Interviews: Being Visible in the Church

Br. Michael Oboza is a monk in the Orthodox Catholic Eastern Rite. Along with being an activist that stands up to religious bigotry, he founded Bisexual Queer Alliance Chicago to help continue bisexual history and equal visibility.

To learn more about the bisexual visibility and biphobia that Br. Michael speaks of, you can visit the Bi Social Network Campaign here.

For a description of these interviews and for Part 1, you can check out A Mother’s Story.

Part 2: A Daughter’s Story

Part 3: Celibacy & Singleness

I have often heard the sentiment in the gay and lesbian community that bisexual individuals are just confused or are really gay/lesbian but just can’t admit it. What are your thoughts about these statements?

In Kindergarden, I was the only student that sat with both gender classmates. All other tables sat opposite gender students. For the next seven years, I had warm feelings for both Katie and Donald at the same time. This joy was not a phase that ever left me.

All my life, I heard hurtful myths that I later chose to embody. From some gay people, I was told that I was confused or that I was bisexual because I was abused by both adult men and women. I was told that I would sleep around because I was bisexual. The worst statement that I heard was from an ex-boyfriend, “I was an HIV spreader, because I was going to be promiscuous, being bisexual.” Then from straight people, I heard that I was on the fence and that I would never be faithful to one life partner. My ex-girlfriend often told me, “Go straight, it’s easier.” Whether it was a man or woman, I was often looked at as less than. Many individuals believed that I could never be trusted in a relationship, simply because I was bisexual. The bisexual erasure that I did not fully exist, began to help cripple me. I was in the closet, hiding my true self and dying on the inside.

For years, I self-medicated my self-hatred. I drank with friends who identified as straight to be accepted by them. I used drugs with friends who identified as gay to be accepted there. I was always drunk and high. I was living a lie and even suicide attempts never seemed to work. It was then that I started to hold on to my bisexuality, the way God made me, my birthright. In holding on and reaching out to other bisexual activists for support and not sex, what touched me was the same thing that touched me back in Kindergarden, God’s unconditional love.

You spend a good portion of your time promoting the idea of bi-visibility. Could you touch upon why you feel this is an important area.

What helps the light of God, as it did through Jesus was visibility. The same is true with all God’s called and chosen and those who embrace their God-given calling. It is up to us to show up and make visible our whole being. To only carry God’s message and not act with direct action, is taking for granted our light. To show up and be visible as I do with my bisexual flag and colors is allowing God to be more fully visible through me. Then others who suffer with internal biphobia more often than not will feel welcome to show up as well. “Light proceeds light.” That is a God thing, not a me thing.

Considering that you have been hurt in a number of ways by individuals in the Church, what keeps you in the Church?

Besides being one of twelve children that was raped by the same Roman Catholic priest, we prayed read, re-read, and acted out the Bible every year. The only stillness I have ever known was that in biblical times there lived a courageous and God-loving King David. The blessing for me was his history of having no dread with his birthright. First, he had relations with both King Saul’s daughter and son at the same time. Later, he continued having relations with wives and a male concubine. It was his faith that God knew, forgave, and loved him regardless. Never the less, I lived in a closet with internal biphobia.

To know that God, who is both male and female, called King David a beloved was my soul reason to go to rehab. In rehab, I read about an enriched bisexual history in Chicago. The 1970s were out and proud with Chicago Bi Ways and the 1980s where Action Bi Women celebrated their visibility. To study all that I read was sobering and illuminating. Psalm 23 helped me stay sober and grateful. As a believer of God, King David was able to be himself, help others, and confront injustice without shame, concern, and ego. That in itself was enough of a fruitful harvest for me to be able to turn my life over to God.

What piece of advice would you like to pass on to churches that hold a more traditional understanding of scripture when it comes to building bridges with the LGBT community? Have you experienced areas in which open and affirming churches still need to grow with regards to welcoming sexual minorities and gender non-conforming individuals outside gay and lesbian individuals?

When a person sees themselves, like I did reading about Kind David, then as a monk, I pray respect could be given from people that disagree with me. I feel that respecting Matthew 25 by leaving judgement up to God as well as not negating individual interpretations of scripture are both important. Since “welcoming churches” also often share with me that they suppose that King David was not bisexual, I get enraged. Because this contempt comes from people who do not identify as bisexual, it often feels like they are trying to erase my bisexual birthright that I was born with and speak.

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

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About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • Mrs T

    Your story is very touching. Be assured that The Marin Foundation is a place where you can get love & acceptance. I am so sorry you got all that abuse & rejection. I thought that transsexuals got that kind of treatment, not bisexuals. I’m sure I’m not the only one that would like to hear more of your story. God bless you!

  • Br. Michael

    Thank you Mrs T…. I have grown stronger in the face of Bisexual Erasure. Thank you The Marin Foundation for caring.

  • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

    Thanks for sharing your story, Brother Michael. I’m sorry to hear of the rejections and struggles and abuses that you’ve experienced throughout your life.

    My own husband is a bisexual male and he’s probably one of the most religiously grounded individuals that I’ve ever met.

    And thanks for talking about King David’s story. It’s one that often dismissed by Christians, but it’s clear to me that he was equally both bisexual and beloved by God in his life.

    • Br. Michael

      Thank you Jon for sharing your truth. And you truly understand. You get it… You’re the best! Thank you again.

  • http://bisocialnetwork.com Bi Social Network

    Thanks for sharing our link for our campaigned called ‘I am visible’ nice to see. Also, it was interesting article to read this morning, I really liked it.

    Adrienne Williams, Founder, Bi Social Network

  • Debbie Thurman

    Br. Michael has a take on David and Jonathan’s relationship that is out of the mainstream, but certainly not out of the question. I see it a bit differently, although I also see hope in it for those who are moved deeply by similar feelings or relationships and are seeking meaning in it all.

    I see a danger in accepting the David-Jonathan friendship in the Old Testament as “proof” that God would sanction bisexuality or homosexuality in what would be a contradiction of Levitical law and alter New Testament injunctions. I believe it is there to illustrate that humans are relational beings who long for meaningful bonds with both sexes.

    If the relationship did include a strong physical attraction, it would be no different than David’s later relationship with Bathsheba. That was not something God approved of, and David suffered greatly from that willful sin. His lust drove him to effectually murder her husband. We have some of the most eloquent and painful of the psalms written by David because of the prolonged journey to contrition and restoration he endured. And with it comes much hope to us because David was known as “a man after God’s own heart.”

    As a woman who stood guilty of both adultery and homosexual/bisexual sin (I am speaking of different historic events in my life, not combining then, to be clear), I am deeply grateful to find these stories in the biblical accounts. They let me know how much God loves me, in spite of my fallen nature and proclivity to sin. Why would a loving God who knows our every weakness not want to give us such hope? And if the hope we can find in the O.T. is that great, how much greater is it when we add in the N.T. and the covenant Christ came to establish?

    As I’ve said here before, biblical history, prophecy and teaching (from Jesus Christ and the apostles) are there for our edification. The Bible is filled with successes and failures, good and the evil, heroes and bums. It shows us that there is nothing new under the sun (as David and Bathsheba’s famous son Solomon said).

    Christ knew what was in man, therefore he trusted no man but only the Father. He knew the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak. Yet he loved us enough to die for us and give us the hope of redemption. He is “the way, the truth and the life.” All others appearing in biblical history are there as living parables (positive and negative) to illustrate why we need Christ or to inspire us to know and serve him.

  • Br. Michael

    Thank you Debbie as always. If I may share from my own, a monk’s prayerful perspective about the “Levitical law and alter New Testament injunctions.” A man that lays with a man like a woman is impossible. Trust me, I have respectfully tried that Bisexual and Homosexual phobia for years. A man is a man and a woman is a woman, so that kind of assumption of an “abomination” is impossible in itself. Birthright is birthright. Therefore, bisexuals and gays are also born children of God. On the other hand, regardless of sexuality, and “playing God” as Levitical law tries to do, then child abuser are a vile abomination of sorts. Trust me, as a survivor for life, I met too many of those “people” as well.

    • Br. Michael

      …. Survivor for life. Thank you again Debbie.

  • Debbie Thurman

    Br. Michael, I am a survivor, too, although not of abuse as heinous as what you are likely to have suffered. And for that I am deeply sorrowful. May you know God’s peace fully in your life. Some things are extremely difficult to forgive or make any sense of. Child sexual abuse is one of them. I am one of the few whose perpetrator actually apologized and sought my forgiveness.

  • Br. Michael

    Wow! God is good…. Regardless, if we ever read the bible or survived it. Amen to that Debbie.