Interfaith Week Special: Bisexuals Discuss Their Belief Systems

bsexualreligionTo round off UK Interfaith Week (15th-21st Nov), we chat to Biscuit readers about spiritual paths and sexuality…

Francesca: “A liberal, Independent Sacramental Christian”

“I am an ordained Interfaith Minister, a Priest in the Progressive Episcopal Church, and a Bishop Elect with the Progressive Episcopal Church. My parents were atheist/agnostic, so I was raised religion-less. Because of that, I came out as bisexual many years before I came out to myself and the world as a Christian.”

“I lost a lot of friends when I came out as Christian, though (straight friends as well as Queer ones) because they didn’t want to take the time to understand what my faith meant, and realise that I was still me and hadn’t become a raving conservative hate-monger. I have always been with very liberal churches, so others on my path have usually been very accepting of ‘LGBT’ people, but a lot of them still don’t understand about being bisexual as something real.

“Because I am married to a woman, I get labeled as lesbian a lot in my religious circles, so I have to keep re-outing myself as bisexual. It’s tiring. I actually mentioned my bisexuality during a sermon last Summer, just because I wanted a whole bunch of people to hear it all at once. I figured that might spare me some of the re-outing and it sort of did for a while.

christ-776786_1920“Religious communities, in general (even the most liberal ones) do a very poor job of being truly affirming and inclusive of people with non-monosexual/genderqueer identities. Regarding non-heterosexual identities, though, most mainstream religious denominations (Jewish and Christian) are providing pretty safe and respectful space for gays and lesbians these days, at least in the U.S. It’s the bisexual and transgender folk who are mostly still marginalized by religious communities.

“The point of Interfaith Week, to me, is to make peace by making allies of people who had been alienated by ignorance and xenophobia. If we can become less ‘other’ to each other, we can band together for the highest good, for all people of all faiths, identities and orientations.”

Jasmin: “I wouldn’t want to label myself but I’m a spiritual person”

“I am very much attracted to buddhism, mainly Zen buddhism. I grew up in a Christian home and volunteered for about five years in my church’s community. In my younger years I was very much drawn to pagan religion. That was mainly because I found myself in a situation where I felt repelled by my Christian faith.

“In many Christian communities, it’s not a good thing to be gay or bisexual or to have any other non-heterosexual orientation. This, despite the fact that the bible refers to a place and time that is no more. Also, the New Testament shows people that the Christian God loves them, no matter what. That includes your sexual orientation.

symbol-898321_1920“Buddhism doesn’t tell you how and whom to love or have sex with, as long as they are not in monogamous relationships. Some buddhists also say that sexuality and spiritual growth can go hand in hand. I think this is a very modern approach that fits into our time.

“On the one hand the heterosexism inherent in many religious communities is a relic of tradition and on the other hand it is also a constantly reproduced problem of our society.”

 

Monica: “A practicing Liberal Jew and Spiritualist with a Conservative Jewish upbringing”

“Because homosexuality or anything other than straight heterosexuality was so foreign/abhorrent to my community growing up, I distanced myself from Judaism at the time. At this point, it looked like the dream of the ideal Jewish boy that I was supposed to marry and the unborn children we never had may not be on the cards. I eventually returned to Judaism when I moved to London.”

“In London, I met other Jewish LGB folks at a group called Hineinu for young Jewish lesbians, gay men and bisexuals. We met once a week at the London Lesbian and Gay Centre on Cowcross Street in Farringdon. I found kindred spirits who had similar upbringings to myself and who also were/felt ostracised by their families and/or communities. We all shared similar stories and it felt safe to be who I was. It was through this group and my affiliations with Beit K’lal Reform Synagogue, who had an out lesbian rabbi at the time – Sheila Shulman, that I came back to Judaism and on my own terms.

stain-glass-window-273241_1920“In general, people have been fine about it. It took my mother quite a lot of getting used to, though. It was possibly harder for her to understand me as bisexual because she only knew me to have boyfriends and couldn’t understand why that wasn’t enough for me. And she conflated gender identity with sexuality, being unable to differentiate between me being a “feminine little girl” with wanting to be with a woman and possibly not be with a man. She immediately made an appointment with her therapist the day after I came out to her. She took a long time accepting me.

“She made big strides after a visit she made many years ago now. We went to see Sandra Bernhard and she had never seen so many lesbians before – and they came in all different shapes, sizes, etc. That was a huge eye-opener for her, as they weren’t all dressed in boiler suits with crew cuts. Now that same-sex marriage is legal both here and in the USA, it has helped her continue to open to the idea that this a viable lifestyle.

“The world in general has made great strides in acceptance of non-heterosexual sexualities in the last 20/30 years. It still has a long way to come. I think that Reform and Liberal Judaism’s acceptance to legalise same-sex marriage is amazing progress. I heard a rabbi speak once about the need for gender equality to happen as the stepping stone for full acceptance of male homosexuality.

“If men can view women as equals, then they won’t be threatened by a man making love to another man like a woman would, if that makes sense. I agree with this view. If men can relinquish their power, then there is no need for such stringent control and there can be the space to have acceptance of others, regardless of their sexuality.”

Siobhan: “A pagan, specifically a heathen and a witch”

“Paganism has no dogma or religious laws. Wicca demands that we ‘harm none’. I’m not Wiccan, but ‘harm none’ seems perfectly sensible to me. Coming out to other pagans has never been nerve- wracking, or even something I needed to think about.”

“Revealing my sexuality is just like mentioning my home town, ancestry, or any other fact about myself. My orientation has only ever been of passing interest to other pagans. No orientation is seen as superior to any other, and none is considered ‘bad’, so really it’s just a part of who I am and has never received comment. I’ve actually run into more trouble coming out as in intersectional feminist – i.e. trans inclusive. There’s a massive focus on women’s spaces in paganism, and gender essentialism comes up a lot.

pentacle-671276_1920“I was raised as an Irish Catholic by very devout parents, and being a Queer youngster in that environment was fairly awful. The Catholic Church is utterly toxic for people like me (I was also a girl – I never stood a chance!). I’m baffled by the cherry-picking that goes on in the abrahamic faiths. It’s erratic and makes me feel quite unsafe. I’m also a witch, so there’s that extra dimension of worry – that maybe people of other faiths might wish me harm. I think a lot of religions do non-heterosexual people great harm, which I find difficult to forgive.

“Pagan representatives do take part in Interfaith week, but we have no central governing body or clergy, so they are only representing their own local organisations. I personally don’t feel the need to make links with other faiths. I find them interesting and I respect people’s right to practice them (and expect that basic respect to be returned), but beyond that I don’t feel we have much to offer each other. There isn’t a lot of room for flexibility in most religions, while in paganism there’s no room for dogma. Pagans and witches tend to live outside of the ‘religion’ umbrella. We’re often secretive about our path to avoid trouble, which can range from comments and looks to execution or lynching depending on where you are in the world.

“Having said that, I will always appreciate people who try and build bridges instead of burning them, and who create love where there was nothing. In an ideal world that’s what Interfaith Week would be about.”

Grant: “A humanist”

“I’m involved with Leicester Secular Society, Sunday Assembly Leicester, GALHA: the Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association, the British Humanist Association and the National Secular Society.”

“Spirituality and faith often seem to be deeply personally held and people can feel personally attacked when we talk about it. Sometimes they are even scared of being personally attacked – for example anti-semitic hatred has both a long history and contemporary risk. I was born into orthodox Judaism and learned closeting at an early age. Writing about this in Bi Community News felt exposing and scary and I continue to be grateful to my friends. I helped bring an LGBT Jews exhibit to Leicester and while I know it is irrational I was still hyper-aware when riding to the launch of the LGBT Centre being bombed or being met by an angry Palestinian solidarity demo full of people who are currently friends and activists I align with. My body is ready to be dragged into the street and kicked to death if anyone finds out I’m heading to visit a synagogue. I can make a leap of rational thought and emotional regulation and get past that.

humanist“Still, I see race, culture (and there are many secular Jews), anti-semitism and geopolitics interacting in debate in polarising and hurtful ways. I note how a Black person calling out racism as white supremacism hits white-looking Jews with living family memories of mass murder from white supremacists. I hate the racist and heterosexual supremacist parts of Judaism I’ve run into. I’m wary of hate and wary of others’ similar criticisms containing unacknowledged anti-semitism. I want everyone to feel welcome at a BiFest for instance so I’m careful about even gentle enquiry as to what people mean by ‘spiritual’ and I genuinely don’t want bisexuals to feel assaulted, judged or unwelcome because of their faith.

“On the other hand, I don’t want philosophy nor personal experience to be entirely no-go areas and I hope we will have some spaces that are both safe from assault and safe enough to challenge ideas and world-views, call out powerful corporate bodies actively harming bisexuals and come to understand each other better and change together. All very evangelically utopian but why not at least aim for what we want? I don’t understand why people remain part of deeply homophobic religious communities when other religious communities are more supportive.

“Religious faith at all seems superflous to me as an atheist. I do understand they must have their reasons, those reasons can be very deeply felt and those bisexuals might be how those institutions eventually change from within. I keep hearing people of colour finding attacks on religion, particuarly Islam, racist. I don’t consider philosophical systems races but some religions are more linked to cultures and people from certain ethnicities and I want my communities to tackle indirect as well as direct discrimination.

“I’ve always felt accepted and valued as myself including my sexuality by fellow atheists, humanists and secularists. I hope that within a short period of time bisexuals of all faiths and none will feel able to thrive as ourselves including all aspects of their sexuality, culture, beliefs and whatever else is important to us.”

Gloria: “An atheist with Buddhist and pagan leanings”

“I was a fundamentalist Christian for many years. When I was in college in the 1970s, I got involved with what I thought was a campus Christian ministry, but it turned out to be a cult. I left three years later after seeing so much hypocrisy, misogyny, and racism: but especially the hypocrisy.”

“Shortly after I left, I decided to experiment with things that the church told me were wrong. That’s when I had my first sexual experience, and I realised that I was attracted to women. But I was also attracted to men. It didn’t take long for me to realise that I was bisexual. But I was surprised to find out that I had been bisexual all my life. You see, in my church, we were taught that sex was between and man and a woman — a MARRIED man and woman. For me, sex with women was just not an option. So I squashed my attractions for women, and just told myself I was straight. Eventually, I believed it. I realise now that I was in complete denial.

Manchester_Pride_2010

© www.unitarian.org.uk

“Right after I left the church and came out as bisexual, I began attending MCC – Metropolitan Community Church, which is a Christian church for gays and lesbians. I remember receiving very little support there as a bisexual. For a while, I referred to myself as a lesbian, just so I could fit in. About 10-15 years ago, around the time I became an atheist, I joined the Unitarian church. There were many things I liked about the church; for one thing, you don’t have to believe in God to be a member. But what I like more than anything else is that they do a lot of social justice work. I marched in the Pride parade with them one year, in fact, because they have quite a few LGBT members.

“People who are non-heterosexual seem really drawn to alternative churches/religions like the Unitarians, Buddhists and Pagans. But I see that some of them are also drawn to traditional churches as well. I can’t really speak to that. I would like to get back to the Unitarian church, though, where I know I’m welcome.

“To me, the point of Interfaith Week is just celebrating various faiths and religions as well as showing tolerance, especially toward people who follow religions that are out of the mainstream and looked down upon, like Muslims for instance.”

Leila: “A liberal Muslim”

city-157460_640“It is absolutely possible to be a bisexual Muslim, contrary to popular belief. I had to laugh when Katie Hopkins recently said [in the Daily Mail] that 100% of British Muslims want a ban on homosexuality. It’s not at all true, or I wouldn’t exist! There are far more of us British LGBT Muslims out there than you’d think.”

“My parents took a long time to accept my relationship with my girlfriend. For a long time they still referred to her as my ‘best friend’ even when I firmly told them ‘girlfriend’. They’re from a different generation, they’re traditionalist Muslims. But we got there in the end. Religions adapt and evolve. Anti-gay teachings in ancient scriptures are more often than not a product of that time and not of some divine message.

“Islam is a really unpopular religion at the moment and it breaks my heart. It’s a religion of peace, not war. People like Daesh are twisting its message and creating an unfair stereotype. They’re not doing what they’re doing for the sake of their faith, they’re doing it for power.

“Interfaith Week is a great idea. The multiculturalism of London is one of things I love most about living here and any chance to celebrate that and learn to lose a few prejudices against each other is fine by me.”

The following two tabs change content below.
mm

Charlotte Dingle

Charlotte 'Lottie' Dingle is Biscuit's founding editor. When she's not running freelancing for a diverse bunch of clients ranging from Cosmo to Occupy, she enjoys teaching life drawing, discussing life/the universe/everything with her beloved (but smelly) 22-year-old cat, writing flash fiction for her MA course, getting pretentious tattoos, listening to folk music, creating surrealist art, trying to change the world and drinking red wine. Oh, and My Little Pony. Don't forget My Little Pony. Her favourite biscuits are cream crackers (do they count as biscuits?).

One Response to Interfaith Week Special: Bisexuals Discuss Their Belief Systems

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *