I knew the day I visited a particular web site. I was 39, and I’d just read a book called Love Is An Orientation by Andrew Marin. It’s about how conservative Christians can engage in truly constructive dialogue with the LGBT community and make amends for past sins of exclusion and judgmentalism against us.
I said “us” just now; but when I read the book, I did not know I was a member of that community. I thought of both conservatives and LGBT groups as “them.”
I found the book at a library and it appealed to me from a professional standpoint. I work as a hospice chaplain, considering myself a liberal Christian who is open to all faiths. I have worked, worshiped, and played with evangelical Christians and LGBT people, I knew the deep divisions between these groups, and a book about building bridges attracted me.
Finding a certain amount of wisdom and insight in the book – as well as a certain amount of immaturity and naiveté – I proceeded to check out its related web site, themarinfoundation.org. I read through the organization’s
goals, methods, and history, which I found intriguing and a little simplistic.
Suddenly, as I read, I had an overwhelming experience. It is hard to describe. This was one of only three moments in my life when I truly feel I experienced an epiphany.
I felt a rush of something – maybe adrenaline or maybe just fear or excitement – wash through my chest and belly and into my privates. I saw a flood of half-forgotten memories, dreams, glimpses of women’s bodies, and most of all, the faces of two women with whom I’d had passionate, emotional, non-physical, and painful relationships. These things swirled around like the glass shards in a kaleidoscope and I thought, “Oh. My God. That’s what happened with Tara and with Kerry. I must have been in love with them. That’s why I’ve felt those things. Am I a lesbian? No. I know I am attracted to men. That is a reality for me.” I sat staring into the wall by my desk. I wasn’t thinking, exactly, just waiting for the shards to come to rest and form a coherent whole.
The pattern crystallized with this thought: “I guess I must be bisexual.”
And just like that, “they” became “we.” I would never see life or myself the same. And I do believe that perception creates reality.
Dictionary.com gives, among others, these two definitions for the word epiphany: “an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity” and “a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the … essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.” These feel applicable to my experience. I was cruising the web as I so often do (I was unemployed at the time) and suddenly an intellectual jaunt to satisfy random curiosity became a trip into my past and into my self. I certainly felt God’s presence at that moment, as I very often do when truths – pleasant or unpleasant – come knocking. The “thing” in this instance into which I saw “the essential meaning” was my sexuality and my abilities to love and be loved.
I do not know why God or my subconscious or the truth itself chose that moment to manifest. Even more puzzling, I don’t know why I hadn’t seen this before. I did not come from a family or church group that demonized or condemned same-sex attractions. We just didn’t talk about them. On the other hand, my older siblings had gay friends that my mother welcomed. The best answer I’ve been able to form about the mystery of “why didn’t I know before?” is that straightness was just assumed in my family, school, and church situation. Other orientations weren’t disparaged; they just weren’t on the radar screen.
As the pattern formed, I moved from my desk to my rocker, contemplating and absorbing. I remembered an explicit dream I had about a college English professor. And the time I looked down a fellow volunteer’s shirt and
became aroused. At the time I put these experiences down to “everyone’s sexuality is in flux in college.”
I’d been fired from a job a few months before this realization. Part of that dreadful and humbling story involved conflict with a co-worker, a woman I perceived as “a good friend.” When our manager took her part, I felt more than hurt and angry – I felt betrayed. By a close friend? Or a prospective lover? I realized the correct answer: both, only at the moment of my epiphany.
Since that moment, I have only felt stronger and happier about my bisexuality. I have come out to family, friends and church members. All have been welcoming. I have not come out to my employer, because of the conservatism where I live and work. I wish I could put my full name on this, but now that prospective employers Google applicants, and since I am searching for full-time work in an often-conservative field, I guess I had better not.
About two months after my epiphany I started a dialogue with Andrew Marin about the invisibility of bi people on his web site. He invited me to blog about my bi experiences, but he never followed up when I emailed him for more specifics. Still, confronting him was a big step in my journey toward staking a claim to my bisexuality, my first step toward loving it.
Whatever the reason for my blindness before, I take joy now in my discovery.
Andrea is a hospice chaplain in central Pennsylvania, a member of the Religious Society of Friends, a writer, a happy member of a great family and the owner of a silly cat named Salem.