Ever since I was asked to write this post, I have been struggling, feeling like a fraud. Compared to so many bisexual Christians, I have never once struggled, with my orientation or my faith. I have never once thought that being bi was a big deal, or worth mentioning.
I knew I could love men as well as women from when I was around 14, and it was just one of those things I knew about myself, a fact just like the fact that I’m right-handed, blonde (in those days) and good at modern foreign languages but really dreadfully bad at Latin.
I was born in Germany in the early 1960’s. My parents were socially liberal, and my church never mentioned sexuality at all. Looking back, I am becoming aware that there were no lesbian or gay role models. No couples in our school. And that the only people we all knew to be gay never seemed to have a partner. But not being partnered wasn’t unusual at school – many of us didn’t have anyone special in our lives until well after we left school.
And so my formative phase of sexual awakening came without any angst or fears, and without an awareness that it was unusual or that anyone would think it wrong. It was always clear to me that what made relationships right or wrong was how they were conducted: that people should never be used, exploited or treated badly. How you treated your partner was what mattered, not who that partner was.
Nevertheless, I did not have a female partner until much later in life. I had crushes on girls, and I knew who was a lesbian (or potentially bi, like me), but the people I went out with were all male. Now I wonder: was this a sign of unacknowledged internalised homophobia? A sign of having read the norms of society right, without being conscious of them? Or did it have more to do with biology?
There are so many women my age who married and had children, and when they found themselves single again later in life, ended up with a female partner. Is this still something that is being replicated in our much more self-aware younger generations, who have grown up with much more visible same-sex role models? Or is there really a biological component to it all?
I became a passionate Christian late in life. Married, white, middle class, with two children, I fitted perfectly into my church, fully accepted and constantly encouraged to take on more and more roles in the church. The very image of well-adjusted heteronormativity. No-one had any idea that I was bisexual, and it really did not matter to me. The image among many Christians of bisexual people is that we crave constant sexual relationships with people of two genders. It owes much more to porn industry than to any real understanding of what bisexuality. I was happily married and had no intention of ever being anything other than wife to my husband.
It was only after my marriage ended and I fell in love with the woman I later married, that I realised the extent of prejudice against non-straight people in the church. But at that point, the prejudice I encountered was what every gay or lesbian person encounters. It had nothing to do with the bi-ness of me, but with the part of me that is capable of loving women.
Being propelled to the margins of the church, I started to campaign against the injustices inflicted on people who love people of the same sex. I still did not see that being bi was relevant, because it is only the expression of bisexuality in a same-sex relationship that attracted the criticism. I hear younger people speak of bi-erasure and I see them proudly claim their bi-identity. I admire their confidence without truly understanding the sense of identity that underpins that.
In terms of politics, though, I do now understand, and I believe that bisexuality holds the key to our sexuality debate. The official Church of England view of bisexuality, set out in “Issues in Human Sexuality” from 1991 states that: “It is clear that bisexual activity must always be wrong for this reason, if for no other, that it inevitably involves being unfaithful…” Correct this misunderstanding in public, and the response very often is: if you can choose who you love and remain faithful, you can choose to love a person of the opposite sex.
We campaigners are also often guilty of this attitude. We insist that we did not choose our orientation and that we should not be punished with life-long loneliness because of it. And so our relationships are often seen as inferior, but are accepted or tolerated because they’re all we’re capable of. Being bisexual challenges this thinking. Our loves are should not be accepted simply because we can’t love any other way. They should be accepted and affirmed because there is nothing at all theologically or morally wrong with them.
That is the argument we need to win and that we will win.
Written by Erika Baker, an IC regional ambassador. Erika and her wife, Susan, organise all kinds of exciting things in Somerset, including Rainbow Church events.