After about 6-8 weeks of sharing my personal truth with close friends and family, I publicly came out as bisexual on Monday, December 5, 2016. I must admit, I was fearful. I was concerned. I was scared. As a full-time minister for a denomination that was just three years shy of being fully supportive of LGBT rights in the United States, I was concerned about potential backlash from people who just weren’t there yet on this issue. Especially so since a large part of my ministerial focus is working with youth. I was concerned about stereotypes and stigmas and how parents, congregational leaders, fellow leaders in youth ministry, etc would respond. To put it in the context of our present-day culture, I was fearful about people’s possible perceived truths (aka alternative facts) with what it even means to be LGBT. I also knew that I couldn’t let the fear of the “what if” control me any longer. I knew that I needed to come out and that I needed to so publicly. So, I spent most of December 5th watching movies with a good friend who offered to be my side as I read through the various comments that poured in through social media, e-mail, texts, and my blog. The responses from friends, family, and strangers that I received that day and in the days that followed have been almost completely supportive. Even those who struggle with understanding, have been kind and expressed their commitment to not let anything change our friendship. I have been blessed by this journey and for that I am grateful.
As I have embarked on this new journey of truth and light in my life, I have received many questions along the way. They have been sincere and thoughtful. I didn’t sense any intentional malice in any of them. There was one question that I received a few times that I realized had become a trigger question for me though. It was something to the effect of “Why the need to come out?”. This question seems to evoke reactionary emotions in me. When people would ask the question, I felt like I was barking my response at them. I could feel myself become instantly frustrated and annoyed. I hated that this was my reaction but I just couldn’t seem to shake it off and respond differently. These were people I love and am good friends with. People who I know love me. I have no doubt they had anything but good intentions and yet, I felt defeated by the question.
I have tried to write this blog post several times but would always stop because I didn’t want it to also be reactionary in nature. I wanted to eventually address the question without the strong emotion attached to it that I was feeling at the time. I do believe that it’s important to share our personal stories so that we all can grow in relationship with one another. I have come to the point where the question no longer leaves me feeling defeated but instead feels like an opportunity for me to help bring awareness.
So this is why I decided to publicly “come out”:
- Like I said in my coming out post, there was freedom
in me doing so. I needed to claim that freedom by publicly declaring who I was. By taking off the mask I was hiding behind. Until I took off that mask, I was lying to myself and the world by not living my authentic truth. I could no longer live in fear of being who I felt God created me to be. This alone should be enough reason to “come out” as whatever sexual orientation you identify with.
- Most kids are raised as if it is expected that they will be attracted to the opposite sex. At infancy, sometimes even before a child is physically born, parents make comments to friends about how awesome it would be if their baby boy would marry the others baby girl later in life. The expectation of dating and eventually marrying the opposite sex is continually reinforced throughout a child’s life. We dictate that “blue” is a boy’s color and “pink” is a girl’s color and from that point forward reinforce masculinity and femininity societal norms and how they are opposite from one another. And as they say, opposites attract. Hmmm… I guess if that is true then many like me are proof that the “same” also attracts. We consistently reinforce those norms as children grow up. Society doesn’t provide the necessary framework for children and youth to discover in healthy ways their own sexual orientation. This especially became confusing for me as I sensed this attraction at a young age to both males and females. For many, this often leads those who identify as LGB to remain closeted because their orientation isn’t normalized in society. They are left to deal with that confusion internally with no positive ways to externally address how they are feeling. I know of some friends who are helping to change this conversation from a young age with their kids. Just yesterday a friend of mine posted on Facebook that one of her daughters asked if two girls could get married. Her response was perfect. She replied with “Sure they can!” and then showed her young child a picture of two female friends who are married. What a beautiful gift this parent is giving to her daughter.
- Because of the previous point, we live in a culture where there is so much privilege in being heterosexual. Now don’t get me wrong, western culture has evolved greatly when it comes to understanding LGB issues. There is more acceptance than there ever has been before. I don’t want to discount that. But until we change how we raise our children, there will still be a need for people to “come out”. The more people who come out and share their stories, the more that being LGB will become normalized in our society.
- As a full-time minister for Community of Christ, I want our “closeted” and “out” LGBT children, youth, and young adults to be able to see someone in my position that they can identify with. A disciple who seeks to follow the teachings of Christ and identifies as Christian. Who deeply knows of God’s love for them. Who personally understands the journey they are on. I don’t want them to just know that Community of Christ in the United States (and some other countries) fully supports LGBT equality with ordination and marriage but I want them to visibly see it being lived out. It was a powerful witness for me as I came out to know that others had done so before me, even way before the policies changed. I seek the same in the present and future for others who are struggling to find their place. I want our children, youth, and young adults to know that yes, you can be good Christian AND be Gay. That you can be Christian and be Lesbian. That you can be Christian and be Bisexual. I want them to know that I am willing to confidentially walk with them as they question and seek to live out their truth. I also want to be a positive, visible voice for equality to those who are heterosexual. May those children, youth, and young adults grow up to knowing that there is nothing weird, different, or wrong with someone being attracted to the same sex.
- Though this can be reflected in any of the above points, it is important to bring attention to it on its own. There is a need for bi-visibility in our culture today. The B in LGBT is often ignored as the LG is focused on. Even within the LGBT community, the bisexual is often dismissed as an actual orientation. Bisexuals are here. They exist. We exist. I exist. And I would imagine that if the supportive, healthy framework was in place for people as they grow to understands themselves, that there would be many more in society who understand their orientation to be bisexual. For I believe love to be much more fluid than the rigid boundaries history has reinforced for us. I believe orientation to be much more within the continuum than on the extreme ends that our culture perpetuates.
- Simple: I want gay and bisexual men to also know that I am potentially an option for them just like I am for straight and bisexual women. There is a simple practicality
here. I’m here. I’m Sean. I can be attracted to women. I can be attracted to men. I’m bisexual. I also like humor, long walks on the beach, camping, road trips, coffee, and live music. Haha. Seriously, though. 😉 🙂
Since I came out, I have felt a lot of love and acceptance and I can’t ignore that. I am so grateful for that. As I have heard from others who are currently struggling with coming out or who have struggled in the past with doing so, I have become fully aware of my privilege in this regard. I live in one of the most progressive places in the United States and worship with some of the most progressive believers in Community of Christ. Even my family and friends whom I love that would consider themselves to be conservative have been more accepting or tolerant in this area. I am filled with gratitude that my experience wasn’t one of progressive vs. traditional or liberal vs conservative. That it has been one which truly lifted up a sense of unity even with our diversity. But I know that isn’t the same story for everyone. I know there are places and cultures within the United States and beyond where someone coming out wouldn’t be treated the same. I stand with you. I’m willing to walk the journey with you. You are loved.
There is nothing special with being bisexual. Just like there is nothing special with being gay, lesbian, straight, etc. There is only something special in being human. And all humans need to be recognized as being of equal worth. God grants us that equality, now it’s societies turn. Until this happens, people like me will have “coming out” stories to share. Please don’t discount our need to “come out” by saying that you wish we didn’t have to come out. Trust us, we do too. We have a long way to go. If you’re questioning why there is still a need to come out, then you are showing the LGBT community why we have a long way still to go.
Please Note: A few times I referred to just LGB in my post. Obviously, I am referring to being gay, lesbian, and bisexual. I am not trying to leave transgender out of the conversation. This post is about sexual orientation which is different than gender identity. Both are important topics that are deserving of their own conversations when addressing equality as well as the often-blended conversations we have in society. For me, my personal experience is focused on my struggle with understanding my sexual orientation so that’s the perspective of which I share.