Beyond Definition

by: John H. Campbell


I usually write an article every issue of "Whosoever", because I know that this is one of the few places where I can express myself as a bisexual Christian without fear of condemnation and judgment, and I know that there are many other bisexuals who enjoy "Whosoever". I am so grateful to God for leading me here so that I may share my faith in this way. I was initially planning on writing something about the state of the world as we enter a new millennium, and I do plan to discuss that a little bit, but in light of a few things that have happened in the past few months, I wanted to talk about an issue that is of major concern to me as we enter "Y2K".

I want to talk about the bisexual community and how our collective identity is many times misunderstood and, I am sorry to say, even maligned by not only the heterosexuals in the Christian community who are homophobic, but also by people in the gay and lesbian community. I would not be writing about this, but I have been the victim these past few months of prejudice, hate, and ignorance-and it breaks my heart to know that some of it has come from the gay and lesbian community. In the past year, bisexuals were excluded from the "Mission Statement" of the local gay and lesbian Center in my County. Why? Because they consider us "abnormal" and "outrageous", simply because of the fact that we are attracted to both the same and the opposite gender. In many Centers, transgendered folks have had to deal with the same issue. So I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts and experiences as well as my hopes for the coming Millennium, and maybe some ways that all of us, whether we identify as being bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgendered, or heterosexual, can help to make the world a better place, more like the place I believe God intends it to be for us all.

Of course, I would finally like to see same-sex marriages recognized, and equal rights for gay and lesbian couples. I would like to finally see a cure for HIV/AIDS, as well as all other sexually transmitted diseases, cancer, and all life threatening illnesses. I'd like to see all the money that is spent on weapons and warfare and "having the biggest firearms" that most of our world governments seem to play put towards the cure of these dread diseases. I'd like to see homophobia end, and all hate and violence end, and I'd like to see a political candidate for President who believes in Jesus instead of "family values" that, in my opinion, reduce the Glory of Christ to a political platform. And I would love to see the Christian church finally end the prejudice that still exists surrounding human sexuality, not just LGBT sexuality, but anyone who is marginalized because some people believe that their sexuality is not "normal" enough (so long as it is practiced lovingly and consensually). And I see some of those things already coming to pass. I was so joyful when I heard about the recent Vermont ruling on same-sex marriage. The first people I thought of were a lesbian couple who are Christians and who I have talked to a lot via the magic of the internet. I was so happy and thanked God for the progress that was made because, in my opinion, God answered a lot of prayers with that one.

But the time of the Jubilee has not arrived just yet, and there is so much work ahead of us, as bisexuals, lesbians, transgendered people, gays, and as Christians, to continue building the world Jesus envisioned. A world where there is Love, not Law, as the central focus. A world where God's Love is experienced fully by each and every individual soul regardless of their sexual orientation or any other factor human beings allow fear to cause to divide one another. A world where all are free and the New Eden is a reality for all instead of the ending to one of the most misunderstood and perplexing books of the Bible that we know. We all have our gifts to bring to the creation of this new Eden, all of us in our diversity and God's Creative genius, and in my belief we must all celebrate that diversity and work together, not allowing our differences of opinion divide us. And, there is still work to do there. Yet my heart and soul is bursting with hope and light, and more than anything -- Love.

One of my best friends publishes an underground magazine for the LGBT community. Though it is not a Christian magazine like Whosoever, I do find some pearls of wisdom there. One comment recently struck a chord with me, and I wanted to share it here:

"We are a community-a community of enemies...and we're all going to have to learn to love and accept one another and work together if we are going to survive."

At first, it seemed rather negative to me, until I thought upon it. Now I understand that even within our own LGBT Community, and also in the Christian world, we sometimes can find a microcosm of the divisions that goe on around the world. Just as there are people who persecute me in the Christian community because of my sexual orientation, yet whom I share a common bond with in that I believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, there are people in the gay and lesbian community who persecute me because in their thoughts, my identity as a bisexual man is perceived as a "threat" to gay identity, a way of having "heterosexual privilege", yet who I share a common bond with because I am able to love someone of my own gender. That can be the most heartbreaking of all. And it is not just bisexuals who often find themselves ostracized by the "mainstream" gay and lesbian community, but the transgendered, LGBT people and heterosexuals in the Leather community, those who are poly-fidelitous in their relationships, those who are not of a certain physical appearance or style of dress, those who are not "straight-appearing". I can name a few examples of what some of us who identify as bisexual have had to endure, without belaboring the issue, giving a perspective from several vantage points.

I recall a time when I was meeting some friends at a local gay bar, where we were then going to go and have dinner somewhere. Having given up alcohol a few years ago for the last time, I thought I would simply sit outside on the patio, drink a soda, and read one of the local gay/lesbian newspapers. A man who had obviously had a bit to drink, and who was attracted to me came up and began making conversation. He asked me where my boyfriend was, and I answered him, "Well, I don't really have a boyfriend right now. Or a girlfriend." He looked perplexed for a moment, and then I told him, "I'm bisexual," which made him fly into a rage. I will spare everyone the nature of his comments but the thing I remember the most was his saying, "You're attracted to WOMEN? You know what your problem is, is you just haven't met the right man yet." How many have heard a homophobic heterosexual parent state a variation on that comment, telling a young man or woman who identifies as gay or lesbian that, "You just haven't met the right (opposite gender partner) yet?" I understand that the fact that he did not share my attraction to the opposite gender, and that the amount of alcohol he had had to drink definitely influenced his comments, but it reminded me vaguely of the Christians who say they "love the sinner, hate the sin." They are happy that we share a faith in Christ in common, yet are so compelled to push their point of view upon me and somehow seeing me as defective unless I change my line of thinking, and my identity, to coincide with theirs. I can totally understand the fact that someone who is homosexual may not choose to get romantically or intimately involved with a bisexual, just as I can understand a heterosexual person doing. But to me, for a gay man to look down upon me after all the suffering I have done right along with the gay community, just seems wrong, and it hurts. Even at times when I have been in what might appear in public as a heterosexual relationship, I have made no efforts to "hide" my same sex attractions, relationships, or my total support of gay and lesbian rights, or any human right. Yet I find that when I seek the support of the gay and lesbian community for my human rights as a bisexual, I am often faced with ears that refuse to listen unless I "get down off the fence and join the gay community" and hands that push away my offer of support.

Recently I read an article about bisexuals in a gay publication, saying that one of the general stereotypes about us was that we "enjoy the pleasures of a gay relationship while hiding behind heterosexual privilege" as if to say that "the only thing good about an opposite sex relationship is that one avoids discrimination." It seemed alien to this person that a bisexual might actually feel genuine attraction to the opposite sex as well as the same sex, and that it has absolutely nothing to do with wanting to hide, to be accepted, avoiding internalized homophobia, or being raised unwillingly as a heterosexual. I can only speak for myself when I say this, although I know many bisexuals who feel the same way, but I love the right woman for the same reason I love the right man-it is a purely natural attraction, a sincere appreciation and attraction to the feminine and the masculine, to the beauty that God Created in female and male sexuality and love. To me our Creator made some of us more attracted to the opposite gender and some of us more attracted to the same gender and some attracted equally to both. The love I have experienced with both genders has only given me a deeper love for the Divine Intelligence and Infinite Creative Wisdom that is God. To me, one is not "better" than the other. The love I experience with both men and women is all a beautiful gift of God to me.

I believe one reason that there is such a taboo against bisexuality in the gay and lesbian community is demonstrated in the experience of a friend of mine who is a longtime activist in the bisexual community upon coming out as a bisexual man to his father. He had already come out as gay to his father, a conservative, who was of the belief that his son was born gay and "had no choice". His father took it well, and was fine until his son came out as bisexual, shortly after his long-term relationship with a man had ended and he fell deeply in love with a woman. Yet he still publicly identified as a bisexual, as all bisexuals I have known usually do, even if monogamously partnered with a same or opposite gender partner all of their lives. His father tried to disown him at that point, giving a lament of, "If you could choose, why did you make the 'wrong' choice?" concerning his son's love for another man. Such is the concern of many gays and lesbians, for if sexual orientation is seen as "choice" then it can no longer be seen as it is often represented by conservative Christians who have at least gotten past the thought that it is a mental illness, as a "birth defect" that their child "cannot help" and therefore they can better accept it. But as all of us know, "God don't make no junk"-and the Loving Spirit made us all this way for a special reason, at least in my opinion. Can some of these people not see that bisexuality and homosexuality could actually be God's WILL for those of us who are made this way, whether that purpose be controlling population or just Divine Creativity? Can some of those who are stuck in the "one is either born gay or heterosexual (I dislike the word "straight" as it seems to imply that one who is not straight is somehow flawed) and there is no middle ground not see that maybe those of us who are born bisexual have no choice in the matter either, it is just the way we are, how we were knitted together by God? And those who would say to bisexuals, "You can't have it both ways-find one or the other and settle with it" not understand that some bisexuals suffer hurt and depression when asked to "turn off" one side of our attraction and love, that it is like telling a gay or lesbian person to "become" heterosexual? Which brings me to another important issue.

There are a few people in both the homosexual and heterosexual community who state that their problem with bisexuality is because of the issues regarding monogamy. To begin with, there are quite a few bisexuals who are very content with, and even prefer monogamy. Many of these are those who do not fall in love with a person based upon their gender, but simply fall in love with a human being without regard to gender. But there are also those of us who go both ways, and feel an equal attraction to both the opposite and the same gender and appreciate the difference and contrast in genders, and the emotions and feelings that a relationship with a person of both the same and of the opposite gender make us feel. For bisexuals such as myself who feel this way, an honest polyfidelitous relationship is often the ideal, but I emphasize the word honest and as I have written before, such relationships should only be entered into with integrity and consensually, where the situation is beneficial to all and destructive to none involved.

I realize that there are some in the Christian community who although they can accept a sexual orientation beyond heterosexuality often take issue with monogamy. But in my opinion, it is not monogamy that makes one a morally sound person or defines their Christian faith (though some of my monogamous friends are Christian and others are not) nor is it demanded or required of us in the Bible or required of us by Christ. What is required is love in our hearts for all of God's children, regardless of whether or not we agree with their relationships, and integrity in the way we direct ours. If one cites that the Bible automatically and literally demands that a person choose only one partner, regardless of the gender, it to me is as rigid and judgmental as those who use the Bible to defend their homophobia and their condemnation of same-sex relationships. I would love to see monogamy continued to be put upon a pedestal as an ideal, but I would also like to see poly-fidelity practiced honestly, consensually, and with integrity right up there alongside it as an ethical option for bisexuals or others who choose it, just as I would like to see homosexuality and bisexuality viewed by all as being as natural as heterosexuality. To me being in love with more than one person is not immoral, just as I believe that no sexual act is immoral. It is how we go about fulfilling the truth of who we are, in a loving way or in an unloving way, that renders our actions as either a blessing or as "missing the mark", as is with almost everything else in God's Creation.

As you can probably tell from reading what I write, so often bisexuals are beyond normal "definitions" of black and white in our diversity. About the only common denominator I have seen between all bisexuals is our ability and potential for love and intimacy with both women and men. There is also much diversity within the group of people in this world who call ourselves Christians. About the only common denominator between all of us is that we believe in God that we believe Jesus, in whatever way we understand Him, to be our personal Lord and Saviour, however we individually interpret that. The common denominator I see for all of us as being part of the LGBT community is that we have been cast out and hurt in one way or another at some point and time in our lives if not all our lives, we have been rejected simply because of who we are attracted to, who we love, or what our sexuality is.

But also beyond all definitions, is a God who Loves each and every one of us with an Unconditional, Unwavering and eternal and individual Love, and there is plenty to go around for everyone. If we turn our hearts to God, then we might discover what I have seen -- that when we put aside our differences and look at the big picture, when we begin to look for and embrace the Christ in each other, there are some very real problems in this world in need of healing, places where we can share the Love God has blessed us so richly with that we might share it with others. We can only do it by DOING, not merely praying, but letting God's Holy Spirit move through us and letting Jesus within us come alive. Some say that He is coming back but I believe He is already here if we turn within to our hearts and embrace Him. God has no hands in this world, no voice in this world but ours. We have to be God's Love in action if we are to defeat what I feel are the real issues we as a society, as members of the LGBT Community, and as Christians face.

Homophobia and biphobia: Some of you reading this may still not even believe that bisexuality is real, and if that is what you choose to believe, then that is your right. Yet I ask you, I know it must hurt when people have said the same thing about homosexuality to you: "Oh, it's just a phase. You'll settle down and get married eventually when you meet the right man/woman." It's not just a phrase heterosexual people to say to gays and lesbians anymore. I have heard many gay men, like the one I mentioned earlier, tell me that bisexuals, "Just haven't met the right man/woman yet." I wonder, is it because they were hurt, having had to closet their homosexual feelings from their unaccepting heterosexual friends? I have felt that pain from many bisexuals, myself and my closest friends, who have had to be "closeted" about opposite sex relationships or be treated badly. I have heard gay men say hateful and terrible things about women and lesbians say horrible things about men. I have heard some gay and lesbian Christians say, "It's okay to be bisexual, just pick one or the other and don't ever act on it." To me this sounds a lot like a variation on, "It's okay to BE gay/lesbian, just don't ever have sex with your own gender." I have been called a fence sitter, a traitor, a "sissy queer" and I have heard "you'll get over it" until sometimes I feel as if the gay male community treats me almost as badly as the heterosexual community, using words as weapons to try and break me down, beat the "hetero" part of me out of me, convince me that one is either gay or straight just as fundamentalist Christians have used the Bible as a weapon and said, "You either believe it literally or not at all." Yet I know that God blessed me with a unique and beautiful gift to know love from both man and woman, and I thank God forever for the unconditional love I have known because of it. But to those who would say that, "Yeah, those bisexuals get the best of both worlds, don't they?" I would answer yes -- and we also get the worst. Yet still, we carry on.

Bisexuals are different, yes. We're not the same as heterosexuals and we're not the same as homosexuals yet we all have so much in common. No, we don't fit into little neat boxes of black and white, and no, not every bisexual is monogamous or polyamorous or a certain "way". We are diverse, like the gay and lesbian community, we are children of God, like everyone else on earth. If Jesus did come back tomorrow, I'm sure He would be hurt that even within the LGBT Community we sometimes fight among ourselves. Most of us who are bisexual would rather be seen as "bridge builders" rather than fence sitters -- able to help those who are heterosexual and homosexual communicate by building a bridge of communication, education, and love between the heterosexual and homosexual culture, all the while embracing our own unique culture. Part of that means working to end homophobia, because biphobia is borne of homophobia. Bisexuals get bashed as much as gays and lesbians do. Often all I have to do is say the words "I'm bisexual" among homophobic people and I get bashed just as hard, because I am perceived as a threat to both heterosexual and homosexual identity in the eyes of some.

Violence: This seems to be the greatest issue plaguing our current society. What never ceases to amaze me is how there are so many Christians who seem to turn a blind eye to things that really do make a difference toward how society sees violence and instead choose to attack things like LGBT folks who cause no problems at all. The same children whose parents would be horrified at gay/lesbian/bisexual parents adopting or having children and deem it a "terrible and evil influence" on a child often do not have the same qualms about allowing their children to have toy rifles and guns and see films where the mighty and powerful survive and prosper and the meek and mild go down in flames. Did not Jesus teach that it was kindness, compassion, acceptance of those who are different, love and faith in God that were the real strengths? How often do these qualities, these REAL core "family values" get taught to these children? I have seen parents allow their teenage children to watch PG-13 and R rated horror and action films yet would punish their child severely if they were caught looking at a nude man or woman, or even truthful and accurate information about sexuality between adults -- if that sexuality was not in the context of heterosexual marriage. Looking back at Columbine and the rash of violent crimes this past year, I wonder how on earth these Christian parents can even being to point the finger at the LGBT community and the "gay agenda" for the problems of the world.

Of course, there is the issue of violence against LGBT people and even those who are thought to be LGBT, by heterosexuals. I recall getting chills hearing a man who murdered a gay couple in Northern California say that he was innocent for he was "Simply obeying the literal and infallible Law of God as in the Bible." How much more of this will we see before people see that a literal reading of the Bible could not possibly be the will of a Loving God or the God Who walked this Earth as Jesus Christ and said that Love always overrides Law? I feel that we as LGBT Christians can set a wonderful example, by living the Golden Rule, and by sharing our faith in God. We should come out of the closet to our LGBT friends who may have turned their back on God out of fear of literalistic teachings, and introducing them to the real Loving God and the Jesus Who taught that God is about being a loving person to the best of our ability under life's ups and downs and stresses, not following religious laws.

AIDS/HIV: Yes, I know there are some out there who think the AIDS crisis is "over" but for anyone who does, think again. Just because the cocktails and drugs are permitting those who are HIV positive to live longer does not make AIDS any less of a life-threatening disease, and viruses, like evil, can mutate and arise in new forms. It's still very much a crisis, and very much a threat to not only the LGBT Community but the rest of the world as well. The homophobic and biphobic Christians who use AIDS as a scare tactic may be doing a tremendous amount of coloring the truth about HIV/AIDS to advance their own agendas, but they are correct in saying that no one is safe from it. The problem is, rather than seek a cure for the disease they are, in my opinion, falsely promoting a cure for what they believe, and would like everyone else to believe, is the cause: sexual intimacy, especially that which is "deviant" in their eyes. I firmly believe that God Created every possible consensual act of love and sexual expression human beings know. It is important that those involved in the LGBT community let others know that it is not any type or form of sexual expression that causes HIV/AIDS transmission, but carelessness and recklessness that causes AIDS to be spread. The Conservative right blames "sodomy" for AIDS (a word that is nowhere to be found in the Bible as a definition for any sexual act) and would rather see same-sex or non-procreative heterosexual sex acts "cured" instead of AIDS/HIV. But it's up to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, to educate everyone that AIDS is no more a punishment from God for engaging in certain sexual activities than syphilis was a punishment for people engaging in heterosexual sexual intimacy before there was a cure. For us to educate everyone about safer sexuality, empowers others to practice it. Being bisexual I have been accused of being a "walking disease" and had women who I was attracted to treat me as if I was a leper or a pariah because I have made love with someone of my own gender. I had an personal ad to meet a woman once and one woman called to leave an abusive message saying, "Go back to the gay world. We don't want your AIDS." That spelled it out loud and clear -- a message of "keep anyone who I believe might give me AIDS away from heterosexuals. It's okay if all you "fags" die of it, just don't expose me to it." (I finally responded to her repeated message of "Aren't you worried about AIDS?" with the same answer I give to the question, "Don't you know what the Bible says?" -- a resounding , "Sure. Don't you?") Yet it is not being bisexual, or having intimacy with both a woman and a man, that spreads HIV/AIDS. I have chosen in my own life to have a female and a male partner, and to keep that a closed relationship. Yet I am saddened that there are a lot of bisexual men who hide their bisexuality from their wives or girlfriends and have a series of anonymous, loveless, sexual encounters, often never protecting themselves, exposing their bodies to disease and their souls to despair. It is my prayer that in the coming millennium that the bisexual man or woman who chooses will be able to be accepted as such, and that the concept of polyfidelity, being committed to more than one person, will be as I said earlier, extolled and put on a pedestal right up alongside with celibacy and monogamy as an ethical relationship when all involved are comfortable with said arrangement. And that all will be sincere.

Dishonesty: This is another aspect that seems to be acceptable to most people. We are all equal opportunity victims, regardless of sexual orientation, from lies in relationships to the lies that homophobic people tell about LGBT folks. But I try to fight dishonesty by being honest rather than exposing those who are dishonest. I cannot count the times when someone has said to me, "You'd be able to meet a woman who would love you if you'd lie about your sexual orientation. Just don't tell her you're bisexual, and have a discreet relationship behind her back." Or requests from bisexual married men for "discreet" affairs. I am personally appalled by this, though I see it happen so much, and quite often by supposedly "straight" men. Now, there are a lot of others who might argue that "well, since you have two partners, what do you care?" but the truth is that I DO care about the people I love. I care enough to tell them the entire truth from the beginning, and allow them to decide if they are honestly open to that type of relationship. To lie would be to potentially hurt someone, which I cannot do. Even if it takes more time to find a relationship, I would rather do so honestly than dishonestly. I will forever support the rights of two people of any gender to be married and monogamous, but at the same time, I pray that those of us who are bisexual and in polyfidelitous relationships will not be forgotten and be given the same courtesy and respect, and that we will be responsible to others in our gift of freedom.

Human culture may change rapidly, but human nature never does. All of us have our times where we succumb to fear instead of faith, and sometimes we end up using words and actions that hurt instead of help and heal. Jesus knew this, and He gave us such a gift in showing us the real Way to live -- by developing, no matter who we are, no matter how "undefinable" we may be in the eyes of others, a personal and intimate relationship with God. Yet all of us are a part of the same God Who fashioned this beautiful, diverse, and magnificent Universe out of nothingness. No matter who does not accept me, I know that God will be forever, and it is my personal intimate relationship with God through Christ that is often my only refuge from the storms of life. Yet I give thanks in knowing that no matter what "Y2K" brings, that my love for God and God's Love for me will last forever, and that to me is what we should all be celebrating as we enter a new millennium together as God's Children. Just as bisexuality seems "beyond definition" and black and white, so often, does God. But both are real, and the more we understand that all things are from God, and learn to love and accept others and work together in helping spread God's Love to everyone, especially the outcast, the closer we get to the Heaven Jesus showed us the way to, or see it has been there all along.

Copyright ©2000 by the author
All Rights Reserved


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Books:

Bi Any Other Name : Bisexual People Speak Out

Loraine Hutchins (Editor)

From Queer to Eternity : Spirituality in the Lives of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People

Peter Sweasey


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Other Articles By John Campbell:

On Earth as It is in Heaven

Mysterious, Wonderful Ways


Also In This Issue:

Letter to Lynchburg Friends

A Walk With Joseph






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