It’s very hard being a queer person in the church. I admire those who continue to be part of the church and identify as queer… But as far as I’m concerned, religion is no longer a part of my life.
On the Church
How do you identify in terms of your sexual orientation and gender identity?
I identify as a queer or bisexual, cisgender man.
Did you always know that you were also attracted to men?
Since I was a teenager.
But you did identify as straight for most of your life – at least publicly – am I right?
Yeah. I kind of used a heteronormative mask as much as I could for a large part of my life.
You used to be really involved with the church. Is that one of the reasons why you chose to live your life within this heteronormative space?
So, a lot of the social aspects of my upbringing – in terms of how my family was, how my social circles were, my involvement with church and religion – all sort of lent themselves to me hiding behind this mask and not really embracing who I was for a long time.
So, you talk a bit about the social context… but at the time did you personally believe that you couldn’t be both bisexual and maintain your faith in or relationship with God?
Both actually. It’s very hard being a queer person in the church. I admire those who continue to be part of the church and identify as queer and I know there are accepting and affirming congregations and religious communities to be a part of. But as far as I’m concerned, religion is no longer a part of my life. It was always a very oppressive feeling. I knew that if I came out in any of the churches that I had gone to in the past that I wouldn’t have been accepted with open arms. There definitely would have been judgment and discomfort involved with that. So, I wasn’t wanting to subject myself to that.
So, was there this decision like, “It’s either God or the dick” and God was more important at the time? That you could have one or the other but not both?
Umm… No. It was more complicated than that. It was a combination of coming to embrace my queerness and also realizing that I didn’t believe in the faith and religion I was raised with. So, I think the larger part of leaving the church was coming to the understanding, and accepting the fact that it was not a part of my beliefs and my values.
We do hear a lot about queer people who’ve been traumatized by their time in the church. So, for you personally, on a scale of 1-10 how much did it fuck you up? Or did it fuck you up at all?
Oh, God. That’s a loaded question. Umm… I would hesitate to really put it on a scale. I would say more that, yeah, it has caused me a lot of mental and emotional damage and anguish over the years that I think I will be recovering from probably for the rest of my life. There are a lot of jaded and resentful feelings toward many aspects of my time within the church. I learned a lot from it as well. There are a lot of positive things and good relationships that have come out of that part of my life. But overall there were definitely very large aspects of it that were damaging both mentally and emotionally.
So, final question on this topic. Does God exist?
I would identify as an atheist at this point. So, I would say no.
So you have a wife. And most guys who belong to this community don’t have a wife. So, tell me what it’s like being a part of this community and having a little bit more of a unique scenario than most.
So, my wife and I met in high school and lost contact for a few years and then reconnected a couple years after high school. And we got engaged and married in the year and a half after we reconnected. And it wasn’t until we were married for a few years that we both came out to each other – she’s also queer.
So, the way that works from a functional way in our relationship is that our relationship is open – polyamorous – so we both have other partners that we see. That was something that we discussed as a: “Hey look at this neat thing that some people do, and it works for their relationships”. After we came out to each other, it was more an exploration of: “Hey this could be really functional for us, allow us to have the relationships and experiences we want in our lives and our interactions with others, while still being committed to each other and living our lives together”.
What has been your experience in terms of other guys in the community who might just identify as gay – like, do you get some people who are just like, “What the fuck?” That they just don’t get it…
Oh yeah, definitely. There’s a whole range of reactions. Some people respond with disgust. They think monogamy is the only way to go. In terms of reactions from other queer men, there are queer guys who think it’s gross I’m in a relationship with a woman because that’s just not a part of their own attractions. So, it’s a whole range of reactions. Other people are totally open-minded, and think that it’s so cool that it’s functional and works for us.
So, in the modern queer community do you think there has been a type of erasure of less-dominant queer identities?
Oh yeah. Myself included. I know other bisexual guys who will refrain from using the term ‘bisexual’ because they’re afraid of their level of acceptance within the community. There’s definitely varying degrees of biphobia and bi-erasure within the community – it’s actually some of the worst – in straight communities I often find that there’s more acceptance than in the queer community.
If you could tell the queer community one thing, what would it be?
I think as much as we say be accepting and loving of others, it really is one of the most important things. Just be open-minded to the world around you – to the fact that the beliefs and values that you hold are not the same as the next person. And that by allowing those beliefs and values, or thoughts, or ways of life to be challenged, that you might achieve a level of open-mindedness that you might not have otherwise. I have seen changes in the lives of people around me – positive changes – as a result of them being open and accepting of the beliefs, values, and lives of those around them.