bukola landis-aina

Picture this: A studious, driven Christian girl spends 18 years studying to get into Ivy League schools. She not only gets in, but also thrives within rigorous academic environments, and earns engineering and law degrees. She cultivates a strong faith and leads praise dance ministry and church Bible study groups. Forget Kiss Dating Goodbye; she had nothing to kiss away. Working diligently as a lawyer, she appeared to be the perfect Nigerian-American daughter. But when this 29-year-old Jesus-loving virgin, anxiously awaiting Christian Prince Charming, instead meets a sporty and funny Jewish girl, falls accidentally in love and comes out to her family, everyone really gets thrown for a loop…

“How can you call yourself a Christian?” demanded family members who had previously referred to her as “too religious.” Her every word and action was scrutinized for a possible diagnosis and cure for the gay sickness being displayed. “Why are you ‘choosing’ this life?” they asked. “We know you and this is not you,” they repeated over and over, “Something must have happened!”

I suppose something did happen. I grew up and realized I was bisexual. But of course, it is never that simple. Everyone assumes that if it is real, then you should have always known. But I had no inkling about my attraction to masculine-of-center women until I fell pretty hard for my friend who lived just down the street. I kept wondering why I was flirting. Why did I keep finding reasons to stop by her house? Why was I jealous when she mentioned her ex? I thought to myself: you are sending mixed signals and you need to set her straight. “You know we are just friends,” I announced out of the blue. She casually agreed. I brought it up again and insisted, “I am not trying to start anything.” Every time I experienced the pull of attraction, I would bring it up, thinking I was clearing the air and being a mature adult. I patted myself on the back, thinking now that is that. Little did I know I was forcing the issue and letting her know just how hard I was fighting to keep her in the friend zone. Who was I fighting, though? She was not the one who kept pushing the issue. When I agreed to meet her halfway between our houses one evening for a simple hug goodnight after a long phone conversation about the Old Testament, I knew I was in trouble. As we parted, I blurted out, “But you’re a girl.” She nodded sagely. I knew then that I was falling in love.

Yet self-preservation compelled me to deny my feelings. I knew that this relationship could ruin everything. Relationships between me and my family. My entire Christian sphere, including the Bible study and Fellowship ministry that I led; it would all be at risk. I knew they would not understand. I didn’t even understand. I broke things off, citing my faith as the reason.

Meanwhile, I prayed for clarity, for a clear sign from God. Hearing nothing at all close to clear, I kept fighting my “attractions.” I even tried to engage my conservative church, and they sent to me to an addiction group meeting. After reading through the material, I was baffled at what addiction had to do with anything I was experiencing. I started seeing the counselor affiliated with my church while I continued to try to mull through what was going on. I thought that if I were to pursue this, I must first figure out how to reconcile my feelings with legitimate and sound interpretations of Holy scripture. In obedience, a good Christian resisted being ruled by the flesh.  So I steeled myself. I continued to pray, but still no clear answers came to me, not about scripture, not yet. But gradually over time, an odd sense of peace passed over me. Peace that entirely surpassed my understanding of what in the world was going on.

Given this peace, I ended up pursuing the relationship. The feeling was too strong to ignore and I came to believe that I owed it to myself to figure out what this was. If it bore bad fruit, I would always be able to turn back. I was on the lookout for it to reveal itself as wrong. I was so afraid—but my faith never actually wavered. My experience of God had always assured me that God was big enough and God’s grace was sufficient for even me. My strongest theological belief was that there is no honest mistake that could ever separate me from the love of God. My theology has also always been informed by my engineer’s logic. Having taken women’s studies classes in undergrad, I had already begun to develop a nuanced theology as it relates to gender. In this very uncertain time, it gave me comfort to know that if there can exist individuals without a clear sex at birth (i.e., intersex), even if it was just a tiny percentage of the population, then surely God had a plan for their life and the rules cannot be as black and white as evangelical churches teach. But what that plan was, I could not fathom.

Even as I pursued the relationship, I continued to pray, read Bible passages, search for books and articles that addressed ethics concerning sexual minorities. But nothing too crazy, I thought, only balanced ones with authors who submit to the authority and holiness of scripture.  I didn’t want to just seek out books that would tell me what I wanted to hear. Slowly, as I walked with God across choppy waters, things began to fall into place. I found a new church, which I had been meaning to do for quite a while, and met with the pastor there. I was able to find reconciliation between my beliefs and my experiences, not because I wanted to justify my actions, but because I wanted to understand what is right in God’s sight. I wanted to seek understanding in a safe space. I found that my reading of the Bible was consistent with what I know about Jesus, who cavorted with adulterers (Acts 4), prostitutes, and lepers (Mark 14), and a Holy Spirit who leads to the baptism of sexual minorities like eunuchs (Acts 8). My understanding of the Word pointed me towards Jesus’ teachings that the fulfillment of God’s word is to love God and neighbor (Mat 22:36-40; Gal 5:14). I began to feel a strong sense of God’s blessing over my sexuality and came to believe that “if you let yourselves be circumcised [or in my case, forced to repress God-sanctioned aspects of my sexuality], Christ will be of no value to you at all” (Gal 5:2). I started to read scripture in a way that strongly suggested to me that the overall arch of God’s Word celebrated a full expression of my sexuality.

But then the relationship abruptly ended. After I had loved and lost for the first time, at age 31, I spent time thinking about what to do next. I now knew about my bisexuality. I couldn’t unring that bell. Yet it would make my life so much easier to pursue a man. Why make my life difficult? But then I had a nagging suspicion that I could only be physically attracted to men, but might never form an emotional bond like I had with a woman. I had never loved a man. Again, I decided that I owed it to myself to pursue love in whatever form it came. I was unwilling to deny myself love and fulfillment just to satisfy other people’s fears and theology. I didn’t choose male or female. I chose love.

To this day, my family continues to believe that someone must have preyed upon me or misled me into this “lifestyle;” surely those female tackle football players that I cavort with.  Alternatively, they postulate that surely I just was so desperate for a relationship that I accepted whatever attention I could get. Little did they know that I had been content to wait for just the right man or ultimately stay celibate. To choose love is not about succumbing to sexual deviancy or desperation. It is about being bold enough to claim love for yourself.

Seven years after discovering my sexuality, I find myself happily married to Christian Mrs. Charming, a patient, thoughtful seminarian who desires to become a church planter. She is such an unexpected complement and blessing to me that I know that only God could have dreamt up such a quirky match. We married in a snowy rustic ceremony in the mountains surrounded by loving supporters. None of my family was present. And it was one of the best days of my life. We now have a young exuberant tike who joyfully stirs up our lives in every way.

Despite the heights of marital and mommy bliss (aka mayhem), it is difficult to process the relationships that have been lost. I have been treated very poorly by people that I love and only through regular counseling have I managed to keep my sanity and learned to exercise much needed boundaries. I struggle with unforgiveness, and yet my faith compels me to show love and forgiveness, regardless of whether it is deserved. I pray every day for the strength to do so. I have faith that the story is not over. I am grounded in my belief that God is abounding in love and mercy, and that God seeks reconciliation, always. This is the hope I have for those who remain estranged.

My freedom has come at great costs, but I can only be who I am, who God fearfully and wonderfully created me to be—an authentic person who loves Jesus and her wife and son very much. I have grown into myself within the past 7 years and in doing so, I have learned to more fully embrace diversity in others. I no longer yearn to simply fit in. I embrace my quirks and value difference in others, experiencing them as beautiful colors reflected in a prism. I cannot wait to witness the fullness of all the hues and shapes that life has in store for me, my family of blood, and my colorful family of intention.