When It Doesn’t Get Better: Mental Health and Bisexual Identity

CW: references to suicidal ideation, depression, and the effects of biphobia and monosexism

“Alarmingly, bisexuals are also far more likely to feel suicidal than their heterosexual, gay, and lesbian counterparts. In two recent studies on sexual orientation and health, based on the Canadian Community Health Survey (a national population-based survey using a representative sample), nearly half of bisexual women and more than a third of bisexual men had seriously considered (or attempted) taking their own lives.”

San Francisco Human Rights Commission. Bisexual Invisibility: Impacts and Recommendationsp. 12

“According to a 2011 study of more than 13,000 middle and high school students, over 40% of bisexual youth reported thinking about suicide in the past 30 days (compared to 7% of heterosexual youth and 23% of LGBTQ youth in general), and 17% reported attempting suicide in the past year. [2] A 2013 study found that bisexual teens who reported suicidal thoughts did not report a decrease in these thoughts as they aged into adulthood, unlike their heterosexual and gay and lesbian peers.” – Bisexual Youth – At the Intersections

Sometimes, I want to die.

This isn’t something new. This isn’t something exaggerated. This is the truth I’ve lived since I was an angry ten-year-old girl who thought the best way to handle all the unwanted parts of her life might be getting killed by a car. A truth I struggled to accept for years until the anger and desire to run into traffic were superseded by melancholy and an obsession with more direct ways to end my life.

For the first several years I dealt with suicidal ideation, my bisexuality was largely unrelated to it. I wanted to die because I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere, because I didn’t think my life was worth much, because living was burdensome, but never because I was secretly, probably bisexual. But then, two years into college, I came out to myself and though I didn’t realize it at the time, that act made space for my sexuality and my mental health to collide violently.

Because accepting my bisexuality also meant accepting that there were people in the world–people I knew, people I respected, people I loved–who believed being honest with myself was a sin against God. It meant accepting that the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric floating around in politics and the mistrust of bisexual people floating around in the media was aimed at me. It meant recognizing everything I could lose at my Christian college if too many people found out I was bi because Christianity, even the progressive Christianity of some of my friends and professors, didn’t have a lot of space if any at all for Black bisexual Christian girls.

So I tried to keep my sexuality to myself as much as possible. I went back to my family and then back to my college and pretended I was still the good Christian girl I’d always tried to be. Pretended I wasn’t perpetually afraid that the wrong person would find out I was bi and rip away the community I’d worked so hard to gain in college. But the longer I lived that lie, the more I found myself exactly where I had been during the worst periods of middle school and high school: wanting to die. My fear of the practical consequences of biphobia and Christian homophobia clung to the feelings of worthlessness and self-doubt I’d carried over from my adolescence and made life seem so unmanageable that I spent a whole year silently two steps away from a breakdown. Silently thinking that death had to be better than the life I was living.

Eventually, that experience passed. Eventually, I came out to more people without being rejected and found a solid support network at school and online. Eventually, I graduated and escaped my Christian college. But I could not and still cannot escape the negative perceptions that exist about bisexual people. Thus, while in some ways life has gotten better for me since I first came out, in other ways it has not.

When I look around and see how little the world cares about the experiences of the bi+ community, I can’t help but wonder if this bisexual life I’m living is worth it. Living is hard enough when society says as a Black woman my life doesn’t matter and my mental illness says as a failure my life will never amount to anything. Adding being bi to the mix sometimes feels like more than I can handle.

On really bad mental health days, it can take just one biphobic comment or justification of bi erasure for the lure of death to feel more tempting. One hateful, ignorant post to send me in search of the peaceful nothingness that could erase me from the painful narrative that is my life. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt this way.

That is why tearing down biphobia and monosexism is so essential to me. The lives of bi+ people are at stake. Some days, my life is at stake. And until society gets better, we can’t get better. We won’t.

Ending biphobia and monosexism might not cure every bi+ person struggling with depression and suicidal ideation, but I believe it will make the fight to stay alive, to want to stay alive, a little bit easier. And for people like me, that little bit could be the difference between life and death.

Angélique

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Discovering Bisexuality as a Spiritual Calling

Last year, I ordered the book Blessed Bi Spirit: Bisexual People of Faith because I realized I still had some things to come to terms with in regards to my sexuality and my faith. I wanted to continue writing and speaking about the intersection of queerness and Christianity in my life, but I couldn’t keep doing that until I more than occasionally believed that my bisexuality had a purpose besides making my life more complicated. A little bi-centric reading seemed like the best starting place if I wanted to eventually be able to make space within myself to let my spirituality positively color my views of my sexuality just as I’d let my sexuality positively color my understanding of my faith.

When I bought that book, I wasn’t really thinking about my calling; I only wanted to find a better way of looking at the relationship between my bisexuality and my Christianity. But the more I read, the more I felt like that anthology had answers to questions about my calling I’d been asking since I stood at the altar of my church at seventeen and tried to understand what one of our pastors meant when she’d told me, “God has called you to push past the fear and speak up.” Questions I’d faced anew my last semester of college when I wrote YA short stories about Black queer Christian teenagers for my senior thesis and first got the sense that writing was a part of my God-given purpose. Questions I kept trying to bury every time someone used the word calling in reference to my life.

As I read about other bisexual people of faith finding spiritual beauty in their bisexuality and embracing the places where their sexuality and faith intermingled and even became inseparable, I began to consider that my bisexuality might be a crucial part of my spiritual journey. I looked back at all the moments that had made me feel most connected to the calling I’d received as a teenager and noticed my bisexuality was somehow always there. Teaching me how to speak the truth again and again even when I was terrified. Expanding my definitions of love and justice until I understood who and what to speak up for. Giving me the perspectives and connections necessary to write and discuss intersectionality in ways that were healing not only for me but also for others.

In that light, it suddenly didn’t feel blasphemous to admit that maybe God had wanted me to be bisexual all along.

Maybe when God called me at that altar, They were envisioning the life I was slowly living into as a bisexual writer and public speaker. Maybe, my bisexuality had been a part of God’s plan from the very beginning even before I knew it was part of me. Maybe, God hadn’t simply allowed me to be bisexual but had ordained it.

 

Coming to view my bisexuality in this way has not answered all of my questions about my sexuality or my calling. But it has made space for me to consider the idea of calling in a broader way and to provide a much more personally resonant answer to the unfortunately enduring question, “Do you believe you were born that way or do you believe your sexuality is a choice?”

Whereas before I struggled to give a concise but accurate response to that question, now I can answer resolutely, “I believe I was called into my bisexuality” and then relish in the sight of people wrestling as I have and as I still am with all the things that can and does mean.

Angélique

Holiness, Bisexuality, and (Un)Belief

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, two-spirit people are good and holy, and made in the image of God. Our lives and our loves are good and holy. - Rev. Lura Groen

For as long as I have acknowledged any aspect of my bisexuality, I have doubted. I have doubted the rightness of claiming a non-heterosexual label as a Christian. I have doubted the ability of my friends and family to love me if I fully embraced a bi identity. I have doubted the validity of a sexuality which fluctuates at will like mine. And most consistently, most heartbreakingly, I have doubted the goodness and holiness of bisexuality and consequently of myself.

While I never accepted the ignorance-fueled arguments from my fundamentalist Christian high schools that my queerness made me worthy of damnation, I also did not accept that there wasn’t something imperfect about that queerness. Something brought about by sin entering the world. Something which needed to be sanctified before I could truly be considered holy in the sight of the Lord. I sought out that sanctification through suppression. By pretending I wasn’t attracted to all the pretty girls I saw, and when that failed, vowing to never act on that attraction, I thought I could make myself into the good Christian girl I needed to be.

But suppression didn’t make me feel holy and neither did holding onto the notion that God viewed people with same-gender attractions as inferior to those with different-gender attractions, so I prayed for a new way. I prayed that God would show me the fullness of Their love and how it applied to same-gender loving people, and God answered my prayer by putting me on a journey that led to my coming out a year and a half later which led to my connecting with the bisexual community online and eventually joining the LGBTQ+ group on my Christian college campus and writing about queer Christian  experiences and embracing a fully affirming theology by the time I graduated college.

But still, doubt lingers.

No matter how many blog posts and essays I write about bisexuality. No matter how often I educate friends and acquaintances about what it means to be bisexual. No matter how many times I tell young people that I prefer to say I was called into my bisexuality rather than born into it. I still struggle with the idea that it is inherently a good, holy space to live my life.

Acquiring an affirming theology didn’t remove the doubt from my life. It just shifted it. Now instead of doubting that same-gender attractions are holy, I worry that multi-gender attractions (MGA) are not. I worry that identifying specifically as bisexual is less holy than identifying as any of the other MGA labels. I worry that God could not bless something as inconsistent as my bisexuality.

In the midst of these doubts, I still share quotes like Lura Groen’s. I still write about the beauty of bisexuality in Christian and otherwise spiritual contexts. Because I am still praying for expansive understandings of God and love and holiness. Because I want to believe that part of the holiness of being bi lies in learning to live with doubt. Learning to carry doubt and belief simultaneously like the father who cried out to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24, NRSV)

I believe that my life and love can be holy.

Lord, help my unbelief.

Angélique