“I was 8 years old the first time I kissed a girl. ‘Katherine, I dare you to smooch Michelle,’ Kayla said. Four of us girls are bundled in a big bed, playing truth or dare in the dark.
I freeze. Michelle is the prettiest girl in school. Everyone knows that, and I’ve always been nervous around the pretty girls. If I kiss her, will I gross her out? Is it weird if I kiss her? Is it weird if I don’t? But, everyone knows the rules of truth or dare. So, I nervously, quietly crawl over to Michelle, our little bodies lying next to each other as I hover over her, launch my tongue into her mouth, and wiggle it around like a fish. The slimy sensation surprises and unnerves me. I quickly climb back to my spot on the edge of the bed, mortified and subdued as the night continues.
I promised myself I would forget that night and never bring it up again. But one year later, when I was 9 and I learned the word homosexuality in church, I remembered it all too well. I was crushed, realizing I had committed a terrible sin. I was too scared to repent because, in the Mormon Church, homosexuality is considered to be so evil it’s not something you can just work out between you and God. It requires a meeting with the Bishop, the head of the congregation. And there are only a few really bad sins that require a meeting with the bishop. So I could NOT go to the bishop because my parents would find out and know I had done something horrible! Instead, I silently carried that guilt into my late teenage years.
Now let me back up for some context. I don’t think there’s really a way to explain what being a Mormon is like unless you’ve lived it or something like it. It’s a lifestyle religion, with mandatory daily, weekly, monthly, yearly activities that demand a large chunk of your time, tithing obligations that require a large chunk of your income, and a long list of do’s and don’ts that keep you too busy and too scared to explore anything outside the realm of cookie-cutter righteousness. Not to mention, the anxiety that accompanies believing that every tiny detail of your life, every word you say and everything you do, can either qualify or disqualify you for heaven, down to how much of your shoulders are showing, the length of your daily scripture study and the cleanliness of each passing thought.
In this environment, I got really good at praying myself into submission when there was something I didn’t understand. I got even better at altering my behaviors when they weren’t ‘appropriate.’ I got so good at chipping away pieces of my soul when I left the church and emerged on the other side at age 26, I hardly knew myself. I felt like a standardized, mass-produced being, molded by an institution that wanted me to walk, talk and breathe its teachings. So it should be no surprise when I left the church, I had utterly no grasp of my sexuality. I had almost never been touched in that way, not even by myself. I had dated many kind and attractive Mormon men in the past. Some I had even loved, but my sexuality was so buried beneath layers of chastity lessons and scripture quotes I never experienced any true temptation or desire.
This was a problem I spoke to almost no one about. I simply hoped my desire would magically spring to life once I was married. Because, although I wanted to please God, I didn’t want to be a puritan. I didn’t want to face a life begrudgingly fulfilling the sexual desires of my Mormon husband. I wanted excitement and love and passion, too! When I kissed my boyfriends, I would thrill anytime I felt anything even slightly resembling desire because maybe that meant I wasn’t broken. But the truth is, most of that thrill was the rush of being desired by someone else.
But here I was at 26, having left the church and moved cross country to a new home. Surrounded by people I knew would love and accept me no matter who I was, I finally felt safe enough to explore. I vowed to do whatever it took to truly get to know myself. I committed to learning everything about myself — my sexuality, my interests, my dreams, everything. What an exhilarating process of excavation it was (and still is). It wasn’t easy unleashing desires virtually nonexistent for years. It took almost 2 years after committing to learn myself I found a partner who could draw them out of me. But it wasn’t until I loved a woman they became fully alive.
Around age 27, in the midst of my excavation, I began developing a crush on a female friend of mine. Although she was so very clearly hetero, it sparked an interest in me to explore dating women. The first time I was with a woman, I was surprised at how easy it was for me to want her and how natural it was to draw close to her.
Another year would go by before I ‘came out’ to my family. I consider myself one of the lucky ones. When I plucked up the courage to tell my parents (both still actively Mormon), I was crying before I could even get the words out. I didn’t want our relationship to change. I didn’t want them to be uncomfortable around me or around the person I love. And I didn’t want them to think less of me. When I first told them, my dad said, ‘We love you and this doesn’t change anything.’ But our relationship has changed — for the better. Loving a woman has brought out a side of me I’ve never quite known before. I’ve found that the honesty I offered my parents has paved the way for more honest and intimate conversations with them.
Not only that, I’ve never felt more comfortable in my own skin. I’ve been able to explore my masculine side while staying true to my feminine side as well. I’m more compassionate, less anxious, and have a clearer vision for my life. I am happier and find that it’s easier for me to listen less to my fears, to my trauma, and to external messages and to listen more to my own inner wisdom.
I’ve found a career passion I never would have expected and am actively launching a business officiating weddings where I hope to provide a safe haven for all couples, especially those who identify as LGBTQ+, as we create ceremonies that feel authentic to them.
I’m still enjoying the process of learning and honoring myself, but I’ve learned a few important things along the way.
1. Who you are is not a sin.
2. Everyone’s story is valid and no one has authority over your truth.
3. Contrary to what we’ve been told, girls can crave sex the same way men do
4. You don’t have to ‘look’ queer to be queer. In fact, you don’t have to be anything. Just get good at listening to and honoring YOU.
And 5. Love is love is love is love and will always be… love.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Katherine Dupree from Durham, NC. You can follow their journey on Instagram and Facebook. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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