Bisexuality Becomes Visible in Communities of Faith

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bi-faith-7-6-2015

Since the Religious Institute released the groundbreaking guidebook, Bisexuality: Making Visible the Invisible in Faith Communities, understanding of bisexuality has increased among faith communities.

In the past decade, acceptance and inclusion of gay and lesbian clergy has grown in faith communities across the United States, but faith leaders and their congregations have moved more slowly in understanding and welcoming bisexual people. With this in mind, the Religious Institute released a guidebook, Bisexuality: Making Visible the Invisible in Faith Communities a year ago.

This comprehensive guidebook addresses issues such as how a congregation can become welcoming and inclusive of bisexuals and how a minister or rabbi can be openly bisexual and serve a congregation. It also answers questions about scripture and bisexuality.

The Rev. Dr. Janet Edwards, a leader in the Presbyterian Church (USA) said, “Bisexual people often feel like strangers among lesbian, gay and transgender communities as much as among straight people. Our fullness can quickly get lost—even more so in the faith world.”

“The invisibility and even direct silencing of bisexual people can lead to great harm,” said Marie Alford-Harkey, co-author and deputy director of the Religious Institute. “In the silence, bisexual people are left wondering who will stand with them. Both in the faith world and the LGBT world there are great gaps in understanding.”

The Religious Institute has taken the guidebook on the road and presented workshops all over the country.

Alford-Harkey and a colleague presented a workshop called “What Does Bisexuality Have to do with Religion?” at True Colors XXII, which is one of the largest LGBTQ conference for youth and young adults in the country. Thie workshop focused not only on organized religion, but also on one’s spiritual practices and how they are informed by and inform one’s sexuality.

The presenters remember one attendee in particular: She was a 15-year-old high school student who identifies as bisexual. She was very excited about the idea of reflecting on the Divine in non-binary ways, and loved the part of the workshop where we asked participants to reflect on how the responsive reading might work in their faith community or personal devotions. She couldn’t wait to take an extra copy of the book to her Unitarian Universalist minister.

The Religious Institute also went to North Carolina to the Wild Goose Festival. “Wild Goose”is a Christian camping/festival/music event in Hot Springs, North Carolina. Its primary audience is progressive Christians, and many are progressive evangelicals or former evangelicals.

Marie Alford-Harkey ‘s presentation was, “Sex Matters.” She presented reasons why sex matters to Christians. One of reason was directly related to her work on the publication Bisexuality: Making the Invisible in Faith Communities. She told the story of working on the guidebook and how moving beyond binaries in her thinking about sexuality challenged her to expand her notions about God as well.

Several people stayed after the talk was over for more than an hour to continue the conversation. Most identified as bisexual and/or polyamorous and really appreciated the opportunity to talk about their faith and their sexuality as unified and not as separate parts of their experience.

Alford-Harkey also spoke at an LGBTQ church in a southern state. A church member, who identifies as a gay man, said in his introduction that he had negative feelings about bisexual people, but came to the workshop to learn more. After the workshop he said that the sections on prevalence and the science of bisexuality had really helped him in beginning to change his thinking, but that he was most grateful for the information on confronting and debunking myths and stereotypes.

The guidebook is available on the website of the Religious Institute: http://www.religiousinstitute.org/publications/

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