I am a Christian, a pastor, happily married to a man, a mother of three… and bisexual. None of those things are changing.
If you don’t read the rest of this (it is rather long), that is what matters.
Maybe you’ve known this about my identity as long as you’ve known me. Maybe it’s the first time you’ve heard me say it, but you’re not surprised. Maybe it’s a shock.
For a long time, it has not been a secret, but also not something I really talked much about – there are people very close to me who I never told, because, well, I didn’t need to. I have struggled with this tension on many levels, and I always asked the question, “Why would they need to know?”
But I’ve been asking the wrong question. When so many people have been hurt by the church and condemned by pastors because of their identity, the question I realized I needed to ask is, “Why wouldn’t they need to know?” I came to a different conclusion, which is that my silence – while making things more comfortable for me, to be sure – was unhelpful to the realm of God.
Today is Bi Visibility Day, which is a day on which people all over the world recognize the reality and diversity of people who are bi+, as this identity is often hidden or erased. So today, I am making myself… visible.
As a Christian, as a pastor, as a wife, as a mother, I want to say, loudly, to those who might doubt because of what the church has said: You are loved by God. No matter who you are or who you love, even if you think it’s impossible. You are loved, wholly and fully, just as you are. As you were created to be.
I also know that for many of you reading this, you might be in some shock. You probably have all sorts of questions. So, for fun, I have a little Q&A here, so we don’t have to have the awkward conversation of you, you know, actually saying these things out loud:
~~ What exactly does this mean?~~
Bisexual people are attracted to people of their own gender as well as people of another gender. Some people mean that they are attracted to both men and women; some people include those who don’t neatly fit into those parameters. Sometimes the language used is “bi+” to include those nuances. It is really really important to note that this is an identity, not a description of behavior.
Bi visibility is important, because many people tend to not really understand what this means, so just sort of… pretend it isn’t real. And, again, this is about identity, not behavior. (Yes, I’m going to keep repeating this.)
~~ Are you going to stay married? ~~
Yes, happily, I might add. Nothing about my marriage is changing.
~~ When did this start? ~~
It’s been true my whole life, and I always knew it. I have been using the language of bi (or queer, which is a more encompassing word that I resonate with) for several years.
(A side note here on queer. I use it several times throughout this, knowing that it carries different connotations for different people. I use it to identify people who are not cisgender heterosexual. Read more here.)
~~ Why didn’t you tell me before now? ~~
For a long time, this hasn’t been a secret, and I don’t talk about it often. For a lot of bi+ people — especially those partnered with the opposite gender like I am — it doesn’t necessarily come up a lot. This is one of the reasons Bi Visibility Day is so important… because I guarantee you, I’m not the only bi person you know. My coming out process has been a slow and intentional one, and for the most part, if I didn’t need to share it, I didn’t. If this is the first you’ve heard, it had far more to do with me than with you.
~~ So then… why do you need to tell us this now? ~~
Well, for two reasons. The first is that I’m realizing more and more how important it is to be completely authentic, and for me, that means being honest about who I am. I feel more whole when I don’t have to hide a part of myself, or live in fear that someone will out me to a particular person or group. Though it has not been a secret for a long time, there have been times when I felt like I was hiding something. That’s no way to live.
The other reason, which is frankly much more important to me, is precisely because I don’t have to. I am a cisgender, white, educated woman, with a fully supportive husband. Neither my marriage nor my job is on the line. But the more I have invited people into this part of myself, the more I have been amazed by the number of people who glance around then quietly say, “Well, so am I…” But there is always so much risk. There’s risk for me in you reading these words today, and I will not minimize that. But a lot of people carry a lot more risk, and that’s why I’m sharing.
It isn’t enough for me to “pass” as straight anymore. Bi+ people often stay in the closet in part precisely because this identity is so misunderstood – by medical professionals, by friends, by clergy, by everyone. My hope is that my story might help normalize it, as a voice that loudly says “Here I am!” so others don’t feel quite so alone when they respond, “So am I…” As I said earlier, there are LGBTQ+ people in your life – particularly bi people – even if you don’t realize it.
There are three groups of people that I want am particularly hoping to normalize this for.
The first is those who are also not cis/straight – however they identify – but feel alone. I’m here to say, you aren’t alone. You are loved. You are enough. You are good.
The next is pastors and Christians and churches who theologically are affirming of all identities and orientations… but who stay silent, because polite people don’t talk about this, and we never say we think it is a sin, so everyone must know we don’t think that. I am finding it harder and harder to lend voice to these conversations without revealing this part of myself, and given the choice between being silent and being honest, I’m going to choose the latter. The more time passes, the more I wish churches would do the same. I’m not talking about churches whose theology does not affirm inclusion (that’s another conversation for another day) – but I am more and more saddened by churches who think that their silence means they are safe for everyone. That is not true. At all. If we mean “all means all” – we must say it, explicitly. (And also, if we say it, we must mean it fully – including weddings and ordinations and membership and teaching and everything else.)
The last group of people I want to normalize this for are the Christians reading this who are shocked I can still call myself a Christian. Maybe you think you don’t know anyone who is LGBTQ+. If you are a pastor, there are queer people in your pews. If you are a teacher, there are queer students in your classroom. Recently I heard someone ask, “Who was the first openly gay Christian you knew?” – and I realized that my answer to that was someone at seminary. Now, you can say you know someone… so that when that church member or Soldier or student or your own child comes out to you, it won’t be the first time you’ve heard the words.
That’s why visibility matters.
~~ Are you going to make me talk about this with you? ~~
Oh, goodness no. In fact, I really prefer to avoid awkward conversations altogether, so if you are in my life and want to never bring this up in conversation, I am completely on board. Let’s keep talking about my kids and the Texas heat and the latest BBC show and whatever else we usually discuss. I really love talking about all those things (have you heard it’s hot here??).
~~ Can we still be friends if I disagree with you? ~~
Absolutely. In fact, I hope we can. Because I know that there are a lot of people I care about and love who aren’t excited about this, and again, if we haven’t had to talk about it before now, we still don’t have to. My only caveat to this is that this isn’t a “difference of opinion” that we can “agree to disagree” on. For you, it’s your belief. For me, it’s my identity. This isn’t something that we both think differently about – this is what you *think* vs who I *am.* These two things are not the same. We can be friends, but if you insist on trying to convince me of this false equivalency, that might change. (But, again, see above. I am happy to not talk about it at all.)
~~ I want to learn more because I’m genuinely interested. What should I do? ~~
Google searches are tricky, because some resources are made to look helpful, but are actually not affirming of people. Here’s a list of some good places to start:
http://queergrace.com (particularly this: http://queergrace.com/encyclopedia/)
In honor of Bi Visibility Day: biresources.org
~~ …So am I. But I’m not ready to be public. Can I talk to you about it? ~~
ABSOLUTELY. Always. If you don’t know me personally, you can leave a comment here; I approve every comment before it gets published, so if you don’t want it public, let me know that in the comment and no one will see it but me. Or, you can email me at revsaranavefisher at gmail dot com
With all that said, I also want to thank all the people who have been so supportive over the years. I am carried by professors; by colleagues in various areas and seasons of ministry; by friends, far and near; and most of all, by my husband Jonathan, who has never wavered in his love or support of me. Thank you all.