I have been ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for 35 years. About 12 years ago, I experienced an awakening -- I realized that the confusing feelings I had had all my adult life came from being bisexual. Through the process of coming out as bi to myself, my loved ones -- husband, teenage sons, brothers, father -- and friends and colleagues in the church, a number of questions have risen to the surface as those most frequently asked.
I thought it would be helpful to others to share those questions and my answers here.
1. Aren't you really a lesbian who can't admit it?
The world I was born into had only one option for me: being straight. Even though my uncle from California visited every fall with his "friend," no one in my family clued me into what was really going on. I finally figured it out on my own by college. So now there were two possibilities in my world: straight and gay.
After dating and marrying my husband, with the vow to grow together faithfully in love, I would occasionally experience heightened feelings for a woman. Confused, I began to ask myself whether I might be a lesbian. By that time in my ministry and church life I knew a lot of lesbians and from my conversations with them I found that I just did not feel that I was exactly the way they were. Primarily, I loved my husband deeply and felt that we were right together. I had no words to capture my experience. I lived with confusion.
I would say it took about 10 years of the word "bisexual" being used in my world before I had the momentous click of consciousness -- bisexual described me. The confusion melted away.
I am not a lesbian. I am not a straight ally. I am a bisexual woman who has always been capable of loving someone of either gender, but who joined in love and continues to build a life with a wonderful, caring man.
2. How can you claim to be Christian who believes in the Bible when you live a promiscuous lifestyle?
In April, my husband and I will celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary. We have fulfilled our vow to grow together faithfully in love. We have raised two wonderful sons who are now in their 20s and establishing themselves in the world. We support one another in our professions. We have renovated our house for our old age with ramps, large light switches and lever door handles. We walk our dog together around the neighborhood every afternoon.
Honesty about being bisexual is one aspect of being fully faithful to my husband and also to God. Both know me better than I know myself, really. When I came home to my husband and told him, "I finally figured it out -- I'm bisexual." He said, "That sounds about right as I know you." God knit me together in my mother's womb. Both also know that I am faithful to the covenants of love I am blessed to have with my husband and with Christ.
With gratitude to God for the years now written in the Book of Life, knowing God helps us every day, my husband and I continue to keep our wedding vows to one another.
3. How can your husband stand for your confession that you are bisexual?
It is really not my place to speak for my husband. I can say what he has said to me. He has told me that he was touched by my realization and happy I shared it with him. He said that, unlike straight women who commit to one man out of all the possible men in the world, I have promised to love him out of all possible people in the world, both men and women. In this sense my coming out as bisexual made him feel extra special. My husband's perspective was and is a blessing to me and tells you a little about why I love him. He values my honesty and faithfulness and loves me for who I am.
4. If you're married to a man, why does talking about being bisexual matter? Aren't you just seeking attention?
Being honest with yourself, your family and God matters. I lived through years of confusion and it has been extremely healing for me to be honest about who I am. All of us are challenged by the life-long task of integrating our spirituality and our sexuality that leads to wholeness. Fully understanding and claiming my being bisexual has contributed immensely to that integration and has given me a sense of wholeness that feels like a graced gift from God. With anyone of any importance to me, it simply feels dishonest to pass as straight.
And I expect there are many in our world who are as confused about their feelings as I was. "Bisexual" is still not a word that is very commonly understood or accepted. If my honesty about being bi helps one person come to greater self-understanding, then I will have fulfilled my desire to love my neighbor as myself, as Jesus teaches us to do.
5. How can you, as a bisexual minister, be a teacher and model of morality, especially sexual morality, to the young people in the church?
For me, as a Christian, the heart of all morality is love and compassion. The essence of sexual morality is loving commitment. These are the values that I work to pass on to my own children as a mother and to the young people in the church as a pastor. I suppose you could say that my life's way, which I have shared, has been a model of these teachings. I practice what I preach.
Were a young person in my congregation to hear about my being bi and come to me to ask about sexual morality and being bisexual, I expect I would say this:
God says to us, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." (Jeremiah 1:5). God knew me and loved me before I was even formed. God chose to make me bisexual. And God wants me to live a life in harmony with the laws Jesus gave to us. We are to love God and love our neighbor.
God's loving covenant with us is the model for the covenant of love we eventually may make with another in this life. The blessing that comes from meeting that life challenge -- to grow in love with another -- is available to us all, including to me as a bisexual.
I pray that would be helpful.
Thank you for the thoughtful, honest dialogue. Based on a few of the comments on this piece, I want to clarify this important point: I have been faithfully married to my husband for 30 years. We have been committed to each other, only. I look forward to reading the continued discussion here. Peace, Rev. Janet Edwards