by Believe Out Loud
Pictured clockwise: Ashley DeTar Birt, Hannah Soldner, Angélique Gravely, Alison Amyx, Keisha E. McKenzie, Beth Sherouse
No one human being expresses their sexuality nor their gender in the exact same way as another. Yet we are all a part of God’s grand creation and blessed under God’s love.
This is why, for #BiWeek, we wanted to know a little bit more about the different ways that folks of all genders experience their sexuality, and how they shared this part of their identity with the larger world. So, we gathered some questions and went in search of some of our favorite bisexual and bisexual-adjacent BOL’ers (check out their bios at the end!).
This is the result of a conversation we’ve started:
What term or terms do you use to describe your sexual orientation?
Hannah Soldner: I like queer, but I use bisexual because of visibility (and accuracy) and Lesbian (because it forces people to acknowledge my gender.)
Ashley DeTar Birt: Bisexual, Queer
Keisha McKenzie: I describe my orientation as fluid. I’m on the bi-spectrum and part of the bi community.
Angélique Gravely: I use bisexual or bi as the most specific description of my orientation and the term queer as a broad description.
Beth Sherouse: Bisexual or queer.
Alison Amyx: My primary label for myself is "queer." More recently, I've started to realize how much internalized biphobia has impacted my journey to accept and understand myself. This realization has made me rethink my relationship with the label "bisexual."
How did you first discover your bisexual identity, or the bisexual community?
AG: Although I knew that bisexual people existed long before I considered that I might be bisexual, I didn't know there was a community with thought leaders, researchers, activists, etc. until I created a Tumblr account not long after I came out. I owe most of my initial knowledge of the bi+ community and bi+ history to Tumblr.
ADB: For me, I always knew I liked boys, but I figured I just wanted to be really, REALLY good friends with girls. I had a crush on my best friend in high school, but I figured that was a one-time thing. When I got to college and fell for another friend, I started to realize that maybe it wasn't just the boys I was interested in.
AA: It took me a long time to take my attraction to women seriously because I didn't see bisexuality as a serious option. I discovered the Kinsey scale in college, decided I was a 1.5, and called myself "straight" for the next five years.
KM: Sometimes a trivial question cuts through the angst. I was on holiday with some friends on a lazy fall afternoon in Florida and one of them asked me, “If you could have ten of your celebrity crushes in a hot tub, who would they be?” My answer surprised me because three of the people I mentioned were women. I think that was the first time I’d ever acknowledged it, and because the question was silly and my friends were safe, it didn’t feel like a thing I had to dodge. I could take my time and figure out what, if anything, it was all about. When I started looking back, a lot more started making sense!
BS: I always had crushes on girls and boys, but didn't know that was an option. I learned about bisexuality at some point in my early teens and immediately realized that was me.
How does your experience of bisexuality relate to your gender?
HS: Um, well I think it is safer for women to be out as bisexual. As a trans bisexual person, I just don't have a lot of partner preferences. I like all the kinds of people.
BS: My gender expression has always been pretty queer, partly because a person's gender isn't all that important to me in terms of attraction or even friendship.
ADB: A lot of people make assumptions about my bisexuality based on my gender. Because I'm cisgender, people think I support the gender binary or am only attracted to men and women but not non-binary or genderqueer folk. Neither of those things is true.
AA: I think that I was able to dismiss my attraction to other women for so long because female sexuality, in general, is seen as a performance for men, or as frivolous. On the flip side, it seems that men who experience any hint of same-sex attraction are immediately labeled as "gay." At both extremes, bisexuality is erased as a valid experience or identity.
KM: For me, both my gender and orientation are fluid. Expecting shifts, however small, helps me not to put limits on how I perceive other people or what I expect from myself.
How does your experience of bisexuality inform your experience of your religion or faith?
HS: I think that sometimes there are hard rules for how love works, but I don't have a lot of those rules. This permeability of love works with how I think about a God of love.
AG: One of the biggest ways bisexuality has informed my faith is by making me more mindful of who is being included and excluded in religious spaces. American Christianity often relies on dichotomous thinking that leaves large swaths of people and their experiences out of church conversations. Experiencing this erasure in regards to my bisexuality helped me put words to the other forms of erasure or avoidance I've seen in Christian contexts and be more intentional about making space, even in my language, for people who don't fit either/or categories the church uses.
ADB: In SO many ways! I think I wrote a piece for Believe Out Loud a while ago about bisexuality being like the full humanity and divinity of Christ (an idea that belongs to a bisexual former student of mine). I still love the idea that the experience of bisexuality can connect me with Jesus. I love waking up proud to live and love and just exist exactly as I am, knowing that God made me. I love that I don't have to choose between any genders, nor do I have to choose between my orientation and my faith. They're all me.
BS: I'm pretty agnostic, but as a child, my family was very religious, so it was difficult to reconcile my sexuality and come out
Has your understanding of bisexuality shifted since you first learned about it?
ADB: Definitely. I used to see bisexuality with the older definition—attracted to men and women—but I don't really define it or myself that way anymore. I'm attracted to folks with the same gender identity as me and different gender identities. The "bi" in bisexual doesn't stand for binary and neither do I.
AA: My understanding of bisexuality shifted when I realized that internalized biphobia had kept me, for many years, from exploring the nuances of my attraction to different genders. Romantic attraction is different from physical attraction, for example, and experiencing one type of attraction to women doesn't invalidate the ways I'm attracted to men. The lesson of bisexuality, to me, is that I don't have to be defined by only one experience. I can be a multiplicity of things.
BS: I now have an understanding of biphobia and its effects on my life and the disparities bi people face. I also learned about non-binary people and that bisexuality isn't binary.
What’s one thing about bisexuality you wish people understood better?
HS: A lot of people think of bisexuality as a mixture of heterosexuality and homosexuality, but to me it feels like a freedom from rules.
ADB: We are not a monolith! There are as many ways to be bisexual as there are bisexual people. We are different genders, we're attracted to different people in different ways, and we’re attracted to people in varying degrees. We all do our sexuality differently, as do mono-sexual folks. That should be lifted up.
BS: All of it.
What’s one thing you love about being bisexual, or part of the bisexual community?
AG: I love how expansive and diverse our community is.
ADB: We are INSANELY good at coming up with "bi" based puns!
BS: We're resilient! I can love people regardless of their gender or sex.
KM: I love that my orientation gives me a really concrete way of seeing more than one possibility at a time. I think that’s a gift.
HS: My bisexuality can be entirely different from another person's yet we are both bisexual—there are less hard and fast rules it feels like!
And finally—who’s your bisexual superhero?
HS: OMG! Um...Some mix of Xena [Xena Warrior Princess], Wonder Woman, and Korra [The Legend of Korra]!
AG: I have so, so many! Today, I'll name Eliot Sutler, co-founder of Bi Women of Color Collaborative and BiNet USA board member. They are one of the best models of what showing up for your communities and owning who you are looks like.
BS: Sara Ramirez
ADB: Dr. Calliope Iphegenia Torres! I feel like I should say Sara Ramirez, since she's the actress who PLAYS Callie Torres and she's ALSO bisexual, but her character is the one who I grew up with and taught me how to be who I am.
KM: ABilly Jones Hennin is an epic human being and our community’s bisexual grandpa! He’s an advocate, a family man, and a ball of light. Google him!
Now it's your turn—tell us your answers in the comments below!
Meet the contributors:
Hannah Rachel Soldner is an Actual Transgender Christian who attends three churches.
Ashley DeTar Birt is the Director of Christian Education at Rutgers Presbyterian Church.
Keisha E. McKenzie is the Program Director of Believe Out Loud.
Angélique Gravely is a Philadelphia-based bisexual speaker, writer, and activist.
Beth Sherouse, Ph.D. is an activist, southerner, historian, queer, feminist, writer.
Alison Amyx is the Senior Communications Strategist at Believe Out Loud.