Author’s Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on the author’s blog “It’s Between Me and God”, written for a wider audience. This version has been tailored specifically for a female, General Church audience.
This is my story. Well, a small piece of it, anyway. It’s not a conversation about the secular legal and political issues surrounding public acceptance of homosexuality, or the legalization of same-sex marriage. It’s also not a theological essay. I’ll state my conclusions, but save for another post how I arrived at those conclusions. Right now, this is just a reflection on the application of those conclusions in my life.
This post also comes with a TMI warning. It’s intimate. It’s personal. Sharing it on my personal blog six months ago was the first time I’ve shared such intimate details of my life with anonymous strangers. At the same time, it’s something that I’ve often discussed ‘in person’ when the topic comes up. If you know me personally and would rather not hear the story of my sexuality, feel free to skip this one. If, however, you want to know my thoughts on homosexuality, and the LGBTQ questions the Church is facing, then you need to know my story. I believe that the hardest questions the Church faces are best addressed face to face, in loving, personal, dialog with people who have names and faces and stories. It’s hard to love someone who is nameless, faceless. It’s why I think God came down to earth. He took a name, a face, so that we could love Him. It’s easy to forget to love first when we are debating an ‘issue’. So I think that the best place for a discussion is with people who we can see, and hear, and love. At the same time, so many of our conversations are happening online. So many important issues are being discussed, and debated on Facebook and in YouTube comments. I have often felt like my voice was missing from the conversation and decided that means its time for me to speak up.
One more quick disclaimer before I start. I’m going to do a little self editing. I’m going to choose to gloss over some moments and skip others in the story of my sexuality for the people who are reading this and don’t need those details. I’m being up front in this because there are pieces to my story, motivations behind my choices that I’m going to stay quiet on for now. Sharing intimate details of our lives means we ask others to carry those burdens. Not all of my readers are willing or able to share some of those burdens. So I’m going to share what is most relevant to this topic, now.
What does it mean to identify as LGBTQ (Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgendered/Transsexual/Two-Spirited, Queer/Questioning)?
I identify. I’m the little B in there – bisexual. I say ‘little’, because it’s often overlooked. Sometimes ignored, or glossed over and at other times outright denied – from both within the LGBTQ community and without. I had a youth group leader who once said they didn’t believe in bisexuality. They just thought that someone who said they were bisexual just wanted a lot of sex. I was a teenager. Of course I wanted a lot of sex! But I wanted it with girls as well as, if not more than, boys. From as early as, well, ever, I’ve been just as interested in girl bodies as boy bodies. Sometimes more. I had as many crushes on girls as I did on boys. In fact, if I think back I can remember more girl crushes than boy crushes. But I knew from a young age that I wasn’t ‘supposed’ to like girls – I was a girl, so I was ‘supposed’ to like boys. But, to be honest, I thought girls were way more interesting.
For people who are LGBTQ – are we born this way? Is there a choice in our sexuality? The answer to both of those questions is ‘yes’. For as long as I’ve been sexual, I’ve been bisexual. And I have made lots of choices about my sexuality, and what I was going to do with it over the years.
There are lots of things I desire. There are lots of things that interest or arouse me. There are lots of people I have been interested in, or aroused by. That doesn’t mean that I should act on my desires. It doesn’t mean that all of those desires are healthy. Not acting on some of those desires doesn’t mean that I’m repressing some part of myself, or engaging in unhealthy behaviour. When I was single, and looking for intimacy, there were people who were off limits. My friends’ significant others. Married people. Someone my friend met, and liked, and was hoping to pursue a relationship with. I chose not to indulge my desires when I was interested in someone who fell into this category.
We make choices with our sexuality all of the time. Choosing to remain faithful to our partners means choosing NOT to indulge in or act on an interest or desire in or for someone else. That’s not repression. It’s responsibility. Choosing not to pursue someone who has made it clear they are uninterested. That’s not repression. It’s respect. Rejecting pornography, or prostitution, or promiscuity is not rejecting myself as a sexual being. It’s choosing to place some other value (morality, respect for women, desire for long-term relationship over short-term satisfaction) over my immediate desires. Anyone in an intimate relationship, marriage or otherwise, makes choices, and even compromises with their sexuality. Two people are not always going to be interested in or aroused by the exact same thing at the same time. We set aside desires that our partner doesn’t share. We indulge our partners desires when we personally aren’t as interested. This compromise is crucial in healthy relationships.*
*There are unhealthy versions of this dynamic. Absolutely. Unhealthy compromises in sexual relationships are a fertile ground for abuse. I’ve been there, too. If you are in a relationship where you are feeling pressured to give in to your partners desires that you can’t share and do not want to participate in, seek help. A trusted friend, a pastor or counsellor, or a generous anonymous stranger at one of the following helplines*
Eventually I chose not to indulge my desire for and interest in other women. I mentally placed all women into the same box as married men, my friend’s boyfriends; a box labeled ‘off limits’. I made the choice to reserve my sexuality – ALL of it – for marriage to the man God had for me, or to set it aside for the Lord if singleness was my calling. My reading of the Word, my study of Scripture, and Biblical history and church history, my understanding of God’s plan for humanity, led me to the conclusion that sexuality was God’s plan for marriage between one man and one woman, to death or to eternity. Any desire for sexual satisfaction outside of that covenant relationship was a result of the Fall, rooted in our selfish inclinations.
Celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom
I seriously considered a vow of celibacy. You can head to my personal blog for a post detailing the story of how and why I thought God might be calling me to live life as a Catholic nun! Celibacy in singleness is not a curse. It’s not a punishment or a failure. It’s a calling, and a blessing. It’s a vocation lived by both heterosexuals and homosexuals. I have been incredibly blessed to have been taught and discipled by strong, courageous and faithful singles. As a young mom I have been supported by single friends whose flexibility as a result of their singleness has been a blessing to me and my family. I have seen and participated in beautiful community with singles both in the vowed context of monastic life and with singles in ‘normal’ life – men and women who are single by circumstance or personal choice and who have created strong, dynamic, healthy relationships with other singles, with married couples, among widows and widowers and with children of friends and relatives. I have been single, and considered maintaining that singleness for the duration of my life on earth. There is loneliness in single life. There is also loneliness in married life. Loneliness is not easy, but neither is it eternal, insurmountable, or unconquerable. If you are a believer, then you serve a God who promises that He is with you, always. No matter what human relationships come and go, relationship with Him is our be-all and end-all. In the New Church we have the beautiful teachings about married life in heaven. We know that that’s God’s eternal plan for us. These teachings can give us a beautiful perspective on singleness in this life. There is freedom and opportunity in single life and a beauty in life lived drawing closer and closer to the Lord in preparation for eternity.
I have great sympathy and empathy and love for those who experience exclusive same-sex attraction, for my sisters and brothers who identify with those L and G labels. Choosing to pursue marriage with a man did not leave me with the struggle of trying to reconcile a lack of sexual attraction to men in general with that search. At the same time, I would encourage those wrestling with this issue to consider something that so often comes up in discussions with our transgendered brothers and sisters – the idea of loving a person, not a gender, or a sex, or a body. I have heard people wonder how a partner can choose to stay with a spouse who has revealed that they are transgendered and decided to undergo various stages of transition from one gender and/or sex to another. The response I have heard is ‘I love my partner. Not their parts. I love their soul, who they ARE.’ I love my husband – his heart and soul, and yes, his body too, but only in as much as it is a way for us to love one another. If he were paralysed, or lost a limb, I would not love him any less. It would not change my love for him. It might change my expression of it, if we could no longer have the same intimacy we can now. I expect that when we have been married for 50-plus years, our physical intimacy will be different than it was when we were in our 20’s! But my love for him will only deepen. I intend to be his soulmate to eternity.
Josh Weed is a gay man married to a straight woman. His coming out story, found here caused headlines and generated a fair amount of media attention. Josh chose, as a gay man, to seek marriage with a woman, because he believed that was God’s will. His wife knew he was gay before they were married. They have three beautiful, biological, children, and (by their account) a fantastic sex life. He’s still homosexual. He chooses to reserve his sexuality for his wife, for the sake of his faith.
I’m bisexual. I choose to reserve my sexuality for my husband, for the sake of my faith.
Ultimately, we believe in the New Church that heavenly angels are married couples, male-female pairs. God has a heterosexual marriage planned for each of us; however, earthly mixed-orientation marriages are not for everyone. I don’t have the same struggle that someone who experiences no opposite-sex attraction would have in a mixed orientation marriage. I carried other baggage to my marriage bed, that God’s grace and the steady love of my husband have helped me unpack. But an opposite-sex marriage is not an ‘easy’ answer for gays and lesbians – I really believe that marriage is a call from God, and that it is good, hard work, joining two people into one. Sex is a major part of becoming one flesh. I do believe that mixed-orientation marriages are possible, with God in the middle. But I don’t think that it is the right choice for everyone who experiences same-sex attraction.
But what happens when we disagree?
I’ve written about this before – what do Christians do when we disagree about sin. I believe that prayerful discernment is crucial to life issues, and that sometimes we come to different conclusions. I’m happy to be in communion with prayerfully discerning Christians whose conclusions differ from mine. I don’t have any answers for what organized churches should do about doctrinal differences. I simply wanted to share my story, raise my voice in the discussion.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I welcome your thoughtful responses, in the context of building loving dialogue and community. If I’m slow to respond, please bear in mind that I have a 9 month old and a two year old and life is a bit busy!
If you identify as LGBTQ (or are struggling to figure that out), check out the Gay Christian Network. It’s a community made up of LGBTQ Christians, some of whom are ‘Side A’ – believe that same-sex marriage is part of God’s plan, and some whom are ‘Side B’ – like me, who do not, and believe that celibacy or a mixed-orientation opposite-sex marriage are callings for people who experience same-sex attraction.