I Waited Until 28 To Come Out As Pansexual Because The Catholic Church Brainwashed Me

Photo: Courtesy of the Author
queer woman
Self

I am four years old the first time I’m told if I disobey God, I will spend eternity in hell without my loved ones. That scared me straight. For awhile.

At thirteen, I begin to have an existential crisis. After enduring years of abuse and finally escaping only to find myself more lost, I needed faith in something bigger to keep me going. Being raised Catholic in the Midwest and both sides of my family being devout followers, I looked to the church to find peace.

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I began taking catechism classes every Wednesday night after basketball practice. Catechism classes are intended for children and adults who seek to receive the sacrament/body of Christ and teach you the way of leading a Christian lifestyle. To me, this was the saving grace I needed. An unconditional love I had so often sought from my parents but never received.

The first few classes weren’t that bad. They say God loves you, and if you put your faith in him, you will be rewarded after death in a glorious kingdom. Then one week, the teacher begins speaking of homosexuality as an unforgivable sin, and I find myself worried.

“These are mortal sins. God cannot look past them.”

It took me a while to wrap my head around what he was saying, so I inquired to my holy guide, “So you are saying if I was a lesbian, God would not love me?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“I think that’s bullshit. Love is love, and if I wanted to be a lesbian, I cannot imagine that God would be mad about it,” I finally came out with this rebuttal as everybody else in the class stared at me.

“Are you a lesbian?” he finally asked.

“No, but if I wanted to be with a girl, that wouldn’t change who I am,” was the last thing I said, walking out of the church and never looking back.

I was always attracted to men and women, a curiosity that continued to grow inside me and eventually turned into seriously questioning my own sexuality. There was a deep-rooted shame in my desires and uncertainty on how one figures out who one is without ending up in the fiery flames of hell.

People who were close to me always saw it. The questions spinning in my eyes, the long glances at girls I found attractive. I was the girl at sleepovers suggesting we kiss each other, to which they would inform me that they don’t like kissing other girls.

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“Well, how would you know if you never try?” I would ask.

Back in those days, I didn’t understand sexuality terms or labels — I only knew how I felt. Now that I am older, wiser, and unaffected by the backlash of being seen as “gay”, I am proud to say that I am definitely not straight. For the most part, I consider myself pansexual, a term that has started to gain more popularity over the years with celebrities like Miley Cyrus coming out.

Being pansexual implies that I do not see people as one gender or another, and I am not attracted to them based upon their sexuality. Rather, I am attracted to people based on their personalities. This stems mostly from my own flawed gender identity, having trouble distinguishing myself as “masculine” or “feminine”. I choose, instead, to consider myself simply a human being.

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For the most part, I find myself attracted to tall, skinny, pale dudes who probably watch anime or play video games. Sometimes I wonder if this is truly my desire or if I have suppressed my real feelings long enough that they refuse to be recognized anymore. In fact, it is something that has been on my mind quite a bit lately as I get older. But I know the next time to figuring it all out is acknowledging how I feel.

I never thought I would be coming out at 28 years old. Finally labeling myself and telling the world that I am…queer — even typing it makes me uncomfortable, wondering if my Catholic grandparents are turning over in their graves. But on this journey of mine, I have discovered there is nothing worse than denying who you are for fear of what other people might think.

So, I've finally surmounted the courage to write this, publish this, and allow the world in on a secret I have kept hidden for far too long:

I am here.

I am queer.

Buy me a beer.

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Emily Lingenfelser is a 20-something mom who writes and captures moments to make sense of this messy world. She runs the website, Emily is Fearless.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.