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Breaking the silence on bisexuality in the Church

Breaking the silence on bisexuality in the Church

In the Episcopal Church, it is now widely accepted that affirming the full dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons is a proclamation of God’s inclusion. However, few high-quality resources exist to equip congregations and faith leaders for the work of full inclusion and participation of bisexual people in the life of the Church.


The_bisexual_pride_flag_%283673713584%29.jpgAccording to Marie Alford-Harkey, the deputy director of the Religious Institute, bisexual people are often invisible within the broader movement for LGBT liberation in the Church. In order to address this concern Alford-Harkey and the Rev. Debra W. Haffner have written “Bisexuality: Making Visible the Invisible in Faith Communities” in order to to break the silence around bisexual people in the church. For Alford-Harkey,

The invisibility and even direct silencing of bisexual people can lead to great harm…In the silence, bisexual people are left wondering who will stand with them. Both in the faith world and the LGBT world there are great gaps in understanding.

For the full article on this new resource from the Religious Institute, please visit the Religious News Service here. On Wednesday, June 25, at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time, the Religious Institute will hold a press conference call and you may register here.

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Kristin Fontaine

I am a bisexual woman in who is married to a man and so is one of the many ‘invisible’ bisexual people.

Instead of retelling my story here. I’ll link to an essay I wrote back in 2006.

http://pandorahouse.org/who_am_i_.htm

Much like the deaconate in the church, there are both transitional and permanent forms of bisexuality. Also like the church, those of us who are permanent bisexsuals (as much as anything is permanent in this world) have to stomp around a bit to let folks know that the transitional form is not be all end all of the experience.

Many of the stories that shaped my life happen around my struggle to figure out what it meant to be bisexual– espeically the fact that I was invisible to both the LGBQT community and to the straight community.

Murdoch Matthew

Having exhausted the topic, I write to defend myself. Ann, where have I asked bisexuals to prove themselves to me? I’ve repeatedly noted that bisexuality exists; that some people are bisexual. I accept what they say about themselves. (I have a friend who says he’s asexual: I accept that.) “If you aren’t bisexual, why do you care?” Uh — because this topic was put up for discussion on the Café. Why indeed are we talking about it? I wish some bisexuals were joining the discussion — the rest of us are just theorizing.

Back to the beginning:

Bisexual people are often invisible within the broader movement for LGBT liberation in the Church. In order to address this concern Alford-Harkey and the Rev. Debra W. Haffner have written “Bisexuality: Making Visible the Invisible in Faith Communities” in order to to break the silence around bisexual people in the church. “The invisibility and even direct silencing of bisexual people can lead to great harm…In the silence, bisexual people are left wondering who will stand with them.”

What I’m asking is, What recognition are we talking about? I think we’re learning not to accuse someone who says they’re bi of just easing their way toward coming out as gay or lesbian. Bi is bi. We’re getting that. But, once again, a bi person with a same-sex partner can call on the backing of the gay community; a bi person with a gender discordant partner has all the privileges of a straight person. Aside from acknowledging the realiy of their feelings, and accepting their boy date this week and their girl date next week, What space needs to be opened?

Until a bisexual commenter comes along, what kind of recognition do the rest of you think the church should offer bi’s? Gary thinks that gays don’t yet have their due, and certainly the transgendered, an identifiable and stigmatized group, need space to be themselves in a hostile and uncomprehending world. The fact is, Bisexuals are invisible unless they declare themselves. Their social relationships don’t identify them. Once identified, they should be welcomed as individuals. I still can’t imagine what a bi club would look like (short of suggestions like those that got Dr Shy in trouble).

Gary Paul Gilbert

I hope that those who identify as or express themselves as bisexual do not have to wait as long as lesbians and gays to get fair treatment in the Episcopal Church. Forty years of dreary theology and still no official list of congregations who have pledged to be safe spaces for gays–unlike the Lutherans, Presbyterians, Unitarians, UCC, is not a good record. Same-sex couples are still not allowed to use the Prayer Book for a wedding.

Murdoch raised a good question about identity, which, in postmodern circles, is a suspect term. Expression seems more current and covers more ground, as in gender expression versus gender identity. Both identity and expression should be protected in a congregation. Michel Foucault said the term “bisexual” was a sign the binary classifications in sexuality were breaking down, and Judith Butler, the mother of queer theory, sees identity as a series of performances. A notion of identity is useful for political organizations even though things are more complicated. A postmodern feminism, for example, need not believe Woman as such exists in order to work for women’s equality.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Ann Fontaine

I guess I don’t understand why bisexuals need to prove themselves to you — why can’t you just accept what people say about themselves? Isn’t that what transgender, gay and lesbian people ask and we give them. If you aren’t bisexual – then why do you care?

Murdoch Matthew

JCF:

I think we’re arguing over the meaning of identity. Bisexuality is a fact of life; some individuals are bisexual. Call that sense of self an identity if you want. It is indeed part of how they are. How are others to see it? There was a gay community to join when I came out (fading now, as young people simply date whom they want without joining up or leaving their social group). How do you see a bisexual community forming? Bisexuals get to choose partners who make them look straight or gay — what partner would mark them as bisexual? Dr Shy above drew flack for alluding to three-ways or married triads. We don’t have a set-up for expressing bisexuality other than on an individual basis or individual relationships. (Triads occur in gay relationships, but they seem fragile — the few I’ve read about seem to break down when someone feels left out.)

So how do you build a bisexual community, that can be joined or pointed to to demonstrate bisexual identity? I’ve repeatedly acknowledged that some people are bisexual individually — I just wonder how that can be expressed socially. That’s why I mentioned Dan Savage’s idea — one way that a bisexual joined with someone of the same gender or with someone of a different gender might express their neglected desire would be in passing encounters.

Of course, we all have desires that go unrealized — I have fantasies that don’t involve my spouse, but they remain fantasies. No need to act on them. A bi person can love someone and never seek anyone else, leaving half their possibilities unacted upon.

JCF, you’re right about one thing. I’m struggling to understand this issue from outside. I don’t understand it from a bisexual point of view. We should give full weight to each letter of LGBT. But LG and Ts can band together. What would a B community look like? I’m probably dense and self-centered, but that’s the question I’m trying to put out for consideration

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