Earlier this week, I came across a YouTuber’s video entitled, “A Christian’s response to Disney debuting first bi-sexual lead character,” which led me down a YouTube rabbit hole of watching and listening to opinions about the bi-sexual collective that does not yet exist in primetime, but surely exists in the corners of social media (if you are bi, heed my warning and do not go down this YouTube rabbit hole).
I did not know what to expect when I clicked the YouTuber’s video, which had nearly 10,000 views and a 50/50 split of likes to dislikes. I figured I would approach the video with openness to practice my therapeutic goals of “leaning into triggers” and “practicing neutrality,” and just because I was bored.
The YouTuber appears on screen in a well-lit room with the word Revive written in neon letters in the background. The speaker seems pleasant; she is wearing light pastel makeup and is sitting on a white sofa next to a plant with a joyful Labrador Retriever on her lap. The video opens quickly, with an animated YouTuber stating, “We are literally glorifying sin on TV.” She continues, “They’ve already got the adults, now they’re going after the kids.”
WHY I AM WRITING ABOUT THIS TOPIC
Before I continue, it may be useful to know that you are reading the opinion of a black, bi-sexual man in his early thirties who grew up in Christian schools and the Christian church for 18 years. I have been told that I’m handsome and intelligent, but there tends to be no box to check for those elements. I was bullied and teased for liking to sing as a child and often called Prince, the late-singer, as an insult. Sometimes, I identify as pansexual or even omnisexual, if I’m feeling super exotic and aloof. I think of myself as easygoing, and peace is something I actively seek as a brainy intellectual and artistic creative. Despite these things, occasionally underdeveloped, low-brow opinions from people in the public-sphere get to me, especially when they spout arguments framed in biblical righteousness, or prominently display they’re disinterest in reading before speaking.
My father was a Christian preacher and a missionary; it was likely that our family was involved in some church activity every day of the week. I was not allowed to participate in Halloween, nor were matters of identity, relationship issues, or sex discussed. Both of my parents received their Master’s degree and worked in law enforcement for over thirty years, and were distinguished in their careers and social circles.
Before I unpack the YouTuber’s video, let me explain I have known I was bi since I was a virginal pre-teen. I did not hear the word “bi-sexual” until my late teens when I wobbled into a college psychologist’s office fighting intrusive thoughts about suicide. After being diagnosed as a “bi-sexual,” I took radical steps to disprove my own bi-sexuality, which, if described to you, may read nonsensically, but were truths I faced to try to rid unwanted male attraction in myself. I would have settled for destroying female attractions so I could fully own a gay label without doubts.
As I matured, I did not feel comfortable saying the word “bi-sexual,” (1) because of stereotypes and (2) because I was terrified of the proximity to LGBT rainbow culture and queerness, which I feared I would inherit and be associated with, deflating my sense of manhood and revealing deep insecurities. It was not until I was twenty-four years old when I began using the word or at least saying, “no label,” but only to gay males and straight women, I was really interested in. It was not until my preacher father’s death in 2017 and my intensive counseling journey that I felt comfortable to attach myself to bi-sexuality casually.
The YouTuber continues the video by describing how the news of Disney’s first openly bi-sexual character (who is also Dominican-American) “makes her angry” — how she’s “broken down into tears” and suggests that she “may begin to cry during the video.” “I was so grieved, that I was in tears,” “I’m in mama bear mode,” the speaker says.
As an adult, I have noticed that the utterance of the word “bi-sexual” activates a unique reflex, from straights, gays, and lesbians alike. There’s a desire to pigeonhole bi-identity, or in some cases, mock it or invalidate it to make it easier to understand and conceptualize. I, the bi-sexual person, am put on the defense and required to endure a tsunami of vocalizations that range from hyper-sexualization, assumptions of greed and dishonesty, being responsible for STI’s in America, and my favorite — the eventual gay or lesbian.
At this point in my life, what unsettles my Spirit about the speaker’s video is that biphobia, or aversion, is framed in religious righteousness. [Biphobia in the context of my article is defined as invalidation, alienation, and censorship of bisexuality.] People put a slick preacher on stage and call him holy as he robs Jesus’ followers. Police get a badge and murder blacks freely on camera. I have seen it my whole life.
The speaker uses the bible, Jesus, and God to accomplish the goal of reminding viewers that Disney’s first bi-sexual character is contentious — an abomination. She continues to advocate that real Christians will exclude and devalue the importance of the bi-sexual character referencing scripture about male and female marriage couplings.
“Any relationship other than a man a woman is unbiblical. And in God’s eyes, it’s sinful.” She continues, “you should know if you study the bible that it’s against God’s will and God’s plan…homosexuality, pedophilia, bestiality, it’s all not God’s plan.”
There was no sensitivity or empathy in the video. The speaker never references double oppression, representation of demographics in media, or the adverse mental health outcomes faced due to bi-sexual erasure in media, social discourse, and stigma. Representation is not a frivolous, box-checking event. The real world is shaped by perceptions from TV and media, and if YouTube is any indication, negative perceptions outweigh positive associations. And, like every other area of society, is disproportionately tilted toward negative images of bi people of color, notably bi men of color. It’s important to note that as recent as August 4, 2020, a research study was published that miraculously confirmed bi-sexual men do exist after placing penis rings on participants — Research led by the same scientist that fifteen years prior reduced male bisexuality to interpretation and reporting.
Empathy would illuminate that The Human Rights Campaign has sited biphobia and bi-sexual erasure as the leading causes of suicide. The Bi-sexual Resource Center (BRC) cites, “approximately 40 percent of bi-sexual people have considered or attempted suicide, compared to just over a quarter of gay men and lesbians.” No-one has ever surveyed me in thirty years about my suicidal thoughts related to bi-sexuality or asked me to participate in a penis ring study nor have I seen advertisements to participate.
The YouTuber’s ego slowly unleashes, creating a compound effect, making it clear that there is no way to reach her with science, evidence, humanity, or even a real-life story. The only way to reach people like this is through empathy or using the same communication style and content they are using. So, let’s do it.
THEOLOGICALLY DRIVEN BIPHOBIA
Aside from conflating bi-sexuality to having sex with animals, and to witchcraft, the speaker cites Romans 1 (27), which reads, “and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
She encourages her viewers to read Jude 1:7, which states, “as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”
The speaker concludes with Hebrews 13:8, which states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” warning that God’s standard for holiness does not change.
The speaker concludes the video stating that she has nothing but love for bi-sexual people, whom she would take out for coffee. She then warns, “I will block hateful comments,” stating her video’s intent is to “expose and encourage” and urges her viewers to “keep kids from the things of this world.”
Mildly outraged, or possibly impressed by her rant, I began to ponder what could create this type of fear response. Clicks? Views? Actual fear? The YouTube video suggests that children are “at-risk” of becoming bi-sexual by watching a character be interested in boys and girls or that Disney would permit explicit depictions.
The writer of the show, Dana Terrace, a bi-sexual woman, wrote on her Twitter, “I am bi! I want to write a bi character.” She described how Disney initially told her that she could not represent any openly bi characters on the channel. After pushing Disney higher-ups, production was green-lit, which led to an outpouring of support, and thank-you’s from viewers that wished a show like hers, Owl House, had been available when they were younger.
Looking back on my identity trauma, it’s hard to decipher how much of the trauma was related to fear spawned by a religious upbringing, lack of access to language, or media representation. I want to believe that my love for language, and plain curiosity about the world, would have led me to ask an adult what a bi-sexual was or research it myself or had just heard it. Human Rights Campaign cites that “Only 44 percent of bi+ youth said they have an adult they can turn to, compared with 54 percent of lesbian and gay youth (2017).”
HOW THEOLOGY WAS USED TO ENSLAVE BLACK AMERICANS
As a black man, I cannot help but look at the world through an intersectional lens to uncover more truths about human tendencies. Racial inequality and slavery are part of my American and genetic history. The bible is full of verses that were used to make a case for the enslavement of Africans a principle-based proposition. Slaves themselves adopted the bible to cope with slavery! In modern times, Attorney General Jeff Sessions invoked Romans 13 to endorse the separation of immigrant children from their families at the U.S. — Mexican border. Romans 13 reads, “God has established the authorities that exist.”
Ephesians 6:5–8 endorses slavery. “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Serve with goodwill because you know that the Lord will reward each one, whether slave or free.” 1 Peter 2:18 more clearly states, “Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate but also to those who are harsh.”
So what are the criteria to decide when and where biblical references are valid or no longer applicable? Who decides this? The YouTuber? You? Me? Historians?
The verses of the bible can be manipulated depending on the intent of the person’s heart. Additionally, the literary context is easily escaped. The bible covers Earth’s creation; Earth’s destruction, every emotion, and every human behavior are expressed, some of which are contradictory. Confirmation bias permits the reader to find what they need based on an existing belief or experience.
If we use the bible as the rule book, and the viewpoint of a black bi-sexual man, I am curious about scriptures that give my living space to exist — my very existence is a testament of God’s grace statistically and socially. I seek verses of inclusion and peace surrounding race, gender, and orientation.
If messages are molded, what is real — what’s fake?
Weaponizing the bible to exclude, censor, rape, enslave, murder, make aspects of humanity unlawful, and so on is not a new phenomenon. The face and personality of the person doing the weaponizing may change, and the intent may vary, so it’s essential to measure the messenger’s goal by looking at their behavior, learning about their story, and remembering authoritative symbols and people are aware of their power. Ephesians 5:6 “Let no one deceive you with empty words.”
When I interact with messages from a professed authority, especially the loud ones, I get suspicious. I have learned to quickly ask if love — joy — peace are at the foundation and to listen to my body very closely.
Galatians 5:22–24 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.”
Trauma reduction and easing childhood pains through inclusion, representation, and language bear great fruit in the long term. And as a writer, one day, I hope to be of service to a little kid who will bear the fruit of my story to prevent anger, anxiety, and resentment of culture and religion. I do not expect this to come easy.
SPACE TO IDENTIFY
I realize that some people have experienced trauma in their life and found love — joy — and peace — by discovering the bible when they were on their last straw. They asked, and the bible, Jesus, and the church answered. I do not overlook the importance of their stories or contest their value or how they bring internal and physical peace. I have learned that no person, what they believe, how they look, how they feel about themselves, what they do or do not know, have or have not seen, nor what the media does or does not show, can shape or alter the relationship with myself or the world I wish to build. Human differences are not a reflection of innate value — the heart is.
The God I believe in and the God I glean many Christ-followers seek to yolk with empowers everyone to dine together and speak together, despite our unique stories that may contradict each other. My God permits some to be straight, some to be bi-sexual, some to be Christian, some to be Muslim; God is abundant with humanly classifications. Yes, there are Earthly systems that exist to oppress and misrepresent, which must be redesigned urgently, but the judgment is in our hearts and not our label’s connotations. A Bi-sexual Affirmative Religious Organization reminds us that Jesus himself demonstrated the inclusion by society of marginalized people, which is the main reason he was so resented.
We must listen carefully. We must closely watch people who lead conversations with presumptions of righteousness, those who judge willfully and freely or attach themselves to authoritative symbols in front of weak-minded people. I, Ross Victory, am not immune to the power of ego, nor do I claim to be perfect. I am a writer with an opinion.
So, what can we possibly do? To conclude on a theological theme on which this article was written, Matthew 7 tells us, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits.” Proverbs 18:17 says, “The one who states his case first seems right until the other comes along and examines him.”
So again, the bible itself warns us that people may misuse it. My advice: Claim your power, remember your spine, trust your gut, and be loud about it to live the life you deserve. No matter whether straight, bi-sexual, Christian, or non-believer, whatever label you inherit, character must be judged separately and soulfully.