Recently I was in a conversation with someone who I respect and admire as a thought leader in the Progressive Baptist community. We were talking about the work I do for AWAB that involves educating congregations and their leaders about human sexuality and gender identity as an intrinsic part of a Welcoming & Affirming discernment process. Our conversation was rich as we spoke about Lesbian and Gay families, the marriage equality movement with the church, and how glad we are that many churches no longer use the word ”homosexual” as a slur. I was encouraged by our conversation around the Transgender community and glad to offer a new idea around the word “queer” as it is being reclaimed and used by the younger generation. But I was stopped when these words came out of my friend’s mouth – “But what about this bi-thing? I just don’t get it. Can’t people just choose or do they want to have sex with everybody all of the time?”
Sadly, my friends comments mirror so many other comments I have heard over the years. I have heard it from gays and lesbians – “Bi’s are just people that haven’t fully come out yet.” – and from straight people – “Why should I support people who are having sex with two people at the same time?” For all of our supposed enlightened thinking in the progressive religious community I think we are woefully ignorant when it comes to that middle part of the sexuality spectrum that we identify as Bi. So let me offer a few thoughts from my learning.
First of all, bisexuality is a sexuality, just like homosexuality (same gender attracted), heterosexuality (opposite sex attracted) and asexuality (no sexual attraction). The study of human sexuality by Kinsey and Masters and Johnson has mapped this for more than 50 years and we have a body of knowledge that puts bisexuality squarely in the center of the sexuality scale.
This makes me wonder, if we have had this knowledge for over 50 years what keeps intelligent people from understanding human sexuality and sexual behavior better? Perhaps it is because we are still thinking about relationships based on sex and not on companionship, partnering and biblical ideas of peace - shalom. I wonder what would happen if we changed our language to “affectional orientation”? Would some of the fixations on sexual behavior (and the inherent moral judgments that come along with that) loose their power to control how we do or do not talk about fullness of human relatedness?
I wonder what would happen if we changed our language to “affectional orientation”? Would some of the fixations on sexual behavior (and the inherent moral judgments that come along with that) loose their power to control how we do or do not talk about fullness of human relatedness?
I have come to believe that by limiting our language to “sexual orientation” we dismisses the reality that most committed relationships go far beyond sexual attraction and whether homosexual, heterosexual, asexual or bisexual, we partner to share a life together. Sexual behavior may or may not have anything to do with this life.
So being bisexual is about being attracted to both men and women and beyond that a person is bound by the same morality codes that the rest of his faith community aspires to live within. If single-and-celibate or married-and-monogamous is the expectation then this cuts across all sexualities equally. Perhaps what is really happening in our progressive faith communities is that we are having our conversations about our corporate morality codes on the backs of the LGBTQ community instead of talking openly about who we feel called to be as a people with regards to this God given gift of sexuality.
I encourage us to celebrate our “B’s” and learn from them about choice and the unspoken morality codes that we live within as people of faith. I encourage us to listen to each other and make safe space for the depth and breadth of our human affectional spectrum as a reflection of Creation. I encourage us to take the time to make visible the beauty among us that is relationship built on trust, respect, delight and love knowing that our sexual expression is only one way that we share these things.