I remember watching X-men for the first time in the 90s. It came into syndication in my small town in Pennsylvania around 1999; I was 8. I loved it so much, the idea of a secret war, people who were fundamentally different than the totality of humanity and the yellow spandex.
I don't know where in my little 8 year old heart it came from, but I started to develop an infatuation with Cyclops. He very quickly became my favorite character. I became rather irritated with Jean Gray (Cyclop's wife), glad to see him in charge of the X-men, locked in scenes of bravery and adorned in that perfectly sketched yellow spandex. Episodes that featured him prominently were my favorites by default and ones I immediately wished I had taped (yea the days of VCRs). I very much wanted to be his very best friend and wanted Cyclops to accompany me to school and keep me company while I did everything. I was the only boy, with two other sisters who weren't much for company, I simply thought it would be perfect to have another boy around.
What I didn't realize at 8 was that this was my first innocent crush on a member of my own gender. I had been aware of other crushes I had on characters on TV before, like the pink Power Ranger and Melissa Joan Hart but it didn't really connect with me at that time that there was something more to the yellow spandex.
Skip forward a couple of years, my attraction to women wasn't nearly as mainstream as my peers. While other boys my age were lusting over Angelina Jolie's breasts, I was obsessed with Jenna Fischer's wit in the Office and her revolving ensemble of cardigans. This stark disparity was very evident to me, I often felt like I needed to overcompensate. I felt like I never belonged around boys my own age and like most outcasts, my behavior often invited ridicule and feeling out of place made me an oddity. "Gay" and "fag" were often the most commonplace appellations.
Fast-forward a little further ahead, on a break from a large evangelical university, I was 17 or 18, I was reconnecting with my former youth minister, we were walking in park by my house and I started to express that these desires I had felt for other guys and mostly attractions were existing along side those that I had felt for women. To this pastor, I had "come to Christ" and with him learned so much about Scripture, which fostered a deep reverence for the poetry in there and mercy Christ offered. He referred to what I felt as "same-sex attraction" that it was a temptation like lust and should be avoided and resisted like any other temptation.
From my observations, conservative Christian circles often conflated lots of things about sex and desire. A lot of that territory to those in power and speaking / preaching on those subjects had a very unrealistic view of what sex and healthy desire was all about. That's not to mention the unhelpful shame, rhetoric and orchestrated behaviors that were largely unhelpful in resisting these "temptations".
So called "same-sex attraction" didn't really encompass my experience and the materials I was given to read to make sense of it seemed like they didn't make space for me either. Much to my regret, I sat on those feelings for a few more years, not acknowledging them, not giving them voice of language. There persisted a churning of quiet shame over these feelings that I never felt good talking to other about. But the subject of lust and sex never grew cold.
Every conversation and prayer group that was just for "guys" focused on the fundamental idea that God was offended and intolerant of every erection we garnered, and masturbation was a trap in which temptation could become normalized and we'd become immune to hearing God's spirit, that our "future wives" wouldn't want to marry us and we were diluting God's mercy. That was a tough pill to swallow.
None of the gatherings gave me any hope about sex or sexuality in general. They all seemed to sell the idea that everything would work itself out in heterosexual marriage that followed an awkward rubric of criteria that made no sense.
In college, I studied the New Testament and deepened my love of the scripture and started to see deeper veins and stronger themes that echoed this idea that God was firmly in the business of embracing and reconciling all things to himself (Colossians 1:19-20). Being at a large evangelical university, lots of people had their minds made up about so many issues like homosexuality and gay marriage, along with gun ownership (because blessed are the piece makers) and abortion. I didn't have those convictions, and I loved scripture too.
But I could never find a Biblical or logical reason to understand why two committed adults who loved each other couldn't have a valid marriage. Or for that matter, why "sanctified" marriage needed to look like an almost autocratic ruler demanding a woman to be the sole subject of their reign and a combination of house-keeper/porn star/infantile subordinate.
Needless to say, I was very skeptical of vision of sexuality and marriage that Christianity had conjured so far.
Then I found the book of Acts. This book changed everything for me. In Acts, God calls a African eunuch to be baptized and sends an angel to one of his followers to "call nothing unclean that [He] had called clean" (Acts 10). The followers and friends of Jesus were being charged as these radical wildfire agents of His mercy who could not or would not get their shit together.
Then I studied the so-called "clobber passages" about homosexuality in school. These so-called proof-texts for claiming that homosexuality in any form was a sin and a super devious sin, did not seem to hold up to very basic scrutiny (silly things like history, context, audience). They didn't feel at all connected to the God who charged his people with tearing down the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14) or was interested in reconciliation or cutting a new deal with His people. Every time I heard these passages read, they were laced with petty aggression and were so alienated from a God who governed all things (Isaiah 9:6) or a God who fearfully and wonderfully made his creation (Psalm 139).
In the last two years, I've started to look at this a little differently.
Let's assume or confess that more often than not that when people speak against homosexuality they do so using the Bible as a prop for their own prejudices and insecurities. And let's just work with the understanding that God is not surprised or offended by His creation. But above all, let's just carry on with the idea that God meant what was canonized in Scripture about mercy and about lines being crossable and about embracing those that are different.
Let's assume, that my desires to have sex with another man or have snuggled close to Cyclops as a young boy or that every early locker-room experience was not the cause of some uncontrollable sin that I need to fight against.
Could we assume God is not surprised by these desires? Yes. Could we reasonably infer that this was a fundamental piece of my fearful and wonderful creation? Sure.
Well, that changes literally fucking everything.
Bearing witness to my desire and identifying as queer has led me to a fundamental truth: God is a creator, fully aware of the intricacies of His creation and not at all surprised by my desires. That understanding my bisexuality is to understand the contours of His design of me and accepting a deeper invitation to His mercy, and that I was more than welcome no longer to feel ashamed or disgusted by any of this. 💖💜💙