It's an absurd ritual in a lot of ways. I mean, should I stand up in church and declare, "I LOVE WOMEN!!" Half the congregation is going to nod and say, "Oh, me too." Just...how odd that my declaration incites surprise because of my biological sex and/or gender presentation.
While I have this blog, and I am fairly open in my discussion of sexuality, I find that coming out is a constant process. There are still people who are surprised when I tell them I am queer, even if they've known me a while. There are still more people who get stuck on the word "queer": "Wait, did she say 'queer'? Is that a thing? Are we allowed to use that word? Does that mean ALL homosexuals like the word queer? Can I call you queer? Can I call you 'a queer'? Umm, what does queer mean?"
Odder still is that I have to come out again and again as someone who still loves men. I'll tell a friend I'm dating a man, and here's the response: "Wait. I thought you were done with men? You're dating a man? Doesn't that break the lesbian code? Are you straight again? Does he know you won't be monogamous?"
So then I am tempted to use the word "bisexual" because at least it is understood better than queer. But I don't recognize gender as a binary experience. Many of us identify more or less as man or woman, but many others do not acknowledge gender as a two-party system. There are gender-queer folks and those who refuse to claim a gender. And many more who may identify loosely with one gender or the other and yet feel a pull towards masculinity or femininity that does not jive with societal expectations. There are many of us whose gender identity and expression shifts depending on our partners' gender identity and expression. It's a big, complicated world out there, and gender is not as neat and simple as most people think.
Sometimes I am tempted to use the word "pansexual" because it denotes a sense of loving all people, regardless of gender/sex/expression. But nobody really knows this word, so they freak out. "Pansexual? Does that mean you love bread? Or pots? Or goat-men?"
The reality is that however we identify, whatever categories we select as our pre-determined sub-sections of humanity with whom we might desire or fall in love with, utilizing those categories as a way of identifying ourselves is problematic. After all, I love/desire women, but certainly not all women. I love/desire men, but certainly not all men. The generality does not predict the particularity, which is why accusing bisexual people of being incapable of monogamy is a fallacy. If a person chooses not to commit to a monogamous relationship, that is sometimes called polyamory, and has nothing to do with an individual's sexual identity/expression.
Come out, come out, wherever you are! It's been my experience the last three years that while queer folks may be closeted, straight folks are walking around laced up in a straight-jacket, unable to imagine more for themselves or others than the narrow, prescribed heterosexual, cissexual norm they have been taught.
Three years later, I wonder a lot about what "being out" even means for me, a pastor, mother, living with two teenage children and four cats. I have 27 part-time jobs that I'm juggling with my writing and volunteer work. I don't remember the last time I went on a date--and I mostly don't miss it. My life is incredibly full (and I don't mean to brag, but it's 10:25am and I am still in my Mickey Mouse flannel pajama pants). What does it matter if I'm out or in, and why do I bother pushing sexuality to the forefront of my declared identity?
Well, I don't really like living in a straight world. I'm very fond of twist and turns and counter traditions. Rebels make my heart sing, the under dog makes my day. And because sometimes, when I tell people I am queer, they get a pinched look about them and make gagging noises. One guy told me to quit ministry and come live with him and his wife because that would be more faithful than pastoring as a queer woman. I told him that I believed I am called by God to pastor as a queer woman. He crossed himself and looked ill. I revel a bit in these ridiculous conversations.
There is a playfulness in queer community that is often missing in straight community. There is a willingness to examine assumptions, deconstruct, start over, find a new lens. There is incredible power in standing with friends and shouting, "YOU CAN'T PUT ME IN A BOX!"
I once had a cat that needed to go to the vet. I didn't have a proper carrier, so I put her in a file box and taped the lid shut. She proceeded to systematically shred the box on the way to the vet, starting with the holes on the side of the box and ripping her way with claws and teeth until she could fit her body out through the side of the box.
I hope for all of you who might be in a box or a closet or a straightjacket, that you will follow the example of Princess the Cat and shred the ties that bind you. For those of us who are Christian, we understand that Christ has already gone before us and loosed those bindings. But the queerness of Christ is a post for another day.