by Believe Out Loud
Pictured clockwise: Ashley DeTar Birt, Hannah Soldner, Angélique Gravely, Alison Amyx, Keisha E. McKenzie, Beth Sherouse
No one human being expresses their sexuality nor their gender in the exact same way as another. Yet we are all a part of God’s grand creation and blessed under God’s love.
This is why, for #BiWeek, we wanted to know a little bit more about the different ways that folks of all genders experience their sexuality, and how they shared this part of their identity with the larger world. So, we gathered some questions and went in search of some of our favorite bisexual and bisexual-adjacent BOL’ers (check out their bios at the end!).
This is the result of a conversation we’ve started:
What term or terms do you use to describe your sexual orientation?
Hannah Soldner: I like queer, but I use bisexual because of visibility (and accuracy) and Lesbian (because it forces people to acknowledge my gender.)
Ashley DeTar Birt: Bisexual, Queer
Keisha McKenzie: I describe my orientation as fluid. I’m on the bi-spectrum and part of the bi community.
Angélique Gravely: I use bisexual or bi as the most specific description of my orientation and the term queer as a broad description.
Beth Sherouse: Bisexual or queer.
Alison Amyx: My primary label for myself is “queer.” More recently, I’ve started to realize how much internalized biphobia has impacted my journey to accept and understand myself. This realization has made me rethink my relationship with the label “bisexual.”
How did you first discover your bisexual identity, or the bisexual community?
AG: Although I knew that bisexual people existed long before I considered that I might be bisexual, I didn’t know there was a community with thought leaders, researchers, activists, etc. until I created a Tumblr account not long after I came out. I owe most of my initial knowledge of the bi+ community and bi+ history to Tumblr.
ADB: For me, I always knew I liked boys, but I figured I just wanted to be really, REALLY good friends with girls. I had a crush on my best friend in high school, but I figured that was a one-time thing. When I got to college and fell for another friend, I started to realize that maybe it wasn’t just the boys I was interested in.
AA: It took me a long time to take my attraction to women seriously because I didn’t see bisexuality as a serious option. I discovered the Kinsey scale in college, decided I was a 1.5, and called myself “straight” for the next five years.
KM: Sometimes a trivial question cuts through the angst. I was on holiday with some friends on a lazy fall afternoon in Florida and one of them asked me, “If you could have ten of your celebrity crushes in a hot tub, who would they be?” My answer surprised me because three of the people I mentioned were women. I think that was the first time I’d ever acknowledged it, and because the question was silly and my friends were safe, it didn’t feel like a thing I had to dodge. I could take my time and figure out what, if anything, it was all about. When I started looking back, a lot more started making sense!
BS: I always had crushes on girls and boys, but didn’t know that was an option. I learned about bisexuality at some point in my early teens and immediately realized that was me.
How does your experience of bisexuality relate to your gender?
HS: Um, well I think it is safer for women to be out as bisexual. As a trans bisexual person, I just don’t have a lot of partner preferences. I like all the kinds of people.
BS: My gender expression has always been pretty queer, partly because a person’s gender isn’t all that important to me in terms of attraction or even friendship.
ADB: A lot of people make assumptions about my bisexuality based on my gender. Because I’m cisgender, people think I support the gender binary or am only attracted to men and women but not non-binary or genderqueer folk. Neither of those things is true.
AA: I think that I was able to dismiss my attraction to other women for so long because female sexuality, in general, is seen as a performance for men, or as frivolous. On the flip side, it seems that men who experience any hint of same-sex attraction are immediately labeled as “gay.” At both extremes, bisexuality is erased as a valid experience or identity.
KM: For me, both my gender and orientation are fluid. Expecting shifts, however small, helps me not to put limits on how I perceive other people or what I expect from myself.
How does your experience of bisexuality inform your experience of your religion or faith?
HS: I think that sometimes there are hard rules for how love works, but I don’t have a lot of those rules. This permeability of love works with how I think about a God of love.
AG: One of the biggest ways bisexuality has informed my faith is by making me more mindful of who is being included and excluded in religious spaces. American Christianity often relies on dichotomous thinking that leaves large swaths of people and their experiences out of church conversations. Experiencing this erasure in regards to my bisexuality helped me put words to the other forms of erasure or avoidance I’ve seen in Christian contexts and be more intentional about making space, even in my language, for people who don’t fit either/or categories the church uses.
ADB: In SO many ways! I think I wrote a piece for Believe Out Loud a while ago about bisexuality being like the full humanity and divinity of Christ (an idea that belongs to a bisexual former student of mine). I still love the idea that the experience of bisexuality can connect me with Jesus. I love waking up proud to live and love and just exist exactly as I am, knowing that God made me. I love that I don’t have to choose between any genders, nor do I have to choose between my orientation and my faith. They’re all me.
BS: I’m pretty agnostic, but as a child, my family was very religious, so it was difficult to reconcile my sexuality and come out
Has your understanding of bisexuality shifted since you first learned about it?
ADB: Definitely. I used to see bisexuality with the older definition—attracted to men and women—but I don’t really define it or myself that way anymore. I’m attracted to folks with the same gender identity as me and different gender identities. The “bi” in bisexual doesn’t stand for binary and neither do I.
AA: My understanding of bisexuality shifted when I realized that internalized biphobia had kept me, for many years, from exploring the nuances of my attraction to different genders. Romantic attraction is different from physical attraction, for example, and experiencing one type of attraction to women doesn’t invalidate the ways I’m attracted to men. The lesson of bisexuality, to me, is that I don’t have to be defined by only one experience. I can be a multiplicity of things.
BS: I now have an understanding of biphobia and its effects on my life and the disparities bi people face. I also learned about non-binary people and that bisexuality isn’t binary.
What’s one thing about bisexuality you wish people understood better?
HS: A lot of people think of bisexuality as a mixture of heterosexuality and homosexuality, but to me it feels like a freedom from rules.
ADB: We are not a monolith! There are as many ways to be bisexual as there are bisexual people. We are different genders, we’re attracted to different people in different ways, and we’re attracted to people in varying degrees. We all do our sexuality differently, as do mono-sexual folks. That should be lifted up.
BS: All of it.
What’s one thing you love about being bisexual, or part of the bisexual community?
AG: I love how expansive and diverse our community is.
ADB: We are INSANELY good at coming up with “bi” based puns!
BS: We’re resilient! I can love people regardless of their gender or sex.
KM: I love that my orientation gives me a really concrete way of seeing more than one possibility at a time. I think that’s a gift.
HS: My bisexuality can be entirely different from another person’s yet we are both bisexual—there are less hard and fast rules it feels like!
And finally—who’s your bisexual superhero?
HS: OMG! Um…Some mix of Xena [Xena Warrior Princess], Wonder Woman, and Korra [The Legend of Korra]!
AG: I have so, so many! Today, I’ll name Eliot Sutler, co-founder of Bi Women of Color Collaborative and BiNet USA board member. They are one of the best models of what showing up for your communities and owning who you are looks like.
BS: Sara Ramirez
ADB: Dr. Calliope Iphegenia Torres! I feel like I should say Sara Ramirez, since she’s the actress who PLAYS Callie Torres and she’s ALSO bisexual, but her character is the one who I grew up with and taught me how to be who I am.
KM: ABilly Jones Hennin is an epic human being and our community’s bisexual grandpa! He’s an advocate, a family man, and a ball of light. Google him!
Now it’s your turn—tell us your answers in the comments below!
Meet the contributors:
Hannah Rachel Soldner is an Actual Transgender Christian who attends three churches.
Ashley DeTar Birt is the Director of Christian Education at Rutgers Presbyterian Church.
Keisha E. McKenzie is the Program Director of Believe Out Loud.
Angélique Gravely is a Philadelphia-based bisexual speaker, writer, and activist.
Beth Sherouse, Ph.D. is an activist, southerner, historian, queer, feminist, writer.
Alison Amyx is the Senior Communications Strategist at Believe Out Loud.
In our home growing up, photographs were often stored in shoeboxes that fit under the bed or up in the closet. Now and then, those boxes would come out, and we would begin our trip down memory lane. Scenes in black and white took me back to my roots, rekindling bygone feelings and reminding me of precious stories. Pictures and the memories they evoke help us to keep our story alive.
In the 85 verses of the book of Ruth we follow one family and a foreign woman named Ruth as they eek out a living during the difficult days of the judges – a time of moral chaos and national instability, described in the last verse of Judges by the frightening words, everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). The story takes unexpected twists and turns that fire the imagination and soothe the soul.
Ruth is for people who wonder where God is when one tragedy after another pounds their faith. It is for people who wonder whether a life of integrity in tough times is worth it. And it is a story for people who can’t imagine that anything great could ever come of their ordinary lives.
The book tells of Ruth’s accepting the God of the Israelites as her God and the Israelite people as her own. In Ruth 1:16-17, Ruth tells Naomi, her Israelite mother-in-law, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
Ruth 1:16-17 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It shows the loyalty and love that one woman has for another. I was reminded of this verse the other day when I was watching Fried Green Tomatoes, my favorite movie. Idgie initially resists Ruth’s attempts at friendship, but gradually a deep attachment develops between them. Ruth leaves Whistle Stop to marry Frank Bennett and moves to Valdosta, Georgia. Idgie tries to forget her but later, after receiving a letter with the Bible verses Ruth 1:16-17 included in it, visits her house to find her pregnant and subject to physical abuse from Frank. Against his wishes and violent attempts to stop her, she returns to Whistle Stop with Idgie, where her baby, a boy whom she names Buddy, Jr., is born.
Both the story of the biblical Ruth and the story of Idgie and Ruth in Fried Green Tomatoes are powerful stories of women. They give us a lesson of love and loyalty that we can’t forget. If you’ve never seen Fried Green Tomatoes, you should. It’s a lovely movie.
Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame when he speaks
with his enemies in the gate.
– Psalms 127
Psalm 127 is one of the most practical passages in the Bible. It deals with two areas of our life that demand most of our time and cause us the most trouble. They are also the two areas which often compete with each other for our attention and energy. The two areas are those of our work and our family.
In our “workaholic” society Christian men often have misplaced priorities with respect to these responsibilities. The workaholic pursues his career at the expense of his family. He is often oblivious to the implications of his conduct. Minirth and Meier, two Christian psychiatrists, give us a picture of the workaholic’s true nature and its results:
“… the selfishness of the perfectionist (workaholic) is much more subtle. While he is out in society saving humanity at a work pace of eighty to a hundred hours a week, he is selfishly ignoring his wife and children. He is burying his emotions and working like a computerized robot. He helps mankind partially out of love and compassion, but mostly as an unconscious compensation for his insecurity, and as a means of fulfilling both his strong need for society’s approval and his driving urge to be perfect. He is self-critical and deep within himself feels inferior. He feels like a nobody, and spends the bulk of his life working at a frantic pace to prove to himself that he is really not (as he suspects deep within) a nobody. In his own eyes, and in the eyes of society, he is the epitome of human dedication. … He becomes angry when his wife and children place demands on him. He can’t understand how they could have the nerve to call such an unselfish, dedicated servant a selfish husband and father. … In reality, his wife and children are correct, and they are suffering severely because of his subtle selfishness.”
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
O what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood
Perfect submission, all is at rest
I in my Savior am happy and blessed
Watching and waiting, looking above
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because He has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”—John 3:16-18
Everyone is searching for that one thing which will provide a meaningful and happy life. And that’s because God has created us with a need and desire for meaning and purpose as well as love and acceptance. Of course, the world holds out many options of things that will make you happy like financial success, social status, the approval of others, a good job, education, friends, marriage as well as having children. However, none of these options truly satisfy the deep needs of the human life.
Pascal, the French physicist and philosopher said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which can only be filled by God through His Son, Jesus Christ.” Every human being has this emptiness inside them, that something is missing and the reason we feel like something is missing is because something is missing! And what’s missing is Christ Jesus living in us. It’s in Him that we find a meaningful and happy life and it’s there that your search for happiness ends.
We all want happiness. If we can’t find it through money, we’ll try education. If education doesn’t do the trick, we’ll turn to friends or marriage. As long as there’s something to try next, the search continues. But when you have all the money you need, or a wonderful family, or social status or whatever it may be and you’re still not happy you begin to wonder, “What’s this life all about?” And often, asking this type of question is what prepares a person’s heart to respond to the love of God and receive Jesus Christ into their life.
Now, think back to when you first placed your faith in Jesus, what did you respond to? Was it the same love that motivated God to send His Son? Of course, it was God’s love for you. And because of God’s great love 1 John 3:1 says, “See, how great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” You become a child of God, unconditionally loved, fully pleasing, absolutely accepted and complete in Christ. And so much more is your inheritance!
Adapted from a sermon by Pastor Bruce Willis.
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. – 1 John 5:4
Faith Is the Victory
by John H. Yates 1891
Encamped along the hills of light,
Ye Christian soldiers, rise,
And press the battle ere the night
Shall veil the glowing skies.
Against the foe in vales below
Let all our strength be hurled;
Faith is the victory, we know,
That overcomes the world.
Faith is the victory!
Faith is the victory!
Oh, glorious victory,
That overcomes the world.
His banner over us is love,
Our sword the Word of God;
We tread the road the saints above
With shouts of triumph trod.
By faith, they like a whirlwind’s breath,
Swept on o’er every field;
The faith by which they conquered death
Is still our shining shield.
On every hand the foe we find
Drawn up in dread array;
Let tents of ease be left behind,
And onward to the fray.
Salvation’s helmet on each head,
With truth all girt about,
The earth shall tremble ’neath our tread,
And echo with our shout.
To him that overcomes the foe,
White raiment shall be giv’n;
Before the angels he shall know
His name confessed in heav’n.
Then onward from the hills of light,
Our hearts with love aflame,
We’ll vanquish all the hosts of night,
In Jesus’ conqu’ring name.
"He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8
Pursuing sexual wholeness is a radical act of justice. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the church has a problem with sexuality. Many of us can quote the statistics and cite the scholarship. We can tell heart-rending stories of hurt and anguish as we wrestle with death-dealing, conservative theologies that keep many of us suffering in silence.
And yet the prophet Micah begs us to consider what the Lord requires of us.
The Rev. Dr. Katie Cannon, a black womanist theologian and ethicist, suggests that misunderstandings about sexuality send more people to the grave than any other issue. If there were one aspect of our humanity we wrestle with the most, then it is being in our very blessed and yet problematic bodies. From the time we are born until the day we leave this earth the pressing issues of our existence seems to be what do we do with our bodies, how do we treat the bodies of others, and what in this relating is good?
Beloveds, we have a problem with embodiment—plain and simple. When we survey the social-political landscape and we point our eye to prevailing issues of immigration, education, poverty, voting rights, LGBTQ equality, fair housing, and transgender visibility, it becomes crystal clear that we have an issue with our flesh, and with the very embodiment of humanity. And when we are honest, the church in general, and the black church in particular, has not been the most helpful, nor the most truthful, nor the most kind, nor the most just in dealing head-on with the very true reality that we are embodied spirits and inspirited bodies.
This is why my sisters, brothers and siblings, I suggest that sexual wholeness—the coming together of being sexually faithful and faithfully sexual—is a justice issue.
The question, then, is what do we need to do if we are going to be Jesus-loving justice workers in the world?
I am so glad you asked. The prophet Micah helps us by giving us three simple yet profound considerations:
1. Do justice. "Do" is a word that conveys our intentions for completing an action. And so, as Dr. Cannon would say, “Do the work your soul must have.” This means that we must engage in the living, working, and sharing of life that makes us come alive. And then we must ground that work in the character of God that is just.
2. Love kindness. The art of being kind is often lost on ourselves. And so to love kindness is to stop and take a moment to care for yourself even as you care for others. In fact, Dr. Cannon suggests that in order to be a justice worker in the world, we need a disciplined devotional life.
3. Walk humbly with God. Move in this world with awareness that our connection to God is experienced in our relationship with others. How can we rightly relate to others if our walk with God is not right-sized? Dr. Cannon suggests that, in order for us to ethically relate to others, we must see the imago dei—or the image of God—in ourselves and others.
Therefore, Beloveds, engage in the work of becoming sexually faithful and faithfully sexual.
Do this work knowing full well that it is what the Lord is requiring of you.
Because pursuing sexual wholeness is a radical act of justice.