I was at a Lutheran youth gathering when it happened. Walking my daughter through a convention center overflowing with displays, I spotted Reconciling Works, an organization committed to affirming and celebrating LGBTQ folks. Their space was covered in all different Pride flags – non-binary, transgender, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, gender fluid, and more. Young people were excitedly finding their flags, taking selfies, and sharing their identities with each other and the world. It was beautiful and joy-filled, and I wanted in on it. The bisexual flag was right there waiting for me. But, that would mean coming out.
To me, being bisexual means I experience attraction to people of my own gender and genders other than my own. Over the past few years, I slowly came to terms with this part of myself. My journey as a parent of a transgender child led me to more fully understanding who I am. My daughter taught me what it meant to truly love someone for who they are and not who you thought they were. She modeled for me what it means to fully show up as yourself in the world. Watching my daughter bravely live her truth and connecting to the wider LGBTQ community alongside her gave me the courage to come out as bisexual to myself, and then my husband and a few close friends. But I hadn’t gone any further.
My daughter and I were at the youth gathering for a few days, and each time we went by all those flags, my breath would catch in my chest. Could I do it? Would I do it? On our last day we headed back to the space so my daughter could get a picture with her flags. She innocently said, “And you can get a picture with the ally flag!” She knew I was cisgender. She assumed I was straight. I had never said otherwise. I was married to a man, a man I’d been in love with the past 22 years. But that wasn’t the whole story; that wasn’t all of me. My marriage doesn’t put a limit on who I can be. My previous relationships don’t either. For a long time I thought they did. Suddenly, I felt like a fraud. I had become an outspoken parent advocate for transgender and LGBTQ+ youth. I spent my life publicly fighting for this community, her community, celebrating people for being themselves all while I wasn’t showing up as my whole self.
I said, “I’m not an ally.” She looked confused. “But you’re married to Daddy,” she replied. I watched the wheels turn in her head as she thought it through. “Oh! But you could still be bi or pan or probably a lot of other things!” Yes. I told her I was bisexual, and a beautiful conversation followed. We talked about identities and assumptions, biphobia and bisexual erasure. I told her that it was her authenticity and confidence that helped me stop feeling like I wasn’t queer enough or like I didn’t deserve to take up space as my full self. We went back to those flags, and we both proudly took our selfies.
I posted that selfie, of me and the bisexual flag, a year ago. I came out to my family, my friends, and the whole darn internet. It’s been wonderful and hard, affirming and exhausting. I’m still getting used to saying it aloud. I’m bisexual. I’m openly queer. My heart still beats a smidge faster when the words leave my mouth, but I know visibility matters.
People are usually surprised when I say I’m queer. I’m married to a man. I’m a pastor’s wife. I don’t fit whatever image they have in their head of what queer means, but that’s the point. For me being queer means rejecting the boxes people want to shove me in, not simply choosing a different box. This is who I am. By being open and proud of my identity, I can create space for other people to show up as themselves.
I still feel the weight of biphobia and bisexual erasure. It can still feel like I don’t quite belong. People regularly ask, “how can you say you’re queer when you’re married to a man?” I (mostly) patiently explain, just like I do in the workshops I lead, that you can’t know someone’s gender identity based on the way they act, dress, or talk and you can’t know someone’s sexuality based on their current or past relationship. We make assumptions, but that’s all they are — assumptions.
It can be hard. Just the other day, someone attacked me on social media for thoughts I shared about people of faith at Pride celebrations. They demanded, “What right do you have as an ally to speak on this?” Except, I’m not an ally. My stomach churned. This person’s assumption about who I was and how I’m allowed to take up space in the world stirred up all my fears of not being queer enough. But then I get messages from bi folks, out or not, who thank me for being visible and showing them they aren’t alone, and I’m reminded that I’m not alone.
The world is a more beautiful place when we all dare to be seen and loved for our true selves. So here I am celebrating my first Pride Month as an out member of the community. I'm a writer, speaker, and an advocate for transgender young people. I'm a clergy spouse. I'm the parent of three kids. I'm a million other things. And, I'm proud to be queer.