“’Yeah… okay. I’m definitely not straight,’ I thought as I listened to my bunk mate moan in her sleep. She was presumably dreaming in the bunk below me, or perhaps just enjoying herself, and I was overwhelmed with desire. ‘I have a boyfriend,’ I thought to myself. I was 19 and living on a little hospital ship across the world from him. Nothing ever happened with my bunk mate, but my raging attraction to her confirmed what I had suspected and repressed for years. I was either gay, or just some kind of gay. Before this moment in my tiny cabin on the ship, I had never admitted consciously to myself that I was attracted to women.
I was raised in a conservative Christian home, was homeschooled most of my childhood, and never met anyone who openly identified as being gay or a part of the LGBTQ+ community until I was 13 or 14. At church it was made clear homosexuality was a sin, and trans people weren’t even mentioned, presumably because it was too ‘shameful’ to even discuss. It was made plain homosexuality was a perversion of the ‘holy sexuality’ God had intended, so I think to a certain extent, I was fearful of gay and trans people. And being gay wasn’t an option. I had crushes on little boys my age and dreamed of marrying a man, having babies, and homeschooling them just like I had been.
When I was 13, my dad got a new job in Austin, Texas, which meant we were moving for the first time in my life. I was devastated to lose my only home and friends I’d ever known, and also terrified to be going to public school for the first time in my life. I had only ever been friends with other homeschoolers, and didn’t socialize much with public schoolers. I assumed they were ‘bad kids’ and was sure public school would be a disaster.
After a couple months in school however, I had made some solid friends and quickly realized public school wasn’t the God-forsaken place I had imagined it would be. It was during my middle school years I met a couple of kids who identified as being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and this was my first exposure to queerness. First, there was a bad ass who was out as bisexual. She was intimidating as hell, but I loved her confidence. She was a punk skater kid, and she introduced herself to me as Bunny. We were casual friends, but never got close since we hung out in different circles. Then there was Taylor, the first transgender person I ever met. Born female, Taylor’s preferred pronouns were he/him, but rarely did I see a teacher refer to him as such. I still feel bad I wasn’t a better ally to him. Instead, I stared, misgendered him, and lacked understanding and compassion.
But it was in these formative years in middle school, I noticed myself checking out girls as they walked past my desk, while also having crushes on boys. One day as I sat at my desk, I realized a male student and I had both been checking out the girls when they passed. ‘Am I gay?’ I thought to myself. ‘No way. Looking at other girl’s butts is normal, I’m sure.’ I couldn’t be gay.
In high school, things got a little more… interesting. When I was 17, I developed a bit of a reputation for being an ‘incredible kisser.’ My boyfriend was very impressed, apparently, especially considering he was my first real kiss. Word got around, and soon I had friends, female friends, asking me to teach them how to kiss. I can’t really remember how many of my friends I made out with, but it was a lot. It was purely an educational experience, though. No pleasure or enjoyment was involved. What a martyr I was.
I had repressed my same sex attraction, and was convinced of my straightness, no matter how many girls I kissed for educational purposes. That is, until I was sexually assaulted later that year and wondered once again, ‘Am I gay?’ I was at a party and had been willingly kissing a guy when he pulled me into a bathroom and pushed me down on my knees. I was confused and shocked when he exposed himself to me and started pulling my head towards it. I had never seen a penis before.
Fortunately, someone walked in on us at that very moment, and I was saved. But this traumatic event had me questioning if I even liked male genitalia. I felt scared and uninterested. But in my sophomore year, I fell in love with a boy, and we had safe and consenting intimacy with one another. I soon forgot about the worry I was gay. I was happy with my boyfriend and had a healthy sexual relationship with him. After my first big break-up, I struggled with depression and anxiety, and often would turn to porn to help me relax, feel connected, and get a happy-hormones fix. This eventually became an unhealthy addiction. What freaked me out the most was the kind of porn I watched. It was always women. Just women. I felt like a ‘pervert,’ because that’s what I had been raised to believe about same sex attraction. It was wrong and twisted. But I talked myself down by explaining, ‘I only watch women because they’re nicer to each other. It’s not controlling or aggressive, and that’s why I prefer it.’ I was straight. I had to be straight.
Fast forward to 19 years old, when I was living across the world on a tiny ship off the coast of Africa. Since that experience with my bunk mate, I knew I must be some kind of gay. I guessed I was bisexual, because I had experienced attraction to men and women. I didn’t put much thought into it, though, because I knew I couldn’t act on it because of my religious upbringing. And I had a boyfriend I was in love with. My attraction to women didn’t matter, and I was going to ignore it. But then, my boyfriend broke up with me about two months before I was going to be coming home, and I was devastated.
As soon as I got home, I made plans to get him back. I transferred to the college he went to, and we continued our friendship (with benefits). I waited for him to say he wanted me back. That moment never came. During those painful months I was constantly hanging out at his dorm, where he was an RA, I met a friend of his named Mason. She was beautiful, intriguing, and witty. I noticed my attraction to her, but I suppressed it because it was impossible for me to be romantically involved with a woman. I felt my same sex attraction made me perverted and gross, and knew my family wouldn’t accept me being with a woman. I continued to ignore my feelings.
Soon enough, I met a new group of friends who were involved with a Christian campus ministry. I was quickly brought into this tight-knit community and felt happy to be wanted. A charismatic, dramatic, and highly intellectual boy named Jake, who held an important social role in this Christian community, fell hard for me as we became fast friends. We had hour-long conversations in the first few days and nights of getting to know each other, and he was smitten. He also knew I was still very broken up over my ex, who he was casual friends with. I loved the attention and adoration he had for me, so we started dating.
Since we were both Christians, we talked about struggles with sexual desire and agreed to not have sex. I told him about my addiction to porn, and the type of porn I watched. I remember him being a little unsure and surprised, but we had agreed we were going to try to stay ‘pure,’ meaning no porn for me and no sex for us. I never told him directly that I was into women, because even though I knew it was true, I refused to let it be a spoken reality. In my mind, saying it out loud would be like saying, ‘I accept I’m sexually broken and perverted.’ I didn’t want to believe that about myself, and certainly didn’t want others to either.
My romance with Jake began in a weird spot, but after a few months of knowing and dating him, I fell hard for him. His intelligence, humor, and ability to rule a room were the first things that drew me to him, but his musical talent sealed the deal for me. I melted when he played piano, guitar, and sang. After 3 years of dating, we got married.
Over time, Jake started to question some of his Christian beliefs, and so I think he started to become more comfortable with my queerness – even more comfortable than I was within myself. I began to struggle more with my same sex attraction. I confessed, I cried, and I asked God to take it away. But it never went away, and this self-hatred was a sad part of the journey for me. Soon, something special happened. I’ll never forget the moment Jake told me he saw Mason, the beautiful girl from my ex’s dorm, in our old college town where he was visiting friends. She had seen him at the river and asked him about me.
‘Do you still know that cute girl, Catherine?’ Mason had asked. ‘Yeah,’ he responded. ‘I married her.’ ‘Oh! I always thought she was into girls,’ she had said. And my sweet husband casually responded, ‘Well, she is. She swings both ways.’ I smiled awkwardly when he recounted this story to me, and I was shocked Mason had picked up on my suppressed queerness. I felt warm, safe, and seen. He didn’t make it a big deal, and he wasn’t bothered by my queerness. He had just stated it like the fact it was. This was the first queer-affirming moment I ever experienced with anyone. Over the years, I started referring to myself as ‘Jake’s bisexual wife’ when we were talking about relationship stuff with close friends. Then, I began to insert myself into certain conversations and debates about same sex attraction, explaining my experience and testing the waters of comfort within my own identity. This marked the beginning of a very slow and casual ‘coming out’ transition.
Over the last two years, I have started letting go of traditional, conservative Christian beliefs. I now embrace my equal role in leadership in my marriage to Jake, as we are both feminists who believe women should be leaders in the family and church. I named and recognized the homophobic and transphobic beliefs that were central to my religious upbringing as wrong, damaging, and even un-Biblical. I wasn’t sure if same sex attraction was allowed or not, but more and more Christians were saying it was okay, and more than that, it was GOOD. It was good to be who God had made us to be. I allowed myself to hope I was good, too.
The last 6 months have marked a huge change in me, and I have a dear friend to thank for that. This friend trusted Jake and I to be the first people they came out to, outside of their significant other. With much anxiety and overwhelm, she bravely came out to us. We were certainly shocked and surprised, but we accepted her for who she authentically is – who she was made to be. We loved and celebrated her, and then, the unexpected happened… I started to love and celebrate my own queerness, too. It was like a flood gate had been opened. I was now worthy of that same love and celebration I was pouring over my friend, and I could feel it for myself for the first time. I’m 31 and just now embracing all of who I am meant to be. I have a diverse spectrum of sexuality, and that is GOOD. I am good. Since fully accepting myself for all of who I am, I have noticed how at home I feel in my body. And most importantly, I know my sexuality is perfect, as God always intended it to be. I am safe. I am whole.
I started to consider coming out publicly a few months ago, and wondered what it would be like. I decided I prefer the term queer, because bisexual sounds too binary for my sexuality, and my actual orientation (pan sapio-sexual) is too long to say and too unfamiliar to many outside the LGBTQ+ community. Saying ‘I’m queer!’ feels natural and truly affirming, and I’m so proud to be in this space of self-love and acceptance for the first time in my life. Coming out during my birthday week just felt right, so that’s what I decided to do. I made a casual birthday post on Instagram, and slipped it in. I’m queer, and I’m proud.
I have yet to have in-person conversations with most of my family members on me being queer (though most have seen it on Instagram), and I’m giving it time. I know what their beliefs are, and that they don’t understand why I am opening up about this facet of my being. I know they believe it’s immoral. But here I am. My hope is that me being visible will change things. If you never know a gay, trans, or non-binary person, your views may never be challenged. You need to know us to see we are normal. We are just humans who love differently or look differently than you expect us to. And that’s okay. But you know what’s the best? Raising two kids who don’t bat an eye at same sex couples. They know that love is love, and all families look different, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for their futures.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Catherine Marchand Ritter of San Antonio, TX. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her blog. 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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