CONENT WARNING: Mention of homophobia, violence against LGBTQ individuals, faith-based discrimation and sexual violence. Reader discretion strongly advised.
I am one of many bisexual women. For me, that means I am attracted to both men and women, whether they are transgender or not transgender. Rarely I will find myself attracted to someone who is non-binary, but for a the vast majority of the time binary gender (male and female) plays a massive role in who I am attracted to.
I recently spoke about reconciling my faith as a bisexual woman. I do currently have a faith in God and read the Bible, having a secular, but in many ways morally Christian, upbringing. I do have a more Christian reinforcement in my faith and look up to many of Jesus’ teachings. Love one another as I have loved you, care for the needy etc.
I don’t subscribe in dogma or much of the rhetoric that organised religion focuses on. I don’t subscribe to fire and brimstone. I detest it actually. I enjoy going to church when I feel the need to. I pray. I enjoy the structure of services at times, but feel faith is an ever evolving entity, as humanity learns and grows with the times they are in. That’s the Quakerish part of my personal beliefs. I suppose many would call them more spiritual than religious. Either way, it’s there and there’s no use ignoring it.
I also study other faiths and their principles (even if I was an atheist, I still would. It’s fascinating), trying to follow universal principles of community and looking after one another. Granted, you don’t have to believe in anything to do this, but for many, it exacerbates that need to help others.
Recently, I spoke to other people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Queer (LGBTQ), posting on Twitter for anyone who has had experiences with their faith and sexual orientation that they’d feel comfortable sharing. I’m very thankful to those who got in touch and were comfortable sharing their experiences, and in keeping with our agreement, respecting and protecting their anonymity. So thanks guys, you know who you are ❤
As I mentioned before in Crisis of faith, it’s commonplace for people who are attracted to the same sex, more than one gender, or are of a different gender identity, not to feel welcome in their faith. It’s not uncommon for people within those institutions to actively shun or excommunicate LGBTQ people from their communities. Even going to violent measures, from beatings, conversion therapy and exorcisms (some believe in that not being straight and/or cisgender is a sign you are apparently possessed by demons) making their ignorance well and truly known, however well-intentioned they think they’re being.
So how do we come to peace with our faith, whatever that is, and our sexualities, when treatment like this happens all too often? For me and the people who spoke to me, it was a common consensus of not having any issue with God themselves, but individuals within our respective faiths.
I’m lucky that most folks I know who belong to a certain faith couldn’t give a toss that I swing both ways, as it were. Even if some do still believe it’s not ideal (which to me, is not ideal but hey, at least they’re not screaming at me) but aren’t hateful towards me and treat me like everyone else. As I said that might not be in my ideal world but compared to more unpleasant experiences, that’s the best I can hope for and I’m fine with that.
Peoples’ experiences range from nonchalant, like mine so far, to incredibly adverse. One person who got in touch told me they struggled deeply with their bisexuality growing up, when surrounded by harsh and terrible words regarding LGBTQ people in their church.
This resorted to ‘praying the gay away’, something taught by homophobic clergy and worshippers. ‘Pray to God to relieve you of your sin’, as the train of thought goes. Others have had accepting religious families and environments, until they were sent to a religious school, where the general consensus among students and teachers was incredibly homophobic, resulting in not only being closeted, but developing internalised homophobia.
Some have had no conflict at all with their faith and sexuality, being openly LGBTQ to their families and congregations, some coming out in their teens and others later in life, to the support of their religious Christian families, from Baptist to Orthodox Christian. Some have stuck to the churches they have always known whereas others, due to their negative experiences, have found churches that pride themselves on being LGBTQ affirming.
Others have even spent years studying their faith’s scriptures and its historical context, finding some very interesting things that get lost in translation from Ancient Hebrew and Greek to English.
Overall, many if not all who spoke to me, have finally found a place, church and/or mindset, where they don’t feel like they have to choose between their faith and who they love. Because why, if God is love and Jesus, who was known to be outspoken on many things, never mentioned a single thing on homosexuality? And historical context actually points to condemning sexual slavery, paedophilia and rape of slaves and underage male prostitutes in the Roman Empire? Not two consenting adults happily in love?
Either way, one thing was a constant in their stories: My faith is between me and God. Whatever anyone else thinks? It’s none of their business.
And I couldn’t agree more. It’s been, and still is, a process to feel completely comfortable with. Should I go to a church, knowing full well there may be some who do not take kindly, feeling like they know even if they don’t, and keep my head held high. It can be anxiety inducing at times. But like they said: it’s not up to them.
And in truth? A lot of us are lucky to be in a place of the world where many just don’t care, and are just happy you showed up to church. I can take that. However, many are not as lucky. Hopefully, religions will become more affirming and more loving. Until then, we can only keep going forward.
For those interested looking more into LGBTQ Christians in particular, Grace Baldridge, a lesbian Christian and daughter of an LGBTQ affirming Episcopal priest and Bible expert, is a fantastic journalist who has a documentary series on Refinery29 called ‘State of Grace’. I highly recommend having a look!
*Image credit: outpouringoftrust.com/product/gate-of-heaven-rosary/