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From the Human Rights Campaign’s Glossary of Terms:

Bisexual | A person emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to more than one sex, gender or gender identity though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree.

It was the 1995-1996 school year and I was in the 5th grade. On the first day of school, Michael and I sat next to each other in Mrs. Rodriguez classroom. He was a new kid to the school and had that “cool kid” look about him. He had great hair and put off this kind of “bad boy-ish” vibe. All I cared about at the time was that I had met my best friend. We did a lot together that year. Talked about girls we liked, had sleepovers with friends, and so on. Occasionally he would come to church events with me. He was a friend. That was all.

I had a few crushes that year. There was Sarah and Lisa and then there was Jennifer. I had the biggest crush on Jennifer. She was cute and smart. I would occasionally walk her and her brother home as they lived near the school. We both served on Safety Patrol, as a Conflict Manager, and may have both been in band as well but I don’t remember for sure. My birthday and Michael’s were like two weeks apart and as gifts to ourselves, we both quit on our birthdays. Haha. The band teacher didn’t quite help us appreciate being in band.

Anyways, I really liked Jennifer. One day she even asked me about it since there were playground rumors swirling about my crush on her. Naturally, I did what every anxious elementary boy would do, I denied it. It’s amazing how even in elementary school, we’ve already learned how to be afraid of rejection. I still vividly remember the day that I told her that I didn’t know why there was that rumor and that it was wrong. Anyways, that’s not what this post is about.

As the school year progressed, my crush on Jennifer remained. And I continued to notice Sarah and Lisa and other girls as well. Here’s where I first noticed a change though. I began to realize towards the end of that school year that I thought Michael was cute. WHAT? This male best friend of mine was turning into a crush. I started to wonder what it would be like to kiss him. What would it be like to kiss a boy? I was so confused at these feelings and thoughts that I was developing.

Over the summer, Michael and I drifted apart and as we entered Middle School, our friendship was basically over. There would be other boys that I would begin to wonder about though. Boys that I would think were cute. There were girls though as well. My confusion had reached a point where almost every night I would go to bed praying that God just make me gay or straight. I wouldn’t pray to not be gay. I wasn’t bothered by the reality that I liked boys. I was bothered and confused that I liked boys AND girls. I just didn’t understand. As a night owl, I spent so many nights lying in bed thinking about my sexuality.

At the time, my faith community separated boys and girls into two separate camps during their pre-teen/early teen years. There would be Jr. High Girls one week and then Jr. High Boys the next. I didn’t attend though. I was too afraid. Fear had taken over. You see, for me, having boys and girls together at events was the equalizing force in my journey. The idea of being at an all-boys camp with no girls to balance things out was too much to handle. What if a boy saw me look at him different? What if they found out that I thought one of them was cute? What if there was an awkward moment in the cabin or in the bathroom? So, I avoided it. I attended the blended boys and girls Elementary camp and Sr. High camp but never the Jr. High Boys Camp.

This journey of trying to figure out who I was would continue throughout my high school years and well into my young adult years. I never acted on attraction to guys during this time and rarely towards girls as well. I would overeat to deal with my struggles which just made my anxiety and fear of rejection even worse. I also had this growing internal dilemma that caused me to think, “Ok, if I marry a girl, I’ll just be straight. No issue. If I fall in love with a guy though, I’ll come out as gay and just be gay.” That didn’t really ease my struggle though. I knew that if I decided that my sexuality was one way or the other then I’d be denying something that was a huge part of who I was.  So, I kept it in and essentially avoided any potential relationships. But what was that part of who I am? Why was I experiencing this?

I shared the next part of my story on my “Coming Out” blog post so I’m just going to cut and paste that part here. This was in December of 2016. Here ya go:

It wasn’t until earlier this year, at age 31, that I had my “ah ha” moment. That “ah ha” moment happened through one of the most cliché ways in the LGBT community… via entertainment. The first “ah ha” moment happened while watching an episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend back in March. In the “Josh is going to Hawaii” episode, one of the characters has the breakthrough he needed to be comfortable with declaring his sexuality. As this show often does, he embraced his orientation in the form of an over-the-top song called “Gettin’ Bi”. The lyrics state: “It’s not a phase, I’m not confused. Not indecisive. I don’t have the gotta-choose blues. I don’t care if you wear high heels or a tie. You might just catch my eye because I’m definitely bi.” That’s was my ultimate “ah ha” moment. It was me. I mean the “over-the-top” delivery was a little much but the message resonated with me.

Then a few weeks later the second “ah ha” moment happened while watching the “Death Will Have His Day” episode on Empire. In this episode, character Jamal Lyon is talking with his mother about being with a woman even though he identifies as gay. When she tells him to “pick a damn team”, he responds with the following: “I’m picking nothing. I do what I want to do. It ain’t nobody’s business who I’m getting down with… Sexuality is fluid… You have straight and gay and bi a lot of a bit of everything… Sometimes things happen. You feel a certain way. You act on it or you don’t.” He then followed that by singing the original song “Freedom” to declare the need for society not to draw lines when it comes to sexuality. This episode and song helped me begin the process of using the “Bisexual” label to describe myself even though it was only to myself. “Freedom” helped me to discover my own freedom with fully realizing and accepting my sexual orientation. I considered coming out this past Spring but ultimately decided to wait until later.  

I realized that Spring of 2016 that being attracted to both males and females was okay and natural. That I didn’t need to be gay or straight, I just needed to be me and that was bisexual. While many other millennials seek to avoid labels, I was embracing mine and found freedom in it. I have come to realize that sexuality can be so gray and as someone who runs towards the gray of life, I dig it! I am now comfortable within the gray of sexuality.

The journey of acceptance didn’t end there though. You see, I soon began to realize the stigma towards bisexuality. As I studied more, I began to understand that there can be deep animosity, and even hate, towards those who are bisexual from some others who are gay within the community. There is this stereotype that I am only bisexual until I meet the right guy to help me realize that I’m just gay. I have had people close to me tell me that I should be open to the realization that I’m probably just gay. Folks, if I was gay, I would have come out a lot sooner. Again, I wasn’t scared of being gay, I was scared because I was attracted to male AND female. I was scared because sex education is so limiting that it is harmful to people in the LGBTQIA+ community and beyond. Now this doesn’t mean that attraction is 50/50 either. Bisexuality is not black and white. It doesn’t mean my attraction is bound by any percentages. Honestly, the scary thing for me to admit is that I typically have a preference for guys. Why is that scary to admit? Because it in no way does that mean that I am not attracted to girls though. It is scary to admit because the stereotype of “just being gay” comes back to haunt me. Regardless of a generalized preference, love is love. And once love occurs, that is the preference. That is the reality. It would be the same as a guy saying he has a preference for blonde girls. Does that mean he may not end up marrying a brunette? Absolutely not. Preposterous, right? Same thing with bisexuality. I tend to have a preference for guys but that in no ways means that I won’t be falling in love with and marrying a girl someday.

I have had people in the church link bisexuality to polyamory. This notion that just because I’m attracted to both male and female means that I’m going to enter into a relationship with both and jump into bed for a 3-way is preposterous to me. I’m not degrading polyamory here. That is a different discussion. I can be bisexual though and still be monogamous in a relationship. I am a one-women or one-man type of man. I mean… I would get too jealous anyways in a polyamory relationship. 🙂

My story is not necessarily representative of all within the bisexual community. That is important to understand. Even within segments of any population, the experiences and journeys are varied but they are still connected with common themes. Though it is fun to say and joke that being bisexual means you have more options, and we probably do, that doesn’t make the experience easier. I am out and proud now, but it wasn’t always that way. From the time I realized I was “different” to the time that I realized who I am, was a journey of 20 years. That is a long time to live in fear and anguish and confusion of who you are. That is 20 years of being afraid that I had to choose. That is 20 years afraid that I might choose the wrong side. That is 20 years of denying who I am. That is 20 years of late-night thoughts that would often times leave me crying myself to sleep. That is 20 years of praying to be one way or the other. Meanwhile, I imagine God trying to get through to me and saying, “Beloved, stop letting society limit you. You are gifted with an attraction to beyond what culture is trying to limit you to.”

Please understand that the journey for all in the LGBTQIA+ community, not just bisexuals, begins at a young age. It begins as we take our first breath and then are molded and shaped into what society limits us to be. That even though culture has progressed so much, especially in the past 10 years, there is still so much work to be done. Don’t be afraid to teach our children and youth about sexuality. Empower them in it. Help them to understand their bodies and discover who they are. Maybe then we’ll actually raise children and youth to accept and respect and love themselves more. Help them to understand who their neighbor is as well. You just might save their life or the life of someone else. Or you may just save them from 20 years of tears and confusion and struggle.

September 23 is Bi Visibility Day. So today, I share more of my story because stories are meant to be shared. I share to help bring further understanding of the journey I have gone through as a way to educate others. I also share because as a minister, I especially crave the need to be authentic and not just be some comfortable version of myself to appease everyone else. This is especially important for me as a youth minister. If children and youth are living and growing up in a space where they feel the need to hide themselves because of who they are, I want to make sure that in the spaces of Christian community there are ministers who deeply know their struggle and are here for them. The face of Jesus is too often masked as a face of oppression and hatred towards certain groups of people in Christian circles. This isn’t the Jesus I know. So for me, it’s especially important that others come to know the Jesus I know. The Jesus found in the Gospels.

I am God’s beloved. You are God’s beloved. Let’s embrace freedom together. It is a freedom granted to all. Happy Bi-Visibility Day, y’all!

Please Note: The names of people shared in my story were changed. You never know where a blog post will end up. Haha. My teacher’s name is correct though.