by Rachel Siden
Dear Christian family,
I just came out as bisexual. You may feel shocked. You may assume that I’ve “backslidden,” fallen for worldly deception, or outright left the faith. You may feel scared for my soul or for my walk with God. I know how you are feeling, because that is exactly how I felt about my queer friends while growing up as a strict, conservative Christian. Please don’t be afraid; let me tell you my story.
First, I want to assure you that my journey was never devoid of God. You may have this image in your head of me becoming a secularist or an atheist at the time I started realizing I was attracted to women, but it was actually the opposite. When all this began, I was eighteen and on fire for God. I was at the height of my passion and dedication to serving my church and serving Jesus. When I was forced to confront my feelings, my answer was to go deeper into my relationship with God. I immersed myself in church and Bible reading with a new passion, while humbly and desperately “praying the gay away.”
I need to emphasize the words prayed desperately. I was not lazy about it. I went to elders in my church. I fought to spend time reading my Bible and praying daily. I attended church every Sunday, and more than once went to our healing ministry team to pray over me. I tried to “live out” the Christian life by volunteering for my church or evangelizing to my friends at every chance I got. But despite how much I threw myself into praying and seeking God, nothing changed. The more time went on, I started to feel utterly trapped, and terrified that these feelings would be stuck with me for the rest of my life.
After five years of no change—despite intense prayer and God-seeking—I inevitably started to question my faith. If the Bible is so clear that being attracted to my own gender was a sin, and my church teaches me that God answers prayers and delivers us from temptation, then why is nothing happening? Not only were my feelings still present, they were steadily getting worse to the point where I was losing my attraction to men. Surely God would have at least eased my struggle?
My years of unsuccessful efforts to eliminate my attraction to women was taking a huge toll on me. It was torturous to know that I could never acknowledge, let alone experience, this part of me, and I was constantly ridden with guilt and shame for having these feelings in the first place. I became terrified that cheating on my male partner in a moment of weakness was inevitable. These were years of mental suffering. I imagined forcing myself to live this way for my entire life, and it filled me with absolute despair. And even if I somehow managed to struggle through life this way out of pure devotion to my religion, what if I died and discovered that either God wasn’t real, or that God never considered homosexuality a sin at all? I became haunted by this possibility. What if I suffered my whole life to conform to a rule that ended up not being real? I would have felt like I had wasted my life.
Early on, I was hopeful that I could one day change, because I had heard many stories of “ex-gay” Christians that God delivered who were able to live happy, Christian, heterosexual lives. But slowly, I started to discover that the term “ex-gay” didn’t mean what I thought it meant. I always thought that ex-gay people were people that God “healed” and made straight. This isn’t true. Ex-gay typically people weren’t people who were transformed by God into straight people; they were people who were choosing to commit to the lifestyle of a straight person. But committing to living like a straight person doesn’t change what’s on the inside. Most, if not all, of these ex-gay people still had to wake up and resist their same-sex attraction and desires every single day. It was at this point that I started to face the reality that perhaps God isn’t as active in turning people straight as I thought.
I started to accept that I may never be delivered from my same-sex attraction, and that I may have these feelings for the rest of my life. Weary from my years of fighting my attraction with no results, I decided that it was time to change my approach. I stopped focusing on trying to eliminate my sexuality, and started to focus on discovering how God was calling me to live. I stopped praying for God to take away my feelings, and started praying for God to reveal the plan he had for me. I still wasn’t convinced that my sexuality was right, but I also wasn’t convinced that accepting that my sexuality was a real and inherent part of me was wrong or sinful either. I decided to take things one day at a time and trust that God would lead me where I needed to be. I decided to be open-minded to any new information that came my way, and let it be an opportunity for God to reveal to me how he actually felt about my same-gender attraction.
During this time, a new friend and I were having a casual conversation about sexuality, and without thinking, the words “I’m bisexual” slipped through my lips. I felt all the pressure and struggle I had been carrying evaporate as I spoke those words. The simple act of being honest with myself and what I was feeling, and bringing my experience into the light instead of hiding it, transformed me. This struggle had been weighing me down for years, and in that moment, I felt like I was free for the first time. I stumbled upon a simple truth that is obvious to me now: trying to hide or smother a feeling only amplifies it. Allowing yourself to call it what it is, and be open about your experience with it, can finally set you free.
My journey to take things one day at a time with God has brought me a long way. In some ways I haven’t changed, and in some ways, I’ve become a completely different person. Today, I proudly call myself bisexual, because doing so is an act of acceptance that has helped me achieve tremendous peace. And I proudly and openly support my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, because I believe we deserve more than the pain, discrimination, and hatred we receive from so many who are different from us.
My Christian family, I know that when you hear me call myself bisexual, it makes you feel uncomfortable. I know you feel like there is something wrong, sinful, or un-Christian about it. You may feel an urge to speak up about how you feel, but before you do there are three specific things that I would ask you not to do.
1. You may be making some assumptions about me and how “Christian” I still am. Unless we’ve spoken directly about what I believe or how I practice my faith, you have no business making assumptions about me, or any other LGBTQ person you come across. Some queer people are liberal, some are conservative. Some read the Bible literally, some don’t. Some believe that acting on their attraction is sinful, some don’t. Some believe they were born the way they are, some believe it is more due to circumstance. Some believe God made them the way they are, some believe it was random chance. Some aren’t very involved in their church, while some pray or attend church more frequently than you. Don’t start advising an LGBTQ person on what they “should” be doing with their lives or saying about themselves without understanding who we are and what kind of lives we are actually living.
2. You may be thinking of specific Bible verses to quote to point out the ways that you believe that my bisexual identity is wrong or misinformed. I need you to know that most of what you would like to say to me or others probably wouldn’t be anything I or other queer people haven’t heard before. If you meet a God-fearing Christian who went through years of struggling with same-gender attraction, believe me when I say that we have probably studied the theology of sexuality far more than you have, because we believed our souls were on the line. Please show us some humility, and know that assuming we haven’t put any time into studying the Bible or other resources comes across as insulting rather than helpful.
3. You may already be typing up a reminder that the Bible is “clear” on homosexuality being a sin. I can’t emphasize enough how meaningless this statement becomes to LGBTQ people who moved beyond the text and started asking the hard theological questions while studying their Bible. What does a “clear” reading of the Bible even refer to? A reading from a specific English translation? A reading in the original Hebrew or Greek? The interpretation of a Catholic priest? The interpretation of a professor with a Ph.D. in Theology? What does “homosexuality” even refer to? Sex with someone of the same gender? Loving someone of the same gender? Experiencing attraction to someone of the same gender? How do we even classify and define sins? All commandments in the Bible? Only some? How do we know which ones still matter and which ones don’t? Most of us have moved beyond taking the Bible at its English-American-Protestant-Evangelical interpretation and are asking some of these bigger questions on a search for truth. If you aren’t willing to have a discussion with us at that level, and insist on shutting us down by repeating “the Bible is clear,” then you don’t actually care much about our journey for Biblical truth.
In addition to not doing these three things, there is one final thing I ask that you to do. I ask you to listen. The average heterosexual Christian has no idea what it is like to experience same-gender attraction, to struggle with sexual orientation, and to wrestle with your faith because of it. And on top of this struggle, the church has frequently hurt us, shamed us, outright abused us, and ignored us. We have scars and pains that go unnoticed by most of the Christian world, since many of us get kicked out of church and out of sight the second we reveal what we are experiencing. We deserve so much more. Our honesty about who we are and the questions we ask about our faith because of it shouldn’t be met with shame, judgment, and ostracizing. Our efforts to speak up about what it is like to live in our shoes shouldn’t be met with a shower of Bible verses designed to shut us down or sweep us under the rug. Give us the space to reconcile our faith and sexuality the right way, and have the humility to admit that if you are not God, you can’t act as any authority on what “the right way” should be.
I am not saying we can’t have discussions about the Bible and my bisexuality. I believe that discussion with different views can be a great tool for learning. But at the same time, don’t approach me to start a debate unless you are acquainted with who I am, what I have struggled with, what life I am living, and what I believe. Ask me your questions, but then be prepared to truly listen.