Uplift: Uplifting LGBTQ+ Experience Within and Beyond Unitarian Universalism

The Cloaking Device

Rev. Kimberley Debus' laying on of hands at ordination to UU minister

My family - a family of birth and my Union family - the inner circle

By Kimberley Debus

“No one is outside the circle of love,” declares UUA president Susan Frederick-Gray. It is a call to draw the circle ever wider, to look beyond that which we know and ensure all are seen and validated.

And so we sing “we are gay and straight together.” We recite “If you are straight and I am gay, it will not matter.” And we are proud to say we’re a “gay-friendly congregation.”

It’s time to draw the circle wider still, because in those moments, I am outside the circle of love.

You see, I walk around the world in a kind of cloaking device, one that hides my sexual orientation – not because I’m hiding it but because you can’t see it. Why? Because I am bisexual. I am not gay, and I am not straight. And every time we sing Holly Near’s song, or recite Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley’s words, I am erased. And you don’t even know you’re doing it, because you don’t know I’m bisexual. Because even if you met my partner, that would not tell the whole story.

It would not tell the story of being confused as a young adult, finally using ‘lesbian’ because of my relationships with women. It would not tell the story of being attracted to men after my female partner died. It would not tell the story of the lesbian community that pushed me away when I told them this. It would not tell the story of trying to date – with women worried I wasn’t really into them and men wanting threesomes. It would not tell the story of the minister who affirmed the woman who came out as lesbian but did not affirm my coming out as bi. It would not tell the story of how I rejected the term “bisexual” for a long time yet could not shake my queer identity even while in a relationship with a straight man.

Any partner I might have would not tell the story of bi invisibility.

Bi Visibility Week is a time for us to seek validation, to be shown the inherent worth and dignity we all long to know. We all want to be inside the circle of love, but drawing that circle ever wider means Unitarian Universalists must peer out into the abyss. And because bisexuals are the invisible queers, often invalidated, often erased, we are struggling to be seen in the darkness.

And bi invisibility can be dangerous; as American University researcher Ethan Mereish told NBC News, “individuals who identify as bisexual feel as if they don't belong in any community. Bisexual people face double discrimination in multiple settings — bisexual people are often invisible, rejected, invalidated, [and] stigmatized in the heterosexual community as well as the traditional LGBTQ communities.”

We are cloaked. And we don’t want to be. Rather, we want to be seen for who we are and how we love, and all the ways we affirm and express the expansive nature of love and the universe and the Mystery.

See us. Affirm us. Our lives depend on it.

Short Bio: Rev. Kimberley Debus works as a community minister in the Capital Region, inspiring congregations to more artful and art-filled worship, congregational life, and public witness. She has previously served the First Universalist Church of Southold on Long Island and One Island Family UU Congregation in Key West.

About the Author

Kimberley Debus

The Rev. Kimberley Debus is a community minister based in Takoma Park, Maryland, inspiring an artful and art-filled faith. She consults with congregations and religious professionals throughout the denomination.


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