There is one day in the tenth grade that I’ll never forget. I was sitting in the cafeteria chatting and eating lunch with my friends, as you do, when one girl at my table addressed me directly. I don’t remember the larger conversation, but I do remember her direct hit: “Well since you’re a Christian, you’re homophobic.”
Taken aback, I didn’t speak for a few moments. I’d never said or insinuated anything homophobic—she simply assumed I was. While I didn’t let myself realize at the time that I was (and am) bisexual (I lived in a mostly conservative town with a largely conservative family), I knew I wasn’t homophobic.
Several years later and more at peace with my sexuality, I reached the point where I could post pictures of my girlfriend and me on Instagram. My captions brimmed with how much I loved her. But when I saw those same friends from tenth-grade lunch “like” my posts, my breath caught and my mind started to race. I felt redemption, relief, discomfort, anger, inclusion, and shame all at once. Sharing a photo of my girlfriend should have been a joyful moment, but it was overshadowed by the projected idea that Christianity and queerness cannot exist simultaneously.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last time where fellow Christians judged my queerness, or fellow queer people felt confused by my Christian identity. Not by a long shot.
Last year I “fell” out of the closet. While sitting in the car at the dentist’s office, waiting for my girlfriend to finish her appointment, a close family member called me. He’d heard I mentioned being “queer” in an article of mine. I told him the truth, sobbing and frantically trying to defend myself.
His religious arguments included phrases like “not normal” and “not Christian” and “a sin.” A small piece of me wondered if I truly was who I thought I was: a bisexual Christian. I wondered if I was okay with accepting that piece of me if I had to deal with this type of questioning for the rest of my life.
Thankfully, I had plenty of friends who had already accepted me for me. I reminded myself that I knew who I was, even if that family member scolded me accusations for what might have “turned me gay” and “away from God.”
More recently, I had a conversation with a different friend from high school who thought I might be uncomfortable with Biblical scripture because I have a girlfriend. She had quickly assumed that I wasn’t a "good" Christian, or even a Christian at all, since I’m dating a woman. I felt hurt and, frankly, a little annoyed. In my mind, these things aren't mutually exclusive.
I know now that I’ll continue to struggle with the duality of my identity, even with developments such as the United Methodist Church splitting over gay marriage and so many friends and fellow Christians believing queerness isn’t a sin. I know with each new church my girlfriend and I check out, I’ll have to look into their views and pray (yes, pray) that people will treat us with love and respect. But in a way, I’m fine with all of that because it means that I don’t have to live in a lifelong battle with myself. It means that I can be bisexual, date a woman, be a Christian, and be a feminist all at the same time. It means I don’t have to live with shame. It means I don’t have to pretend I’m not queer when I hang out with Christians, or not Christian when I hang out with queer people.
I can carry around my keychain with a bisexual flag on it, as well as my countless devotional books. I can still pray almost every night, cuddling my girlfriend while I do it. And you’ll continue to find me at both religious group gatherings and Pride events. I can do these things without shame—as a bisexual, as a Christian, and as myself—all at once, always.