Editor’s note: Just after our New York City conference, we received the following letter from a friend of BJUnity, who asked us to publish it anonymously.
I’m not entirely sure when I started wondering about my sexuality.
I do, however, know when I first became scared of it.
At the age of 17 or 18, with the overwhelming desire to be married as soon as possible, I realized with a jolt of fear that I didn’t really understand how this whole sex thing worked. You see, at this point in my life, I assumed that sex was kissing passionately laying down while naked. And I knew that couldn’t be all there was to it, and I didn’t want to be completely clueless come my wedding night. As I had just bought my first computer, I figured that the most private (and least embarrassing) way for me to learn how sex worked was to look at porn – just to get the mechanics, that’s all. So I told myself.
Bad idea, duh. Porn is not the way anyone should learn about how sex actually works. Up to this point, I didn’t know what a sex drive was. I assumed that it was something men had, not women. Boy, was I ever surprised to discover that I had a seemingly insatiable sexual appetite myself. Surprised and terrified all at once. I felt that surely there was something wrong with me, a girl, desiring sex.
Not long after this, one night I decided that I needed to see for myself if I was, in fact, heterosexual.
I don’t know why I even wondered. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was attracted to men, that I wasn’t faking it. But bisexuality had just come onto my radar, because two of my former best friends from high school had just come out as bisexual. A year or so earlier, one of these girls had mentioned to me at a sleepover that she could tell that I’d started wearing a new kind of bra because my boobs looked different – and I hadn’t felt weird by that admission, because I’d always noticed other girls’ bodies, too. But other friends in the room who were present were very confused by our exchange. Their confusion quickly passed, but I noticed it and wondered why it felt normal to me.
Anyway. So I decided to prove to this (seemingly) small question in my head that I was 100% heterosexual, thank you very much.
And yet, to my complete and utter horror, lesbian porn was not in the least bit disgusting to me. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
I remember slamming my laptop shut in a panic, my mind reeling. “What if I’m gay?! I can’t be gay. I like men. But then why didn’t that disgust me? I can’t tell anyone about this. Ever. I’m not a lesbian. I’m not. And even if I am, I’ll take it with me to the grave.”
My porn addiction lasted for five years. And I ignored to the best of my ability that I didn’t always just view straight porn, much the same way that I acted like I didn’t have an addiction in the first place. Because oddly enough, the duration of my addiction coincided exactly with the time in my life that I was becoming more and more fundamentalist in my thinking.
I had grown up very conservatively – not Baptist, but a similar denomination – and as I read my Bible more and went to summer camps and conferences and struck up friendships with the preachers and heard from them how they interpreted Scripture, I became more and more convinced of things like gender roles, “biblical womanhood” in particular. I became deeply convicted about who I was as a person – opinionated, feisty, intellectual, philosophical, with hopes and dreams of my own that didn’t always include a man. And in particular, I was convicted about my sex drive. Shame was my constant companion, along with fantasies involving men and women (though I credited myself with focusing largely on my fantasies involving men).
I also felt deeply torn between having discovered a career path that I loved & wanted to pursue, and the belief that I had that once married I ought to stay at home. I comforted myself by saying that I could run my own business out of my home and it wouldn’t count – in fact, I was commended for my career choice by several preachers – “It shows that you can fulfill your dreams while submitting to the Lord and to your future husband.” I felt that I was making tremendous progress in subverting my natural, sinful desires, and that the thing I needed to learn the most now was submission.
And with that conviction, I enrolled at BJU after three years of community college. I thought that if there was anywhere that would help me learn how to be a godly, submissive woman, it would be there.
By the time I went to BJU, I was struggling deeply with depression and suicidal thoughts. I had just gone through a couple of brutal relationships that convinced me even more of my own worthlessness. I remember on the drive to South Carolina having to talk myself out of driving off of the several bridges I had to cross to get there. Once I got settled on campus, I realized that suicide wasn’t an option with so little privacy – someone would happen upon me and save my life. And I was so overwhelmed by this culture that I didn’t understand to be too concerned with killing myself.
It was at BJU that I met my husband. He had grown up in the BJU world and was fascinated that I hadn’t. He kept telling me how I was not the typical BJU girl. He was instantly smitten with me.
While he knew many people on campus, I knew almost no one. I had a very hard time making friends – the paranoia of BJU had set in and I didn’t trust anyone outside of one of my roommates. I was desperately lonely and depressed and on the verge of self-harming, and so I gratefully spent as much time with him as I could. When I discovered that he had feelings for me, I agreed to date him. I figured that I had abysmal success in picking my own romantic attachments, so I could at least give him a chance.
It didn’t take long for me to fall head over heels in love with him. He proved to be someone I could trust. He would stop me from beating myself up emotionally. He was Jesus to me in a way that no one had ever been. He became my best friend in the world, and I became his.
After getting married, my questions and fears about being a lesbian or bisexual all but disappeared. I thought, “Look, I’m married to a man. I absolutely can’t get enough of having sex with him. I’m crazy about him. Totally not gay.”
My fears returned when I started my first job after getting married, and I became instantly smitten with a girl at work. This was the first time I recognized that I had a crush on a woman (though I realize now that I had a crush on a girl in high school). It terrified me once again, and I pushed it away as hard as I could. I convinced myself that I wasn’t actually attracted to her, I just thought she was gorgeous and exotic and I felt inadequate – ugly – in comparison. It took several months for my attraction to die down, and when it did I felt safe once more and the question dissolved into the background again.
Not long after that, I started questioning a lot of things that I had been taught growing up. I started moving further and further away from the fundamentalist ideologies I’d espoused for most of my life and all of my adulthood. I found different BJU and fundamentalist survivor groups online and started befriending the people there. I learned about BJUnity (then LGBT-BJU) and found that I wholeheartedly supported its mission. I became a feminist, gay-affirming, moved away from being a biblicist and kept asking questions, kept putting love ahead of everything, kept trying to treat people the way Jesus would treat them.
Then, this past May, Rachel Oblak posted her story on BJUnity. I was a bit startled, because I’d interacted with her on various forums and knew that she was married to a man. Then I started reading…and my heart seemed to stop beating. I felt like there were parts of it that I could have written myself.
“I distracted myself from my crushes by convincing myself that I needed to look like them. It turned the feelings of attraction into feelings of disgust with myself and hatred to those who “revealed my shortcomings.””
“I knew that I wasn’t [a lesbian] because I was well aware of the fact that I was attracted to men…But still, the thought lingered in my mind, and I would often add silently to myself, “But I could probably have been had God not saved me from it.” I thought that I was also proof that it was a choice because I actually didn’t find the idea of being with a girl repulsive.”
“I met a guy who became the best friend I could imagine having. Since we started as friends, I wasn’t aware of the threat to my celibate plans until after I was hopelessly in love… I was happy married to him, but I struggled even more with my self-image. I found being around women physically painful because I felt devastated that I couldn’t be them. I thought I was depriving my husband of something that, if I wanted that badly, surely he would want over me.”
My heart sank. I felt sick, then confused. I knew I was gay-affirming. I truly believed – and believe – that there is nothing wrong with being gay, or lesbian, or transgendered, or bisexual, or asexual, or what have you. So why did I feel sick? It suddenly hit me. “I know now. I know. I am bisexual. Or am I? I’ve only ever had one sexual partner, and that’s my husband. What will he think? Do I have to tell him? Maybe I don’t have to tell anyone. Will he feel betrayed? Disgusted? Oh God, what if my parents find out? Or my in-laws? What are people going to think?”
Suddenly, with a jolt, I realized that I didn’t just support the LGBT+ community. I was part of it.
At first, I tried my old tactic of pushing the thought away, ignoring it. But it kept coming back, unbidden. It wasn’t a question anymore. Certainly, there were questions…but whether or not I was bisexual wasn’t one of them.
Finally, this past Friday at the end of a date with my husband, I confessed to him my discovery. He simply took my hands, squeezed them, and said, “Okay.” I was instantly confused. “Okay?! What does that mean? Aren’t you mad? Hurt? Upset?” He thought for a moment. “No. Not really. I didn’t expect it, but I’m okay with it.” I bit my lip, trying to repress more tears. “You mean you still love? You don’t want to leave?” He squeezed my hands again. “I love you. I will always love you.”
Over the rest of the weekend, we talked more openly than we ever have before about sex, our attractions, our desires. To my shock, he had been trying to figure out how to tell me that he thought he might be bisexual as well. I became afraid – my biggest fear ever since we became friends has always been that he would wake up one day and realize what a wretched person I am and that he could find better company anywhere else. Since we got married, I’ve often felt the need to hold onto him desperately and enjoy every ounce of his love and friendship for the day that he realizes that I’m not a good wife, a good partner, a good lover, and that he deserves someone better. (This is my fear of abandonment, and it has absolutely no base with him – he has been the most faithful, loving, supportive person in my entire life.)
But the more we talked, the more we realized – yes, we’re bisexual. We’re attracted to men and women, both of us. And yet – we love each other. Gender apart, sexuality apart. We want to be together. We are partners, lovers, friends, as close to soulmates as people can get (since neither of us believes in soulmates). The fact that our attractions span genders doesn’t change the love we have for one another.
It’s still early in our discovery process. Sex is the same wonderful experience it always has been. Maybe even a bit moreso, because we know each other better now. The unspoken has been spoken, and brought us closer. Our lives haven’t changed at all. We’re still the same people.
And that’s what convinces me that everything’s going to be okay.
– becoming more authentic