacts everything. And in this most recent season of me being fully out and proud, over and over and over again, I’ve had women in seemingly-heterosexual marriages approach me and say they're also bi but in the closet; living openly has encouraged them to be more open and accepting of who they are.
Furthermore, I am in a unique position to speak up for the rest of the LGBTQ community. It wasn’t so long ago that I was having coffee with my former pastor—a woman of color in a seemingly progressive church—and asked about the policies surrounding LGBTQ people. Our church was the kind that spoke up for racial and socioeconomic disparities. I had shown up for lectures on the crisis of how we treat undocumented immigrants and had participated in Black Lives Matter protests. Throughout the year, I waited for LGBTQ issues to be discussed with the same passion and integrity.
It turned out to be a long year.
Despite this church’s concern for marginalized groups, same-sex couples were excluded from membership in the church and, therefore, were barred from higher positions of service. In other words, I would have been welcome to hide behind my so-called “straight privilege” and serve my married, gay friends communion. But I could never be served by them. They would not have been allowed to teach my child on Sunday mornings, regardless of the fact that they are parents to a son the same age as my daughter.
“Are these stipulations only for LGBTQ people?” I remember asking my pastor. She looked me in the eye with the weight of empathy and said, “Yes.” In a church that elevated women and people of color, we were the only ones left with this glass ceiling.
In that moment with my pastor, I saw that I had a choice to make. My entire adult life, I’d been hiding in my seemingly-hetero marriage in an effort to fit into a church culture I didn’t even like. I could sense I was being asked to continue on that path if I wanted to continue my growth in this church. I held the majority of my words to myself but my feelings came out in silent tears as I sipped my tea. This wasn’t the first time I felt betrayed by a church that expected me to hide my full identity.
That day, I chose visibility over conforming. Some people can stay and build bridges and push for change. But I’m done supporting institutions that actively discriminate against my community. That day, I demanded autonomy over my identity. I took back my own empowerment, strength and visibility. That was the last time I showed up at that church.
During this season of life, the eucharist has become my most sacred piece of liturgy. At our new church, I hold the cup and watch each person—each temple—come forward. They all have their own approach. Some make the sign of the cross over themselves, some keep their eyes downcast and their words to themselves, some let their eyes connect with mine and quietly share a response. I recite the words over and over and over:
Body of Christ, broken for you.
Blood of Christ, shed for you.
And I am reminded that the bread and wine—the body and the blood—are not only for all of us, but for every part of us. Being bisexual means I demand to be seen and see the invisible—the margins within the margins. And I look for them every time I serve the bread and wine.
Cover art by Rosemary Jones. Of this piece, she says: “I saw this image one day while I was sitting on the beach. I'd been in a season of trying to wrap my head around my identity and how it's connected with how God sees me. The phrase Jesus said about giving us an ‘easy yoke and a light burden’ kept repeating, and the words shifted to burden of light. In my mind, I saw a yoke. It was a dual one—this wasn't a yoke I was called to carry alone. It was carried by myself and Jesus. Growing out of it was this gorgeous, intricate chandelier of colored light. My beautiful burden of light. The colors reflected in it are bi-pride colors of pink, purple, and blue. In fine detail in the wood grain, the phrase ‘easy yoke and burden of light’ is hidden.”
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