Monday 1 March 2021

The evil of Issues in Human Sexuality

I recently tweeted about Issues in Human Sexuality on Twitter, and I was intending to make it a long thread with all my thoughts. But I could tell I was quite upset, and any millennial worth their salt knows 'never tweet angry'!

So I've turned to this blog as a brief outlet, because I cannot let it go entirely. Thank you for indulging my need to rant. I am allowed to disagree with the church on this, and let people know my opinion; I wouldn't still be part of it if I wasn't. It's important to think about how I air my views though, so here's my trying to be sensitive without betraying my integrity!

Here are the tweets I managed to resist putting in that thread: 

-What’s depressing is how much the introduction claims exactly the same principles/intentions as in the LLF material. The big difference now is we have access to legal same-sex marriage and we can have a legitimate argument for CofE same-sex weddings and clergy having same-sex spouses.

-LGBTQIA+ people suffer from this document but cisgender and heterosexual people are also skewered by the theology it proffers. I think it upholds shame, bibliolatry, hypocrisy, inaccurate generalisations, possibly Gnosticism, and the patriarchy with relish.

-Some of the concepts invoked are so wrong as to be ridiculous. For someone born in 1992, it’s like reading something from the Bronze Age - it’s so anachronistic, I can’t recognise that it’s from within living memory.

-The word ‘homophile’ is one of the most damaging things queer people is the CofE still have to deal with. 

Monday 17 December 2018

Being a bi trainee vicar on the frontlines

What does it mean to be an activist? To be struggling for visibility, equality, respect, change?

I have always felt called to the frontlines of the fight that bisexuals face every day, and this past week I had an encounter that reminded me of that calling. Many readers of this blog will know I am a Christian, training to be a priest in the Church of England, so that is my particular battle ground, and it was in a Christian context that I had said encounter.

And it's hard. I know Christianity gets a bad press, but most normal people on the ground do quite well at treating people decently, rather than the horrendous violence and bigotry we see in the news. Thank God, that is not the norm, though it is sadly not rare either. No, my experience is of Christian people and communities wrestling earnestly to do the impossible which we are commanded to do - love God, and love your neighbour, including love your enemy.

So in that environment, where I too am trying to do as I would be done by, to find antagonism, to hear views that discredit me based purely on who God made me, it's hard. To pray and eat and laugh with people, then be confronted with their irrational, and frankly un-Christian, views is heart-breaking and incomprehensible.

I'm not going to tell you what happened in this encounter. But I can tell you how I felt, and what it's made me think about.

I felt my body enter fight or flight mode, and it took a lot of will to do neither, but to act with integrity. Afterwards, I had that shaky feeling you get when the adrenaline stops spiking, and obviously, being British, I had a cup of tea and a sit down. However, I was not scared. I was right where I was supposed to be, doing what I understand to be living out my faith, what we would call 'being Christ to one another'. That means things like prioritising others, risking vulnerability, not giving up on anyone, but also challenging injustice; "exercise mercy without forgetting justice, and minister discipline without forgetting mercy".

I am in the process of figuring out what a bisexual activist priest looks like, and moments like this are informing that process. Moments when I see clearly how I must not over react whilst still defending my God-given right to exist, where the priestly part dictates my behaviour, and the bisexual activist part dictates the aims of that behaviour (though I think these aims also line up with what being a priest and Christian is about). I think most activists understand that you undermine your message if you throw a tantrum and treat those who oppose you like crap; but for a priest, that must never become a tempting option - I am following stronger motivations for ethical behaviour than just tactics.

I also felt exhilarated. We all know that nervy feeling and the shaky come-down, but usually in my experience I am immediately concerned that whoever is confronting me has a point, and I doubt myself, questioning my decisions. This time, I was completely confident, and sure of myself. I am so lucky to be in a position to be able to stand up and fight.

That seems to be a key element to what makes an activist. Someone who can. I can because I am not fighting chronic internalised biphobia. I can because I am surrounded by love and support. I can because I'm a gobby, confident risk-taker. And I want to. I do feel a sense of duty, but not enough if I wasn't also up for it. I have a duty to those who are wrestling with self-hate, those who feel alone and vulnerable, those who are quiet, reserved, maybe shy, maybe cautious.

I go to the frontlines so they don't have to, so they can live their lives and try and work out what's best for them and theirs without worrying about the 'cause' and the bigger picture. That's what I'm fighting for isn't it? So we can all get on with our lives - the hope that one day we won't need to have a cause, because we will be able to have the full lives we deserve.

Being a bisexual is hard enough in a world where we get shit from all sides; and I'm saying that aware of the privilege I have growing up and living in a country, and parts of that country, and a class in that country, where I have the chance to be out at all, where I can reach out and meet other queers, where I can date who I want. Even given all that, it's hard being a bisexual; and being bisexual is even harder living in a religious world.

For example, no one ever asks us how the same-sex marriage debate affects us. What happens to a future long-term relationship that I want to make permanent is dictated by the happenstance of what gender the person I fall in love with is. Somehow, people I admire and am called to work alongside think that there is something fundamentally different if it's not with a man, the opposite sex to me. I can't get equal opportunity to be blessed and celebrate if it's with a woman. (And let's not even look at how the church is seriously letting down God's intersex and genderqueer children).

Even up against that sort of nonsense, I am proud to be called to fight, and I hope I can do a good job. I hope I can be a good bisexual activist priest. I hope I have more encounters, even though they will be unpleasant, they won't all be exhilarating, and they could be downright dangerous. I'm a Christian, I follow a God who made themself vulnerable, and as a flesh-and-blood human being faced the oppressor with grace, foisted the yoke with humility, and showed those who are weak that they are actually strong. So I can only hope that a bisexual activist priest ends up looking like me.

Monday 12 February 2018

Bisexual trainee priest speaks in church about LGBT history month

This is one of my sermons, a talk in a church service. I am a bisexual ordinand (trainee priest) from the Church of England, and this sermon was in a school chapel, speaking on LGBT history month. View the video here.

Click here
I'm proud of this moment in my life, that as a bisexual of faith I can try and make the most of the opportunities that I have. This sermon includes part my story, bisexual nuns, Peru, Frida Kahlo, and textiles, so hopefully it's not the type of sermon that is dry and only of interest to keen-bean Christians!

Friday 27 January 2017

Shared Conversations Report - a bisexual perspective

(To read my previous thoughts on bisexuality within Christianity and the Church of England from a bisexual Christian's perspective, see the list of relevant posts from this blog in Bisexual Christianity posts.)

After two years of 'Shared Conversations, the House of Bishops has published Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations: A Report from the House of Bishops (click the link to read, 19 pages isn't as long as it sounds!)

I have read it and here are a few summary thoughts.

Positive thoughts first. Even though they ultimately decided against it, the fact that it looks like they truly looked into the possibility of establishing an authorised service for same sex relationships is a good thing. The thorough look at the options opens the door for those of us desperate for such a liturgy to maybe eventually get one. Worship is the quintessential act that we do as 'church'; the body of Christ gathers, and they first and foremost worship God, together, before any of the other many and diverse acts that being 'church' means. That is an astonishingly profound basis for our lives in Christ, the bedrock on which everything we do is held, and the lack of liturgy for same sex relationships is a despairingly exclusionary state of being. But there's hope.

I'm also pleased to see the inclusion of acknowledging the church's own call to "trust its members" and leave them to their own "prayerful responsibility" and crucially "[enable] grace for legitimate diversity".

But I'm not impressed with this report, at all. I am disappointed that though the Pilling Report was flawed in its well-intended attempt at inclusive language, even the inroads it made have been backtracked in this newest report. The people affected by these discussions were referred to as "gay and lesbian people and those who experience same sex attraction". First, there were instances when it just read "gay and lesbian people", committing bierasure, and secondly, what is the point in the distinction between the three? Referring to everyone as 'those who experience same sex attraction' would have been a adequate catch-all (in this context, as we are dealing with exclusively matters of attraction, as opposed to gender expression or identity) without making me as a bisexual feel less important and like an afterthought.

Overall, I don't care that the Church wants to establish "across the Church of England a fresh tone and culture of welcome and support", because the doctrines on same-sex relations and marriage are remaining unchanged. There's a lot wrong with the document Issues on Human Sexuality, and I'm sure it's a positive move to suggest replacing it, but ultimately, it's a pointless exercise whilst doctrine remains the same. The replacement guidance document will still be upholding what I believe to be doctrines that go against my faith as a follower of Christ and beloved child of God, and it is those doctrines that exclude, condemn and cause suffering to non-hetero people. The 'tone' and 'culture' within the Church will not move by more than inches whilst the doctrines remain, because they give credence, support and encouragement to the people who treat queer people differently just because they are queer, generally in a negative, fearful, hateful, and un-Christ-like way. It is merely rearranging the deckchairs.

So really, I hope to proved wrong in my prediction that this report will have little true impart on the state of suffering of those who are attracted to the same sex within the CofE  community, but sadly, that is what I predict.

Friday 26 February 2016

Bisexual Priest

I've never really had any problems in my life crop up because I'm bisexual. I've been tremendously lucky, I know that, and I'm very grateful. My parents haven't disowned me, friends haven't abandoned me, I've haven't feared for my safety, or been mistreated by lovers, I can be out at work, in church, on the internet, with most family (no need as I see it to trouble my grandparents though). I've flirted, loved and lost like anyone my age really, maybe not as proactively as I could do, but I'm with someone, a guy, we've been going together since the summer, so that's evened out alright.

So what's going on? For years, I've had a niggling in the back of my head that said some day I would be a priest, but I thought nothing of it until in September, five months ago, when it reared to the forefront and suddenly 'some day' was right now. So since then I've embarked on what is known as the discernment process, where the church and I - the Church of England - discern whether what I think I feel is correct. You can read about how I've getting on at

I haven't posted on this blog for a while because nothing really relevant has cropped up; you can see how sporadic things have been over the last few posts. But this issue, the process by which the church will seek to know me inside out, my bisexuality and general stance on sex/gender suddenly becomes quite, quite relevant.

If you're in the UK, you've probably seen the tumultuous goings-on about same-sex relations within the Church of England, and you might have heard about them abroad too, as the ripples reach the rest of the Anglican Communion. The most recent epicentre was the meeting of Primates in Lambeth that resulted in the Episcopal Church in America being sanctioned for embracing same-sex marriage.

What's official comes from three things: Issues in Human Sexuality*, a report from 1991; a Synod motion from 1987, below; and to a lesser extent, this resolution of the Anglican Communion. (For more click here.)

1987 motion:

"This Synod affirms that the biblical and traditional teaching on chastity [refraining from extramarital/all sexual intercourse] and fidelity in personal relationships is a response to, and expression of, God’s love for each one of us, and in particular affirms;
(1) that sexual intercourse is an act of total commitment which belongs properly within a permanent married relationship.
(2) that fornication [sexual intercourse between people not married to each other] and adultery are sins against this ideal, and are to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion.
(3) that homosexual genital acts also fall short of this ideal, and are likewise to be met with a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion
 (4) that all Christians are called to be exemplary in all spheres of morality, and that holiness of life is particularly required of Christian leaders."

So to summarise the official stance of the CofE on bisexuality in 2016 is that ideally I should be celibate until I marry a man, and further, being with women isn't best practice, but they aren't going to burn me at the stake if I date or even get a civil partnership with a woman.

But not if I'm a priest.

I've been re-reading the Pilling Report; it refers Issues in Human Sexuality which distinguishes "between the clergy and lay Christians in that, whilst the good conscience of lay people who chose to enter a sexually active same sex relationship should be respected, the clergy cannot claim the liberty to enter into sexually active homophile relationships...[also] clergy cannot claim the liberty to enter into pre- or extra-marital sexual relationships, however ‘normal’ or trivial such relationships may be to the surrounding culture."

It was encouraging to read in the PR: "Rather than thinking about the human population in terms of a fixed binary division between two sets of people, those who are straight and those who are gay, it seems that we need to accept that while there is a large majority of people who only ever experience heterosexual attraction and a smaller number who only experience homosexual attraction, there is also a significant minority of people who either experience some form of bisexual attraction or who move between heterosexual and homosexual attraction at some point or points in their life."

So there is an institutional awareness of bisexuality, and things have VERY SLOWLY been going the right way for a while. There's certainly condemnation of treating LGB people negatively.

I am scared however. There is anecdotal evidence that anyone who openly has same sex attraction is grilled harder when they put themselves forward for discernment, because they are a bigger potential scandal risk. I fear not just my openness about my sexuality will be a barrier, but my general liberal attitudes to all things sex and gender, which I am not willing to either change my mind or be silent about, because silence means people continue to suffer.

It's not definite that it'll be a problem: "As the 2005 Pastoral Statement from the House of Bishops acknowledges that clergy are fully entitled to argue for a change to the Church of England’s teaching on human sexuality, it would not be appropriate for candidates to be questioned in ways which imply that they may not so argue in the course of their ministries."

I do already argue for change and I will not stop. Official statements about sex are so inaccurate to the human condition, which has finally found a voice in the 21st century, that it's laughable. Just look at those 4 points above, I can agree with hardly anything there! Liberal ideas about sex ie. sex is not just one thing, it is a vast number of possible things depending not just on gender but context, relationships, abilities, time and place, pleasure, love, necessity, boundaries, desires; it's emotional, social, physical, psychological; it's SO MANY THINGS - these ideas are not new, and the current attitudes and policies are so restricted now that it's becoming clearer. And don't get me started on gender.

This isn't a generation making stuff up, it's a generation that has FINALLY broken down taboo and been able to express and discuss sex in a mature and compassionate fashion; we can now actually be truthful about sex, and not be ashamed of the truth. It's the same with everything, shame generally comes from ignorance, and once educated, the shame disappears and acceptance of the full scope of truth leads to happier people, fruitful societies, good all round. Surely it is right, and good, and proper to live our lives truthfully? I can't understand how anyone can still think so narrowly, and use it to judge and condemn people living their truth without negative impact on the world.

The question remains how detailed are the questions going to be about my conduct and what I'll be asked to promise to do or not do. For I very much plan on living my love life with integrity, respect, love, honouring myself and others, in line with my personal faith, my relationship with God; and being leader in the Church who doesn't disregard it's teaching outright, who engages in dialogue and seeks to live a life centred on the Great Commandment, love God and love neighbour. But I don't know if that's enough.

Looking at the details, the criteria for selection simply says "Candidates must be willing to live within the discipline of Issues in Human Sexuality*."; and there are two relevant questions in the ordination service:
  • Will you endeavour to fashion your own life and that of your household according to the way of Christ, that you may be a pattern and example to Christ's people?
  • Will you accept and minister the discipline of this Church, and respect authority duly exercised within it?
I think 'the way of Christ' is found in my above declaration of integrity etc, and 'respecting authority' has room for interpretation. The criteria bit is a tad tricky, but I'll get to that when it comes to it, and I'll seek advice as well. I maintain that I have a right to privacy, regardless of how the CofE wants to get to know me. We'll see how that flies. I may have to take a good long hard look at whether I want to work for an institution who might reject me because we don't see entirely eye to eye on one matter within my private life. But I've always said, with the beginning of this blog, I am willing to be a flag waver, I will step up and speak out for a better world, and to be honest that's partly come from my faith; I follow a political rebel after all. So maybe it's worth it.

I just hope I don't get crucified.

*Edit: here's a good post from a bi transguy theology student about the bisexuality section (119 words in total) in Issues of Human Sexuality:

Monday 28 September 2015

Church Times celebrates BiVisibility Day

My friend at church caught me at the end of the service this Sunday to ask me if I had read this article published on the 18th September in the Church Times. I don't read CT so he kindly sent it to me and I wanted to share it.

OpinionFreeing sexuality from an either/or model 
‘Church Times’   18 September 2015 

Bisexuality is often misunderstood, but has the potential to refocus discussions of gender, arguesSymon Hill 

“NOBODY’s really bisexual.” It’s a sentence I have heard often. It has been said by gay people as well as straight ones; by “liberals” as well as “conservatives”. The evidence is mounting against it. A YouGov survey last month suggested that 23 per cent of British adults did not regard themselves as exclusively heterosexual or homosexual. The figure rose to 49 per cent among 18-to-24-year-olds. 
As Christians, we need to be aware of this. Whatever our views on sexuality, we are called to recognise truth, and to witness to it. Bisexual people, like everyone else, need pastoral care, and that means acknowledging their existence. Bisexual Visibility Day will be marked around the world on Wednesday (23 September). 
There is another reason for Christians to pay attention: the reality of bisexuality gives us a different starting-point in discussions of sexuality. Church debates are bogged down in name-calling and predictable arguments. At the same time, many churches are slow to recognise the reality of church-based sexual abuse. 
In this context, we urgently need new questions, as well as new answers, if we are to respond meaningfully to issues of sexual ethics and to proclaim God’s love in the context of sexuality and human relationships. 
THE tendency to ignore bisexuals seems particularly prevalent in Christian circles. The Pilling report made almost no reference to bisexuality (News, 6 December 2013). It repeatedly used the phrase “gay and lesbian”. At certain points, it seems that this is meant to mean “people who are not straight” or “people in same-sex relationships”. At other points, it seems to involve the more usual meaning of “people attracted only to others of the same sex”. 
Church discussions on sexuality are confusing and controversial enough without using sloppy language and ignoring a sizeable number of people. The Pilling report is far from being the only culprit. 
Campaigners on both sides of the argument say “gay marriage” when they mean same-sex marriage. As a bisexual Christian, I know that marrying a man would not make me gay, nor would marrying a woman make me straight. 
I am not trying to say that bisexuals are more hard done by than gay people. This is not a competition. In some ways, bisexuals may suffer less from prejudice than gay people. In certain contexts, however, bisexuals experience additional hostility. 
Homosexuality challenges traditional gender notions, but a gay person is at least looking for a partner of a particular gender. Someone who says that the gender of his or her partner does not matter may pose far more of a threat to those who are keen to defend binary gender categories. 
THIS very challenge gives us a different angle from which to approach theological questions on sexuality. One of the most shocking aspects of the New Testament is its challenge to gender roles. 
In the Gospels, we see Jesus allowing women to make physical contact with him, in a culture that found this shocking. We see him challenging male-centred divorce, and telling men who committed adultery in their hearts to take responsibility for their sexual behaviour towards women. In St Paul’s early writing, we read his assertion that “There is no longer male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3.28). 
Things changed. Later writings such as the First Letter to Timothy (which, in the view of most scholars, was not written by Paul) encourage women to obey their husbands. But the radical tendency was not stamped out. 
A second-century letter, Second Clement, declares that “a brother who sees a sister should think nothing about her being female, and she should think nothing about his being male.” The letter was read alongside scripture in some churches until as late as the fifth century. 
SUCH attitudes raise questions not only for those who exclude sexual minorities, but for others who wish to allow gay people into the Church as a sort of exception. I have known Christians who say that gay people should be tolerated because they “can’t help” being gay. This degrading statement implies that bisexualscanhelp it, and should choose a partner of a different sex. 
If we ignore these issues, we reject both Christian history and the needs of people who do not fit into neat categories of male and female, or straight and gay. The radical New Testament message of “no longer male and female” has the potential to free us from these human-made categories altogether. 
This emphatically does not mean adopting an “anything-goes” approach to sexuality. Rather, it frees us to concentrate on what really matters. Most of the people whom I find attractive are women; some are not. Most of them have dark hair; some have not. 
Society regards one of these issues as trivial, and the other one as a vital aspect of my identity. Perhaps if we were to regard them both as trivial, we might give more attention to what really is vital. 
By taking gender out of the discussion, we can focus on what really makes a relationship right, how we truly live in love, and what it means to follow Jesus’s example in all areas of life. 
These are tough questions that require a great deal of thought and prayer. We will not all reach the same conclusions, but at least we will be starting with helpful questions. As a popular bisexual slogan puts it, love has no gender. 
Symon Hill is the author ofThe Upside-Down Bible: What Jesus really said about money, sex and violence, which will be published by DLT in November. 

Friday 7 August 2015

#StillBisexual video

I had loads of fun making this video. Paring down the story to short sentences that fit into two minutes whilst trying to maybe be entertaining was a challenge, but I'm just glad I have a colourful collection of sharpies!

This is part of a campaign to address the issue that people often see bisexuals as 'now' gay or straight once they enter into a committed relationship, rather than being still bisexual, as the title suggests. To find out more visit; there are loads of wonderful stories on there; and if you're inspired to make your own video, there is a clear instructions page.

Here's the script of my video, but I recommend watching it first.

· I fell in love with a boy at drama group in 2004.
I was 12. It was unrequited. I was heartbroken.
· The first guy to ask me out asked me that same year.
We went to the cinema with his mum. He didn’t kiss me :(
· I met another boy at a fancy dress party age 13.
He was Danny from Grease, I was Pocahontas. He was soooo cute.
We went to the cinema, alone. He didn’t kiss me either :(
· I fell in love with one of my friends at my girls-only school in 2006, age 14.
We went to the cinema, alone, and I was so happy just to spend time with her.
We made out in the back row :D
She was my first kiss. When she dumped me, I was heartbroken.
I let my friend kiss me to cheer me up, he was very sweet.
I came out as bi to a new group of friends at a new school age 16.
They were totally cool with it.
· A boy asked me out, we had fun, we even went on a canal holiday.
He dumped me; God told him to.
· I asked a girl out and she said “I can’t think of a reason not to.”
· After her, a boy in my friendship group and I had a fling but no one understood why.
I came out as bi to my parents when I was 18.
I thought my mother had a problem with it for years.
I was wrong :)
· A boy in first year at uni almost, but then didn’t, want me.
I had fun with some of my friends who were boys. I was 20.
· I went to a party, met a girl, we got our faces painted.
In the morning, there was paint everywhere.
Had another one night stand, with a boy. We had fun. We never spoke again.
· Had a failed first date with a boy from a party.
· In 2015, I went to the aquarium with the boy from the drama group.
That went well :D
I think we are such a cute couple.
I am #StillBisexual.
I have been lucky. Others haven’t.

Help me stop the suffering. Spread the word. We as #StillBisexual.