Orlando, Faith, and My Bisexuality
On June 12th, 2016 my world was shaken up by a mass shooting at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando, Florida that claimed 49 lives and devastated so many others. I didn’t know anyone that was there but I had a connection to the victims that left me feeling vulnerable -I’m bisexual and I hadn’t told most people until after the attack happened.
I started to accept this part of my identity nearly 2 years prior but I think it was probably always part of me. When I started puberty, I was interested in both boys and girls. I learned quickly, attending a private Christian school and growing up in a conservative household, that being attracted to the same gender was not acceptable for me. So I focused on girls that I was still very much attracted to and blocked out the idea that I could be anything but straight. I think anyone who grew up with me would agree that I focused a little too much on them. Eventually my obsession evolved into homophobia (I was literally terrified of the possibility of being gay growing up) and misogynistic views on women in an attempt, at least subconsciously, to “prove” how straight I was. Thankfully, I grew out of these views when I started attending public high school and met the girl who would later become my wife.
Subtle attractions for guys stayed with me throughout high school but I had gotten good at distracting myself from them (see also: girl obsession) and they didn’t surface often enough for me to think much of them. Besides, most guys in high school hadn’t quite grown into their bodies and didn’t understand the concept of personal hygiene yet. By and large, boys were gross back then and I knew for a fact that I liked girls. Straight. There’s no way I’m not straight, I continued to tell myself.
Then I became an adult and those feelings went from being locked away in the back of my mind to being completely undeniable but I still continued to insist that I was straight because I couldn’t really be bisexual, could I? You just don’t see bisexual men in society. So I couldn’t be one right? Considering myself a Christian, I scoured the internet for perspectives on like-gender attraction from people who shared my faith. I told myself I was searching on behalf of my girlfriend, who in reality I had no hang ups about being bisexual. I found a local church’s website that broke apart the “clobber passages” that condemned homosexuality one by one and held that my attraction to men (which I still wasn’t admitting to yet) wasn’t sinful. I held onto this website for a couple of years, even using it to defend my friends who received a lot of judgement upon coming out. I kept putting myself in their shoes and imagining how they must feel.
At some point in late 2014, I discovered my current church home at Pilgrimage United Church of Christ, a church that accepts and affirms all LGBTQ identities. As I came to know more LGBTQ Christians in person and on the internet, I started to feel more confident in my faith, something I hadn’t been able to say since I graduated high school and moved out into the real world. With this newfound confidence in my faith and after many months of meditation, I began to realize that the feelings I had been running from almost my whole life were a part of me that I couldn’t change; a part of me that God loved because God made me that way. So in this way, my faith is partly what gave me the clarity I needed to accept myself and it’s what I continue to cling to when I’m feeling like I must be crazy for my attraction to genders like my own and unlike my own (my preferred definition of bisexuality, inclusive of non-binary transgender people).
As soon as I came to this realization about myself, my wife (who was then my fiance) and I talked about it, like we do everything. She helped me sort out my feelings. In some ways, my thoughts sounded very similar to when she had talked to me about her bisexuality. It’s really a wonder that I didn’t see it sooner. Fast forward to June 2016; I was happily married and we had made a nice little life for ourselves but I still hadn’t come out to much of anyone else about being bisexual. Sure, it was reassuring to find some bi guys on Twitter and YouTube that shared some of my experiences but I still felt like I was being dishonest by being silent. It felt like I finally knew who I was but I thought I couldn’t tell anyone. Everyone has always thought I was straight and I’m already 24. What good could coming out do? Then June 12th happened.
After the shooting at Pulse, the burden of my secret was too heavy alongside the shock of what had happened. I kept thinking about the victims that weren’t out to anyone and were at the club in secret. You have to remember that this wasn’t just a place to hook up with other guys, it was a haven where these people could be themselves without judgment, at least for one night. How could I let this part of my identity be a secret when so many died because of theirs? So I came out to Twitter, where most of my closest friends would see. I felt so relieved and loved after many of my friends gave me words of support. One of the first messages I received was from a total stranger who said, “You are so loved.” It meant the world to me.
Later that week, my church had a vigil for the shooting. It was so incredible to see the rainbow flag draped over the podium, the trans pride flag hanging on the Communion Table, and the bisexual pride flag draped over the piano (which is exactly where I would’ve put it, by the way). After a brief sermon by Rev. Kimberleigh Buchanan , we spent most of the night in prayer; prayers of sadness and anger and more. We were all given the opportunity to add our voice. Then something I hadn’t expected happened. The baptismal water (no bigger than a bowl as I recall) was set up for us to use like we usually do when we renew our baptismal vows. Our church allows us to do whatever feels comfortable with the water when we come up. I like to dip a finger in and touch my chest where my heart would be. Then Pastor Kim gave us each individually a blessing from Scripture “You are God’s child; God loves you. With you God is well-pleased”. After hearing the news of the attack, and coming out to friends, and all of my insecurities that still lingered about all of it, I needed so desperately to hear that. God loves me and They are pleased with me and the person They created me to be.
After coming out on Twitter, I had a couple of friends, in turn, come out to me. It made me realize that I could actually do some good by being out and visible. Bisexual men seem to be the last out of the closet, and among the highest risk for depression and suicide behind bisexual women and transgender people. Maybe seeing that a man can be openly bisexual will encourage others to live their truth and not feel so confused and alone like I was at times. I still don’t feel like I can come out to everyone (thank you Facebook privacy settings) but I feel like since today is Bisexual Visibility Day, I should be as visible as I can be. If you’re reading this, I wanted you to know I’m bisexual and this is my story.