At seventeen, I said to my best friend, “I could see being lesbian if guys weren’t so darned attractive”. At that point, I thought there were only two options: straight, or gay/lesbian. I’d never heard the word “bisexual”. Obviously, since guys were attractive, I was straight.
In university, my view of sexuality and gender broke open. I learned that sexual attraction was a spectrum, not a dichotomy — one could be bi, asexual, or a myriad other identities.
It took me a few months to realize I was bi, and by then I was sweet on this guy I’d met at university; we started dating that summer, and got married two years later. Because of this, my identity as bi seemed irrelevant, since I wasn’t going to “act on it.” In some ways, I erased my own identity for years.
Sure, I accepted I was bi; I didn’t think that made me a sinner, or in any way lesser. I came out to my brother and my best friend early on, and my now-husband while we were engaged. But in some way, I didn’t feel like I was “queer enough” for the LGBTQ+ community; and I didn’t think coming out would make a big difference.
Within the last year, I’ve moved from accepting my identity as bisexual to celebrating it. This is a part of who I am, made in the image of God.
In July, I was Erb Street Mennonite Church (ESMC)’s delegate to the Mennonite Church Canada assembly in Saskatoon, SK. I’ve been to Mennonite assemblies before, but this time was different: we were discussing and voting on Being a Faithful Church 7, a resolution on the welcome or exclusion of LGTBQ+ people in the Mennonite church. When ESMC sent me as a delegate, I wasn’t out. Fortunately, ESMC is inclusive, so I knew they would want me to vote in favour of the resolution.
My table-group at assembly was mixed: many of the others expressed inclusive stances, or at least the willingness for others to be inclusive. There was, however, one delegate at my table who was firmly against LGBTQ+ inclusion, and stated her position as “we believe what the Bible says about homosexuality”, effectively claiming the moral high-ground for herself, and making it difficult to have an open conversation. She passed around a handout of Bible verses she was using to support her claim.
I believe there are strong Biblical foundations for arguments on both sides of the debate over whether LGBTQ+ people should be accepted in the church. Personally, I find the argument for inclusion much more compelling.
During the open mic period, many people spoke in favour of inclusion, and of tolerance for each others’ viewpoints. Partway through, a delegate got up and began to read all of the “clobber passages”. I didn’t hear all of what he said, because I left the delegate session and wept in the hall with other LGBTQ+ people and allies.
In that moment of pain, as I wept with others, I finally felt “queer enough”, and I felt held and loved by those who were with me. At assembly in Saskatoon, I decided to come out when I got home.
When my parents asked about my experience of the assembly, I told them honestly, without omitting the “detail” that I am bi. I came out on Twitter. And in my report to ESMC, during Sunday morning worship, from the lectern, I came out to my congregation.
I don’t typically get nervous about public speaking; I lead worship regularly, and I’m comfortable speaking from the lectern. As I gave my report, and came out, I had to consciously slow my pace, because I was so nervous. Even though I knew ESMC was inclusive, even though I had participated in putting a rainbow flag icon on our website, even though I’ve watched the elderly women cooing over our same-sex couples’ babies, I didn’t know how people would respond to “bi”. Would they know what that meant? Would they harbour harmful stereotypes about bisexual people?
After worship, a few people close to me said it was nice to know me better, and a handful of others thanked me for my report or complimented me on my presentation. Overall, it wasn’t a big deal. I breathed a sigh of relief.
This fall, I began my undergrad thesis, studying queer hymns; my thesis research is everything I never knew I always wanted to study, yet I don’t think I would have studied queer hymns before I came out.
Studying queer hymns has led me to also study queer theology, which has changed my relationship with my own queerness, and also with God. It has helped me to see myself — all of myself — more fully as an image of God.
While I have long maintained that the God I worship isn’t an old white dude in the sky, I have only recently begun to embrace God’s gender-fluid queerness: if you, and I, and all God’s children are made in God’s image, then, in the words of one of my favourite queer hymns, “our God is not a woman, our God is not a man. Our God is both and neither; our God is who I am”. (Our God is like an Eagle, by Laurence Bernier).
I am made in God’s queer image.
Being out is incredibly freeing. I feel more truly known, I feel loved and accepted for who I truly am, and I can speak openly about my experiences as an LGBTQ+ Christian. It has also prompted me to reconsider how I want to present myself — I’ve always liked dapper menswear, and now I can stop using my husband as a paper doll and start wearing bow ties and men’s dress shirts myself!
I have found a great deal of support from other LGBTQ+ Christians, but I have also heard from some that they don’t know where to find other LGBTQ+ Christians.
Since many of us aren’t out at church, it can also be challenging to find time to discuss our experiences of being LGBTQ+ and Christian.
To help meet these needs, I approached PiE and ESMC to explore starting a group for LGBTQ+ Christians.
Queerly Christian will meet for the first time on Wednesday, March 15th, 7:30pm at Erb Street Mennonite Church, and on the third Wednesday of every month at the same time and place.
If you identify as LGBTQ+ and Christian, even if you’re not out or don’t feel “queer enough”, we’d love to have you. Allies are also welcome, but please recognize that this is intended as a space for LGBTQ+ Christians to share their lived experiences.
Sylvia Hook is a graphic designer, part-time student, year-round cyclist, and bisexual-identified Mennonite. She is an involved member of Erb Street Mennonite Church, and spends her spare time cooking, playing board games, and hanging out with her spouse, Michael.