Meet Cat

8/19/2018

istock/m-gucci

Meet Cat. Cat is in the closet.

Coming out of the closet for the majority of bi people is a big deal. Unless you have a network filled with a supportive family and a tightly knit gaggle of friends, stepping out into the world as a fully acknowledged bi person can be frightening. Cat is in such a place. I asked her to describe in one sentence her fear of coming out. She replied, “In one sentence, I fear that I will be denied my dream career and my voice will be silenced.”

She continued to explain, “I am in school at a prestigious seminary, studying to become a minister. There is a chance (a good chance) that if I come out, I will be denied ordination by my denomination, the United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church is still formally non-affirming of same-sex relationships. They do not ordain homosexuals, and they do not allow clergy to perform same-sex marriage. I am concerned that my same-sex attraction will be a roadblock for my career as a minister. Advocating for gay rights in the UMC is very important for me. It’s possible that the only way for me to have a platform of influence is to remain in the closet, so that I will have the chance to have a voice as ordained clergy. If I’m out, and denied ordination, I have no voice or platform for LGTBQIA+ rights in the church. But I also wonder whether or not my voice will carry more weight as an identified queer person. I don’t know how I’ll proceed about coming out in the future. I don’t know if it’s in my best interest.”

Besides her religious community, I wondered if Cat felt that the straight, gay, lesbian, and asexual communities accepted her bisexuality wholly? She responded, “No, I do not feel fully welcomed in queer spaces. I do not feel fully accepted by gay/lesbian communities. My school has an organization and a space in our school for LGBTQIA+ students, and I’ve never felt comfortable getting involved. Besides the fact that I’m closeted, I’ve always feared that I’ll be judged for not being ‘queer enough.’ I’m afraid that I’m not welcomed because I experience attraction to the opposite gender (as well as same-sex attraction), rendering me not queer enough.” For bi people the discrimination seems to come from every direction and it’s disheartening that we feel we don’t have the support from our own queer community.

Does Cat use other words to describe her sexuality, besides bi? She stated, “I primarily use bi or bisexual to describe my sexuality. I sometimes use the term queer as well. Both feel like accurate descriptors for my sexuality. I enjoy using the terms personally, even if I’m not out, as I find it important to resist heteronormativity.”

I wanted to know if Cat still had reservations about being bi and so I asked her to describe when she first realized that she was attracted to more than one gender. She responded, “I didn’t realize that I was bisexual until after I was married to my husband. When I was younger, I was part of a Christian tradition that was wholly non-affirming (nearly condemning) of LGBTQIA+ individuals. Same-sex attraction was never an option, lest I face eternal consequences. I didn’t have any sexual contact with anyone (let alone women!) until I was married, as my previous Christian tradition practiced purity culture. As I got older, I realized the problematic nature of the Christian tradition that I was a part of, and left that type of church. I remained Christian, but surrounded myself with affirming Christians, and grew to believe that queerness is a celebration of creation, not an abomination. Becoming affirming and accepting of LGBTQIA+ people myself allowed me to safely realize my own sexuality. I realized that I’m attracted to both genders, and that same-sex attraction is perfectly acceptable and healthy. Though I never had a same-sex relationship, I still fully feel that I am bisexual, as I experience attraction to all genders. I feel fully accepting of my sexuality, personally.”

 Sometimes we hear things from friends and/or family about bi people that discourage us from coming out to them. Cat said, “The thing I’ve heard most from friends and family is that bi people who are in hetero presenting relationships are just looking for attention by claiming queerness. In essence, I’ve heard that people claiming bisexuality are just straight people appropriating queer culture. I also once heard a minister claim that bi people are typically unfaithful in relationships. It feels like bisexuality is widely misunderstood.” Realistically, there is no one way to be bi.

Getting involved with the bi community online can be a great way of avoiding isolation. Does Cat know about our community online? Does she participate? She said, “I am part of a private group of bi women on Facebook. I also follow some bi resources on Twitter. I’ve found a great bi community on Twitter. I love being a part of the bi community online. It does make me feel like I belong. In these groups, I feel affirmed in my queerness. And it’s also so cathartic to hear from people who understand bi issues.”

 I asked Cat if she had been to an LGBT bar or organization or even a pride event. She revealed, “No. As I previously mentioned. I don’t feel like I’d be welcomed in LGBTQIA+ spaces, as I’m in a hetero-presenting relationship. I also avoid queer spaces, like pride events, as I can’t yet out myself”

Cat confessed, “I would like to come out. I wish it were safe for me to come out now. I find that it is important to be out as a means of resisting heteronormativity. Heteronormativity is the reason why I didn’t discover my own sexuality until my 20s. But I can’t come out until the United Methodist Church becomes LGBT affirming. Next year, the church will make a stance on LGBT issues, so I may have the opportunity in the near future. There is a chance, however, that the church will never become affirming. You might wonder why I stay in a non-affirming church. My answer: if you love something, you fight and advocate to make it better. I want to see my denomination grow into a beautifully affirming and loving institution.”

Has Cat ever been in a same-gender relationship? She said, “No. I was part of a tradition that condemned homosexual relationships, until after I got married to a man. I am, however, very assured of my sexuality, as I recognize my ability to be attracted to all genders.”

 We fight for what makes us the most happy and so I wanted to know what about being bi makes Cat feel the most joy and comfort. She replied, “Resisting heteronormativity, as a bi woman, gives me great joy. I hope one day that I can be an out and proud minister, proving that ministers and Christians can be faithful and queer. I want it to be known to young Christians that it’s safe and wonderful to be queer/LGBTQIA+. It gives me joy to know that one day, my own queerness might make a difference for other queer Christians.”

And what a wonderful world it would be if that were to happen.

That is Cat’s story.

In an effort to bring to the public the fears and discouragement of why many bi people choose to remain in the closet, I present to you a series of interviews with those I call “damp bi” folk. Though just as fluid in their sexuality as any openly bi person, a damp bi is someone who cannot fully embrace their fluidity in their sexuality safely or surely, and therefore are only “slightly wet”. This series hopes to instill in the reader a sense of encouragement and hope, for those in the closet, and a sense of awareness and insight to those non-bi folks who want to encourage bi people to live their lives openly and proud.

52% of all LGB persons surveyed are bi, according to most recent statistical analyses. Many bi people remain slightly wet. This ranges from gay and lesbian identified people who also have attractions to other genders, straight identified people who are also attracted to many genders, asexual identified people who sometimes have sexual attraction to men, women, and non-binary folk, and the average person who gives no hint of their sexuality but is generally perceived by others to be straight. This suggests numbers may be higher among the non-LGBT demographics. What can you do to encourage bi people to come out? Do you help facilitate a safe environment for bi people to feel comfortable coming out to you? Do you see the importance of people living as their true selves, to be able to talk openly about the relationships they are in regardless of gender?

Greg Ward
Gregory Ward was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona where he resides today. He spends his time bringing awareness to the local scene and helping bi folk. He loves movies, astronomy, and the Irish language. He founded Fluid Arizona which is an active bi+ community that can be found on Facebook and Twitter, and is a big proponent of the #stillbisexual campaign.