Monday, September 19, 2011

A Complex Reality

Having been aware of my own sexuality from my earliest childhood memories, I have long recognized first my own sexuality and then human sexuality itself as a complex reality.

As I have related elsewhere in this blog, I became sexually active with other boys at age 6. It really wasn't a big deal because in the small Texas town where I was raised it was something that almost all boys were into.

I began to be sexually curious about girls around age 12. By age 14 I was actively exploring that curiosity. My frequent encounters with males continued through my 17th year. At age 18, I was married. The marriage was a good one, and it has endured for many years.

It was not until a few years after my marriage that I began to realize just how complex my sexuality was. The realization begin to take hold as the desire to return to male/male sexual activity began to grow in me in spite of the fact that I was enjoying a fantastic sex life with my wife.

For years, I tried to resist the male/male desires as also chronicled elsewhere in this blog. They simply got stronger.

As a Christian, I felt a huge amount of guilt because of my desires. The guilt began to turn into self hate and loathing as I felt I was the only married man in the world to have the thoughts and desires I had.

I was very much aware of homosexuality, but I knew I was not a homosexual because I had a strong desire for heterosexual relations with my wife. I just couldn't shake the feeling that my sexual activity with her was not enough. I knew nothing, at all about bisexuality.

In spite of my demons, I lived a great life. My wife and I raised a family. We both had very successful careers. We moved into our dream home and then a few years later, as our dreams grew, custom built another home that provided us a great deal of comfort and satisfaction. With success and age, life began to slow down a little bit and I began to study religion and human sexuality on my own.

I suppose over the years, I have probably achieved the equivalent of an advanced degree in religious studies and human sexuality. There has not only been the self-study, but I have fostered contacts with other guys similar to myself and have learned a great deal from the personal stories of others. Far from being the only man in the world with desires like mine, I found there are millions of us.

Several years ago I started a Yahoo Group to help guys like myself avoid some of the guilt and pain I had endured. In 2010 I began this blog. Both the group and the blog  have been a real blessing to me. I've learned much, and I've been able to help a few others along the way. A steady stream of email from guys who have benefited from my writing means the world to me. If I could have helped just one guy to avoid the pain and guilt, it would have been worth all the effort; but to have been able to help many has really been satisfying.

However, it has never been lost on me that, while I'm educated, I don't have any credentials in religion or human sexuality. All I have is what I've discovered along the way, my personal opinions and what I've learned from the school of hard knocks.

Blogging has been a very good thing for me. Not only has it allowed me to reach out to others, but it has allowed others to reach out to me. I spend a lot of time clicking through the links of blogs that are linked to mine and then on to the blogs that I find in those outlying blogs. Last week, I was doing just that and struck gold.

I ran into the web site of a man who has a Doctorate of Divinity as well as other credentials. I'm a member of the United Methodist Church. J. Benjamin Roe is a United Methodist Minister.

I spent an afternoon reading through several of his essays. It is a wonderful thing to read an affirmation of what I have written by someone with credentials to back them up.

Reading what Dr. Roe has written was like reading my own thoughts. I have posted one of his essays below. Some of the bold italic emphasis is mine. I tried to use the emphasis sparingly, because in reality, there is not much in the article I didn't want to add emphasis to.

Jack Scott

Sexual Orientation and Bisexuality: A Complex Reality

J. Benjamin Roe, D.Min.
"Bisexuality doesn't exist," said someone to me a number of years ago. I have heard other statements, too: Bisexuals just can't have stable relationships. Bisexuals live in a "no one's land." Bisexuals are really gay people who just haven't come all the way out of the closet. Bisexuals are really confused about their identity. Bisexuals are indiscriminate in their sexual partners. The only way to be "truly" bi is to be active sexually with partners of both sexes equally. Bisexuals are incapable of monogamy. Bisexuality "doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night."
Perhaps some of these statements are familiar to you. The reality of bisexuality is often denied by gay, lesbian, and heterosexual communities alike. And yet, to understand bisexuality and the complexity of sexual orientation might help make sense out of some of the claims of the "transforming" or "exodus" ministries.
My purpose in this article is to encourage a broader understanding of the complexity of sexual orientation, particularly as it is seen in bisexuality, and to encourage theological reflection which includes the experience of the range of sexual orientation.
Myths and stereotypes, like the ones listed above, are a problem for bisexual folk, just as they are for gay/lesbian people. Individual bisexual persons may fit or believe one or more of these myths and stereotypes. But just as there is not just one homosexual lifestyle, there is not just one bisexual lifestyle, but a whole range of possibilities from which each individual makes her or his own choices and decisions.
Looked at in the context of the whole of what we know about human sexuality, sexual orientation is much more complex than simply the two commonly used heterosexual-homosexual categories. It is even more complex than adding a third category of "bisexual;" yet, to talk about certain realities, labels sometimes make things a bit clearer.
Defining just what is meant by the word "bisexuality" is not easy. A definition that I like is, bisexuality is the presence of significant degrees of erotic attractions, erotic fantasies, and emotional preferences for members of both genders, with some recognition of their significance. Note that behavior is not a necessary part of the definition, and that recognition, or self-identification, is important. This is not a precise definition (if one were even possible), but it will do for the purpose of this article. It is important to note that bisexuality is not a discrete category, but roughly fits the middle range of scales that measure sexual orientation, such as the Kinsey scale and the Klein Grid.
The Kinsey scale is a zero to six continuum which was designed by the Kinsey researchers in the 1940's to describe the reality they were discovering, that there were not just "two kinds of people" (heterosexual and homosexual), but in fact a whole range of behaviors and "psychologic reactions" from homosexual to heterosexual and all points in between. The scale runs from zero, exclusively heterosexual, to six, exclusively homosexual, with three being equal components of both.
An affirmative approach to research on bisexuality or bisexual persons has been a recent development. Ron Fox has an excellent review of this research in an article in the exceptional text, Bisexuality; The Psychology and Politics of an Invisible Minority.[1] One early study not in his review I find particularly interesting. This study pointed out some of the ways bisexual persons are different from heterosexual and homosexual persons. Pat Saliba had self-identified heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual persons rank themselves on three separate Kinsey scales: physical sexual activity, affectionate relationships, and erotic fantasy. Saliba sums up her research: "Sexual orientation is complex, not simple."[2] She found that people almost never rated themselves at the same point on all three scales. Within each self-identified group, there is diversity of ratings: all the homosexual persons and all the heterosexual persons weren't exclusively so, and all the bisexual persons weren't perfectly equal in gender preference.
She found that, among the bisexual group, affectionate relationships and erotic fantasies were "almost as important as sexual activity in their decision to self-identify as bisexual." This group also was quite diverse in the combinations of ratings among the three scales: some had only incidental sexual activity with persons of the same sex, some had only incidental sexual activity with persons of the other sex. While affectionate relationships were frequently ranked equally, "erotic fantasies were as diverse as those for sexual activity."
Saliba found "tremendous variability, in all areas" among all groups, "And yet the bisexuals are much more like one another than they are either the heterosexual or homosexual groups, and the same is true for each group." She also found that the way sex and affection are dealt with is more related to whether one is male or female. "Sexual orientation is not only much more than who you sleep with . . . but it is also where your affections lie, and even more importantly, how you integrate those affections into your sexual identity."
There are different kinds of bisexuality, as well. One typology, identified by Fritz Klein[3] identified transitional, historical, sequential, and concurrent types. Transitional bisexuality can be understood as a stage in coming out homosexual, and is primarily a behavioral reality, though attractions and fantasies can shift. Historical bisexuality is seen in the long sweep of a person's life, with greater or lesser mixes of heterosexual and homosexual components. Sequential bisexuality is also seen over a period of time, with relationships being first with one and then with the other gender. Concurrent bisexuality is the maintenance of relationships with persons of both genders at the same time.
In my experience and that of others who self-identify as bi, bisexual persons often feel some confusion at sometimes being attracted to one and then the other gender. The either-or myth contributes greatly to this confusion. Sometimes the confusion is simply the changeability of their attractions from day to day, or week to week.
It is the homosexual part of being bi that usually gives the most difficulty, so bisexual people usually need the support of gay/lesbian people, and so often are reluctant to identify as bi in gay/lesbian circles. This seems to be changing somewhat, at least in some gay groups, but homophobia will continue to make it difficult to "come out" bi in the general society, and biphobia will make it difficult to come out in both groups.
Bi people are often particularly sensitive to the importance of self-identification, growing out of the common experience of others denying their existence or defining sexuality for them. Bisexuals may come for counseling to be more comfortable with a wide range of sexual options. They may want to be more comfortable in fantasy or behavior or both, with men and women. They may want to be monogamous. They may want to be nonmonogamous and still have a viable primary relationship with either a woman or a man. They may want to be comfortable with multiple relationships (and practice safer sex). They may want to be more comfortable defining their own sexual options, apart from partner, peer, or society pressure. They may want to be comfortable not being sexually active with both sexes, and have feelings and fantasies about both.
Bisexual persons are often more concerned about relationships than gender. The daughter of a friend of ours said she couldn't imagine using the shape of a person's genitals to decide whether to have a relationship with the person. This expresses well the perspective of bi people I have known.
Bi folks are concerned, too, with the capacity to express relationships genitally if it is fitting, desired, and mutual. Bi persons are also often concerned about managing these relationships not only in caring ways for their partners, but also in ways that honor their own self-understanding.
Bisexuality is a complex reality, and highlights the complexity of sexual orientation itself. In my opinion, the experience of bisexual persons helps illumine the wide range of the gift of sexuality, and will continue to challenge our understandings and assumptions about sexuality.
Christian faith communities and theological traditions, with a few exceptions have been ambivalent about affirming that sexuality is a good gift of God. Even while affirming its goodness, they have usually attempted to silence the testimonies of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Christians. And they have largely ignored emerging scientific consensus in their theological and ethical reflections.
If people of faith were to commit to hearing the voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Christians, and to honor insights and understandings of scientific research, what would be some useful possibilities for Christian theological reflection? There are some really fine treatments along these lines which often focus only on gay/lesbian voices and experience. When the reality of bisexual and transgendered people is included, the picture of human sexuality immediately becomes more complex. What resources are there for this kind of breadth in theological reflection?
There are a number of publications that could be useful for theological reflection from a perspective that includes the reality of bisexual and transgendered persons. Some of these references are listed in the bibliography.
One approach to reflecting theologically on bisexuality could be to focus on the community of the church, the silencing, the judgments, the sacraments of baptism and eucharist, and the call for just and humble actions, such as Marilyn Alexander and James Preston do in their book We Were Baptized Too.[4] The emphasis of this approach is God's inclusive grace, known through creation (the image of God),[5] welcome of the stranger,[6] and the sacraments of baptism and holy communion.[7]
Another approach is in James Nelson's landmark book, Embodiment. It is to do "sexual theology," that is, a two-directional movement that takes seriously the embodied human experience, that recognizes the religious dimension of sexual questions and the sexual dimension of religious questions.[8] This approach emphasizes the constellations of meaning around sexuality rather than the acts, the wholeness of human embodied selfhood, rather than the dichotomous spiritual and sexist dualisms.[9]
A third approach is to use a central concept of theology such as the imago Dei, the "image of God." As an illustration of this approach, I have chosen a recent work that focuses on lesbian and gay persons.
I am unaware of a book that deals with bisexual persons that is comparable to Larry Graham's Discovering Images of God.[10]Though there is bisexual experience related in some of the interviews, there is no awareness (except in one important parenthetical remark[11]) of anything but a dichotomous view of sexual orientation in the book, due largely, I suspect, to his ethical accountability to those he interviewed who had this view. However, his discussion of the theological issues can be very helpful in theological reflection from a broader perspective. Out of many rich interviews and experiences, he concludes:
We have seen how the intensity of erotic love in relationships of mutual sharing and commitment have healed deep wounds and opened hearts in gratitude to God for such a wonderful gift of life.[12]
Further, he saw something that could be said of the experience of some bisexual Christians:
A sense of God's gracious participation in life has emerged through involvement in novel forms of partnerships and families that in turn have contributed to fuller personal experiences and to richer communities.[13]
Graham suggests that the doctrine of the imago Dei (the image of God) is "central to developing a theological foundation for positive care with lesbian and gay persons." He brings considerable insight to a position which he says "appears to represent the current prevailing position of American Protestantism toward lesbian and gay persons."[14] The main point of this position is that the image of God is heterosexuality, even as it also affirms the key place of relationships of mutuality and intimacy.[15]
His critique of this tradition is extensive and convincing. He notes the exclusion from consideration of "Christian tradition beyond the Bible" as well as "the concrete experiences of lesbian and gay persons,"[16] to say nothing of scientific research.
He outlines five inadequacies of this statement of the "current prevailing position":
First, it assumes that the materials from the tradition are given rather than creatively constructed by the best (and worst) judgments of human individuals and communities over time. Second, it assumes that its interpretations of the biblical texts are unassailable and accurately represent the self-understanding of the original writers. Third, it assumes that the church has always held the position they represent, rather than offering diverse interpretations of the same materials they so confidently draw on. Fourth, it assumes that the contemporary experiences of real persons cannot challenge, correct, and expand inherited traditions. Finally, it tends to "proof text" specific biblical passages for its authority, rather than placing the discussion within a larger theological horizon or context of meaning within the Bible and beyond.[17]
Graham discusses four additional "plausible alternative interpretations of the imago Dei." These include the image of God as "an asexual disembodied status," an embodied male/female existence with the male dominant, a sexless spiritual existence of male/female equality with male-dominance, and "an egalitarian partnership and fellowship" based on Phyllis Bird's thought.[18]
None of these, he says, fits directly the experience of the people whom he interviewed. Instead, the work of John Douglass Hall provided the most attractive and appropriate understanding. Hall found "a subordinated strand of reflection . . . that sees theimago Dei as a quality of relationship instead of an essential human trait or characteristic."[19] He goes on, using this part of Hall's work:
To be in the imago Dei means to be fully ourselves--rather than living according to something externally imposed--in relationships characterized by God-like involvement in all the dimensions of our relational web: with God, our ground and source, with our fellow humans, and with the natural order. Full, authentic humanity in the imago Dei means to be with, for, and together in communion with all of these dimensions of our relatedness.[20]
Graham concludes with this summary:
to be in the image of God is ultimately about the qualities of loving communion that come into being in the universe . . . When reflective of the imago Dei love is . . . embodied, sensual, mutual, unifying, wholistic. . . The imago Dei is characterized by creative and just relationality in a context of accountability and mutual concern.[21]
It seems to me that these insights apply as well to the experience of bisexual people of faith who, perhaps more than others, may be able to love fully without regard to gender. Contrary to the stereotype that bisexual people cannot commit to relationships, there are many who have the kinds of relationships Graham says are "reflective of the imago Dei." There are marriages and extended marriage-like relationships in which at least one of the partners is bi. And there are intimate friendships where these qualities exist.
Just as the experience of gay and lesbian people is calling the church and culture to broaden understanding of sexuality, so too is the experience of bisexual and transgendered people calling for a similar enhancement of understanding of God's gift of human sexuality.
(An earlier version of this article was originally published in The New Voice of Nebraska, Vol 4, No. 3, May 10, 1987.)
This article was published in the Summer 1998 Issue of Open Hands, Resources for Ministries Affirming the Diversity of Human Sexuality
©1998 J. Benjamin Roe. Permission is hereby granted to reprint for non-commercial use (including education) provided this notice is included. You may also cite this work with attribution, of course. I would love to hear how this paper is used: please send me an e-mail (ben at and let me know.
Original publication note: Ben Roe has been married for 29 years and has self-identified as bi for 20 years. He does computer programming and maintains the World Wide Web site for the Reconciling Congregation Program (now Reconciling Ministries Network). He is active in the Reconciling/Welcoming Church movement, Affirmation: United Methodists for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Concerns, and Warren United Methodist Church, a small inner-city church in Denver.


  1. Nice find Jack. I have worked with several leaders of GLBT organizations and they too concur that a lot more work also needs to be done to acknowledge, affirm, and embrace the B and T of GLBT. This post does a nice job a presenting the complexities surrounding sexual identity and sexual practices. Thanks for the informative post.

  2. Very good article. It gives a better view of religion in relation to sexuality. Only if more people would broaden their outlook in seeing religion more than just heterosexual and that God is accepting of everyone.

  3. Thanks Jack for your posting such a well written and compassionate article on Bisexuality. We are all dealing with our sexual identities if we see ourselves as not 100% pure straight or gay, and I believe as the researchers show there are millions of us in this Bi state, maybe in transition from one orientation to another, but mostly is a state of different emotional, and sexual, attractions to different human beings regardless of gender.

    You are a serious man doing serious work to help us all grapple with what makes us be who we are, and where we can imagine heading

  4. Wow, that's a lot to take in! An entire college course could be covered here with what Dr. Roe has said. Ironically, I just said how complicated sex is at Gus Like Me.

    I don't know how you came up with Dr. Roe's statements, but sadly it is not a well known opinion within the Methodist church or followings. For that, I commend his stance.

    Please don't hate me for it, but yes--I'm from New Jersey. [And NO, we are not well represented from any of the TV shows based in NJ…] But living here, and being within driving distance of the "Jersey Shore" [another tag that I resent] we visit Ocean Grove on a regular basis.

    Ocean Grove is a very curious place to say the least. It is an old historic town that was founded by the Methodist church, and although they will not admit it openly, the Methodists there are looking more and more prejudice as time goes on.

    At one time, the town was strictly for Methodists, and it closed itself off from the rest of the surrounding communities. It was gated, and haled as a vacation retreat, based on Methodist teachings. [Driving was prohibited on Sundays until the 1970s] Meanwhile, the old time Methodists started to die out, and the following there as a religious community began to falter. Knowing that the town was dying, they slowly realized that people from the outside would have to step in and inhabit the town. They could take over some of the promising, crumbling, yet charming, Victorian homes that are so trademark of the town. It's very much like a mini Cape May which is so sought after, but it has one fatal flaw. Ocean Grove is part of Neptune Township, and next door to Asbury Park; two towns that people are afraid of, in spite of recent attempts to renew the area.

    Both Asbury Park and Ocean Grove became quite run down, and like many similar towns, the gays stepped in realizing the potential there. They started buying properties and little by little started establishing gay neighborhood areas. At one point, Ocean Grove was 33 percent gay; I don't know what the count is today.

    Within the past year or so, a lesbian couple from Ocean Grove wanted to marry at the Gazebo located on the Ocean Grove boardwalk. But the church put their foot down, insisting that this is their town, their property and their right to forbid any gay marriage on their premises, as it goes strictly against their teachings. Meanwhile, the couple had lived there for many years, and were in their mid to late 60s! The story is well documented in the Asbury Park Press, the local newspaper.

    Ocean Grove is a curious, somewhat bizarre place. It seems to remain about one third Methodist, one third gay, and one third "mixed other". The Methodists there remain quite aloof to all the others who live and visit there, and I'm sure they pray for the day that their special devoted hamlet will return to its proper purpose. I don't believe that will happen.

    This is my experience with the Methodists, with all due respect to them. But it is because of this that I find Dr. Roe's findings and proclamations so surprising.

  5. So looking back on this--Methodists scare me, and yes--sexuality is very complicated--if you're honest about it.

  6. Bob, I enjoyed hearing about Ocean Grove and Asbury Park. I had never heard of a gated community of Methodists before. One of my best friends is a Methodist minister and quite a history buff. I'll have to see if he knows anything about it.

    Methodists are much like society at large, there are those who are less tolerant than others, those who are more tolerant than others and those somewhere in the middle.

    There are Methodist Seminaries throughout the United States. The best known, here in Texas is Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Perkins is known as a very liberal institution. For that reason, probably, Methodists in Texas tend to be more liberal minded.

    However, it varies by region. In west Texas where I grew up, Methodists are much more conservative than they are here in south Texas.

    You are correct that Dr. Roe's ideas about sexuality are not mainstream within the hierarchy of the church. The truth is, in many parts of the nation, the membership is ahead of the bishops and elders of the church when it comes to tolerance and acceptance.

    Here in Texas in the large metropolitan areas Methodist are generally open and tolerant. Here in the Houston area in particular, Bering Memorial United Methodist Church is widely known for its outreach and welcome to the gay community.

    In my own Methodist congregation, gays are welcomed and each worship service ends with the pastor affirming to the congregation that no matter where you are in your life or what you are, God loves you and accepts you just as you are.

    So, all in all, I don't think you have much to fear from Methodist. There are some really fine people in their ranks.

    Jack Scott

  7. I'd be curious to hear what your friend finds in regard to Ocean Grove. I would bet that he already knows something about it. Do ask him to tell you about the tent dwellers who come and stay for the summer. They come from quite a distance each summer, and it's quite interesting. Also ask about the Great Auditorium; it's a landmark building there.

    I don't mean to sound like a basher of any sort, as I do respect the town and it's people. I'm torn with the way I feel towards the place. It is charming with all it's history and you have to admire anyone's conviction to their faith. Coming from a quite conservative background myself, I can understand the resistance these people feel. It's actually sad to see these well dressed people in dresses and suits as they are coming from services, only to be made a mockery of by the invasion of riff-raff who have little respect for anything.

    The story of the lesbians was ongoing for over a year. It became obvious that the church was not letting down their guard, and as far as I know, the ceremony never took place.

    But it hardly seems fair when the town has a fair number of gays living there. They'll accept their money, but not their ways. It also seems odd that in the Great Auditorium, a building well revered in its history with the Methodists, a sacred shrine of sorts, that for the past many years-- they actually book Do-Whop groups, and other rock'n'rollers from the 50s and 60s to perform concerts there. To walk by on a summer evening and hear a crowd cheering for someone singing IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT just doesn't seem possible, but they promote this.

    Again, it's all about money, which I understand. But it's the same as the Stones playing at the St. Patrick's Cathedral; it just shouldn't happen. Yet when two residents want to hold a wedding ceremony there in a common area of the boardwalk, it's unthinkable. As I said, it's a very curious town, and I'm torn with my feelings toward it. [Google Ocean Grove--there's tons of info on it.]


I deeply regret that I must reinstate the verification process for those who want to leave comments on my blog. This is due to the intolerable amount of spam that spammers are attempting to leave on the blog.

At the same time I am changing settings so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will not have to have your comments moderated. My hope is this will encourage more readers to take the time to comment. The fact is I want to read comments with those of you who disagree with me as well as those of you who agree with me. All I ask is that you keep your comments clean and non-threatening.

The only reason I take the time to write this blog is to spur your thoughts and comments. Please do not let the spammers cause you not to comment. I know entering the verification words and numbers is a pain in the ass, but I hope you will not let the spammers cause you not to comment.

I still very much look forward to hearing from you.

Jack Scott

Anyone can comment on what I write in this blog. Regretfully, the recent amount of spam in my email account as required that I reinstate the word verification process for comments which I personally hate.

But at the same time I have loosened the comment moderation process so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will no longer need to wait for your comment to be moderated. I'm hoping this will tempt you to take the trouble to comment.

The truth is I want respectful comments both from those who agree with me and those who do not. All I as is that you keep comments to the point, clean and non-threatenting.

I look forward to hearing from each of you.

Jack Scott