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A Love Letter for Bi Visibility Week

Sermon first preached online for Good Shepherd Lutheran Church during Bi Visibility Week 2020.

A Love Letter to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and to anyone celebrating Bi Visibility Week this week,

I came out as bisexual when I was about 19 years old, around the same time that the ELCA decided I could pursue my lifelong call to ministry. In 2009. Before that, I had spent many tortured nights praying to God, begging God, “Change the Church or change me.”

God chose to change the Church. Thanks be to God.

The first time I ever heard bisexuality mentioned from the pulpit, I was already in my late 20s. Oftentimes even affirming churches leave us out, saying things like, “It doesn’t matter if you are old or young, Black or white, gay or straight…you are welcome.” But in this sermon I heard in my late 20s, bisexuality was named, specifically, and biphobia was named, too, in a list of systemic sins alongside homophobia and transphobia. And as much as I appreciated this sermon, it was given by a good friend of mine who had listened to me complain nonstop about the erasure of bi people in the church and society, so in a way there had been quite a bit of prompting to make it happen. It didn’t matter to me, though, I was just so relieved to be seen. I broke out into tears in the pew.

I am a professional church person. Technically what they call me right now is, “a candidate for the Ministry of Word and Sacrament in the ELCA.” I’ve been through our candidacy process and graduated seminary and right now I am awaiting a call as a pastor. I’ve bought into this church stuff. I’ve stayed.

And yet as a queer person my heart always pounds and my chest gets tight anytime I walk into a new church…even virtually. It’s a risk. I never know how safe it is going to be.

This is true even for so-called affirming churches. Many churches say they welcome and affirm LGBTQIA+ people, but in reality, they are only equipped to welcome a very specific kind of cisgender gay man or lesbian. They don’t know our bisexual history, our culture, our risk factors, our spiritual needs, or our experiences. They make assumptions about my identity based on who my partner is or the way I look. They say things like, “I guess its ok that you are bisexual, but why do you have to talk about it so much?

So this is a love letter, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, because you asked me to share a message about bisexuality and the Gospel. It’s a love letter to you and to everyone commemorating Bi Visibility this week. It’s a love letter, especially, to my bi siblings.

Love letters are honest about what we are really feeling and sometimes that includes sharing stories of pain. And so this is a love letter to my beloved bi siblings, who might resonate with the things I am about to say. And it is also for those of you who aren’t bi. It is also for those of you who are a part of the church that I love and the church that, at times, has caused so much pain for me and other bisexual people. Because love tells the truth.

For so long many of us in the LGBTQIA+ community have been taught to beg for crumbs from the Church. We get sucked into endless conversations defending our identity, answering 101 type questions. Sometimes we get so stuck DEFENDING ourselves, we don’t get to celebrate ourselves. I want to celebrate us. We are worth celebrating. Being Bi is Good News.

I love learning about bi heroes of the faith. Bi culture is full of puns, and one of my favorites is, “It’s called the Bi-ble not the Straightble.”  The framework for gender and sexual orientation in the context of the Bible is so different from our current understanding. And still,  I love uncovering parts of scripture that relate to me and speak to my experience. For example, in the book of Genesis, many interpreters have read Rebekah, mother of Jacob and Esau, wife of Isaac, one of the matriarchs of our faith, as queer because of her lifelong partnership with Deborah. Deborah, her nurse, acts as Rebecca’s lifelong same gender companion. She is the only servant in the Torah whose death and burial receives notice. And Rebecca also loved Isaac, a man. In fact, Dr. Wil Gafney points out that the love between Isaac and Rebecca is the first time that romantic love is mentioned in scripture. In many ways, we can read Rebecca as a bisexual heroine. And she is not the only person in scripture we can read as bi. Ruth and Naomi, King David, and others have been known to have deep and loving meaningful relationships with people of more than one gender.

I love that those of us with non-binary sexualities, alongside those with non-binary genders, reflect some of the holiest parts of our tradition. The breaking open of binaries is central to Christian theology.  We worship a God who, in the person of Jesus Christ, refused to “pick a side,” who is at once 100%  human and 100% divine.  We are nourished by God’s body in Holy Communion within an nonbinary, non linear, understanding of time that is at once then, now, and will be.  We look to an instrument of death – the cross- to bring resurrection and a ritual of death by drowning in baptism to bring forth new life.  These holy mysteries of binary breaking are foundational to our faith, and bisexual people embody this breaking of boundaries every day simply by existing as who we are.  Our identities, our relationships, our world-view, our love-making are all evidence against a universe ordered by rigid binaries, false dichotomies, and forced choices, and towards a more holy, sacramental universe.

I love that we have persisted. As members of the LGBTQIA+ community, we have struggled. As bi people, in particular, we have been cast away, shunned, and locked out of resources,  in cis-hetero spaces and in LGBTQIA+ spaces alike because of biphobia and bi erasure.  We have suffered high rates of abuse and subsequent related mental and physical health struggles. I hate that the world has hurt us. But I love us. Because we. are still. here.

We find one another. We are creative. We carve out space for joy. We carry the Good News.

I love us. God loves us… because we are bisexual, not in spite of it.

And I love you, Good Shepherd, for letting me share that this week. For seeing me when society so often erases me and renders me invisible.  For giving me another excuse to celebrate.

Happy Bi Visibility Day.

Love,
Elle

Will you pray with me?

Holy God, who from things that were invisible made everything that we now see, we lift up our bi siblings in honor of Bisexual Visibility Week. Grant your beloved bi children the comfort of knowing that we are beautifully and wonderfully created in your image, and grant those of us who are not bi the hearts to bear witness to the struggles and joys of bi people with compassion and solidarity. Amen.

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