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Always the stranger: Being out and bi

I've been out as bisexual to myself and my world for about 15 years, acknowledging that I am able to love both men and women. One of the things I have learned through these years is that being out as bi tends to make me a stranger across the spectrum of sexual orientation.

I become a stranger to my straight friends when it strikes them that I am not exactly like them, not what they had thought. They assume that my marriage to my husband means that I am straight. Suddenly finding out that I am not is often a confusing shock. Many have never heard the word "bisexual." They may use the term "LGBT" but have never stopped to think about what the "B" and the "T" mean.

One pastor friend invited me to have coffee after he heard from someone else that I am bi. He wanted to warn me that adultery is prohibited by one of the Ten Commandments. He cared enough about me to speak to me. He assumed that I had to be promiscuous because I identify as bisexual. When I figured out what he was talking about, I assured him that I am faithful to my husband. I realized that when he had learned I'm bi, I had become a stranger to him, and it took this conversation to keep our friendship going. Suddenly, I had to explain myself and, sadly, reassure a friend that my being bi did not mean I was any different from how I had always been: faithful, committed, myself.

When I came out, I also became a stranger to my lesbian and gay friends. For one thing, I was no longer in the "straight ally" box. I was in the "bisexual" box now. That shift took some time for some of them to absorb.

Many gay men and lesbian women identify for a time as "bisexual," as Justin Lee has described in his book Torn. Sometimes for Christians, this identification supports a hope that they will fall in love with a person of the opposite sex, thereby pleasing God, their loved ones and their church. Many lesbians and gay men suspect bisexuals of fooling themselves. Sometimes they are right; other times not. It takes some sorting out; it did for me.

In the meantime, I am a stranger to them.

And there may be some resentment to work through. After all, I have chosen the far easier road of marriage with a man, which means I can choose to pass as straight. I benefit from all the privileges that straight people take for granted in this world. I understand the feelings of bisexual friends whose spouses are of the same gender. I see the hardships they face that I don't. It makes sense to me that when they claim "lesbian" or "gay" with their beloveds, they may have some things to work through with me, since they face challenges I can avoid. This can make me a stranger, and a difficult one at that.

I confess that I do not have much experience in the bisexual community. There are many online possibilities. I have only explored them a little. I don't know if there is an active community where I live. Sharing our identity together as bi can be comforting, but beyond that, we can have very different ideas about how to live our lives.

Bisexuals are not like the gay and straight communities, where people are naturally drawn to one another based on clear orientation identities. Within the bi community, we can feel like strangers to one another, since we could be either this or that, even to each other.

What, then, does always being the stranger mean for me?

The Bible speaks with one solid voice about the special place of the stranger in the heart of God. Deuteronomy 10 describes God as the One who loves the stranger and requires us to do so also, "for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." And Jesus insists that the righteous are those who welcome the stranger (Matthew 25:35).

Being the stranger assures me of God's love in a way that both consoles and empowers me. I find that it inspires in me special care for others who are precious to God: the poor, the imprisoned, the orphaned, the sick, the oppressed.

I have come to understand that I am only a stranger until I reach out my hand and get to know others with a readiness that allows them to get to know me. We can discover that we are all beloved children of God together.

While I always begin as a stranger, there is also always the possibility of being a stranger no more.

This blog post was originally posted at Believe Out Loud.

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