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.
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.