The following is an excerpt from CONFESSIONS OF A BISEXUAL by Charmeé Taylor.
“You don’t have to be a hoe of the universe,” my pastor spouted off to doe-eyed teen girls slurping up every pile of shit she was serving to us. “You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that needs to be in the way you interact with men.”
These fateful words that my youth pastor said to me changed my life forever. Everything shifted that day. That’s when I learned to center cis men’s pleasure and not my own. That’s when I learned the repercussions of engaging in premarital sex. And that’s when I internalized that I was deeply unworthy of love if I wasn’t perfect.
But let’s rewind.
My sexual identity and the religious journey has been the hardest part about coming to terms with myself. Much of my frustration with coming out later in life is that I didn’t know being queer, bi, or gay was even an option. I thought that you wake up one day as an adult woman, marry a man, have a kid, and your credit score instantly goes up. My conservative small town didn’t prepare me for the great big world that would soon chew me up and spit me out. I had to turn to the TV to get that dose of reality.
The first time I saw a bisexual was on MTV’s A Shot At Love with Tila Tequila. I remember watching a very drunk twenty-something stumble around a brightly decorated MTV set making out with anyone regardless of their gender through a grainy 2003 screen. This both turned me on and turned me off in one fell swoop.
The first time I saw a bisexual was on MTV’s A Shot At Love with Tila Tequila.
I also grew up in the church. I never felt like I belonged, but I made it my mission to fit in as perfectly as possible. I already had two strikes against me, I’m a woman, and I’m black, and I’d be damned if I put myself in the position to have another strike. In not so many words, my ultra-white church made it clear that being black was a sin or at least was a problem that I needed to take up with God. This is when I made a vow to myself to never, I mean double-pinky-promise-kiss-my-thumb-blood-sealed-pack to never unleash even a little bit of gay. Not even the “homosexual thoughts” I wrote down in my teenage diary. My talkative Scorpio lips got bone dry the moment I felt anything queer coming up in conversation.
I had no choice but to suppress my attraction to women. It was pretty easy at the beginning of my dating career. I was taught to be attracted to men, and I was. However, my attraction to women felt like the biblical story of Paul being devoted to God even though he had a “thorn in my side” or, as my pastor would explain, was his possible sexual attraction to other men. A nagging thorn in Paul’s side was just another way to gaslight queer people into not acting on their desires of the flesh. I’d pray away the gay, in the dark behind tear-filled journal entries.
Every year there was the purity conference where we’d spend a memorable weekend in the woods with a set of pastors. There were Christian worship bands, testimonials from people who had sex before marriage, and classes on how to say no to sex as a woman of God and resist the devil through support from biblical texts.
Karen built an empire around purity culture, a lucrative business that would tour the world telling young women how to dress, talk, and even how to listen to music to serve God. She sold t-shirts, along with books, mugs, DVDs, and workshops for young women to stay pure until marriage.
The main event speaker was Karen Clemons, a charismatic blonde with big teased-out Dolly Parton hair, who wore bright colors and was the self-proclaimed poster child for why you should save yourself until marriage. Karen built an empire around purity culture, a lucrative business that would tour the world telling young women how to dress, talk, and even how to listen to music to serve God. She sold t-shirts, along with books, mugs, DVDs, and workshops for young women to stay pure until marriage. That day, Karen confided in a room full of hundreds of teenage girls that she had lost her virginity at just fifteen to a boy in her youth group. She spent her whole life trying to right that wrong, so she became a minister to divert young virginal eyes from pre-marital sex.
She explained, “I lost my virginity to a boy in my youth group who convinced me to have sex, and because I never said no, he just went on with it, and I only had myself to blame for not walking in God’s will.” I know this is giving rape culture vibes too, but I didn’t even bat an eye as a transfixed teenage girl.
Karen went on, “I want everyone to close your eyes and bow your head; if you feel convicted for your sexual desires, I want you to stand up and come to the front so I can pray over you.”
I, at that moment, froze, and my stomach dropped, “how did this woman know how dirty I’d been feeling?” If she knew that I was so dirty, surely God knew too! A wave of shame washed over me as I bolted for the front.
Tears streamed down my face as I hung my head and lifted my arms in prayer. “Please God forgive me; I am unworthy,” I whispered silently to myself. A part of religious trauma is not having the language to say that the people you are entrusting to bring you closer to God are actually hurting you. If you don’t have this language, you automatically put any shame that you may feel onto yourself. My religion has always been tied to my sexuality. Any and every thought that I ever had about sexuality was through the eyes of someone else.
A part of religious trauma is not having the language to say that the people you are entrusting to bring you closer to God are actually hurting you.
Once I separated myself from that church, I had room to explore what it meant for me. The idea of sex was so deeply tied to pleasing men that I spent much of my early twenties not finding many fulfilling sexual partners because I put male pleasure on a pedestal. Somehow thinking that God would be proud of me.
It wasn’t until I was up late one-night doom scrolling through YouTube videos that I typed the word “Bisexual” in the search bar. I watched video after video on bisexuality. The common thread was that people did not understand their sexuality because they were attracted to men and women, and it was confusing to navigate sexuality.
I had to divorce myself from my religious trauma to find pleasure. It was tough, but it started with me focusing on what felt good while I was single. If I’m totally honest, trying to unweave myself from the hands of Christianity and how that relates to white supremacy and, in turn, suppressing my sexuality is still a mind field. I still feel waves of shame when I am sexually or romantically attracted to any gender outside of cis men. I have to constantly remind myself that I am fearfully and wonderfully made bisexual. My sexuality belongs to me and me alone. My pleasure belongs to me and me alone. Once I could let go of everyone else’s expectations of me, I could embrace my sexuality more fully.
About the Author
Charmeé Taylor (she/her) is a proud bisexual actor, writer, and content creator floating around on Beyoncé’s Internet. She is based in Los Angeles, CA, but is from a small town in Pennsylvania called State College, where she attended Pennsylvania State University and studied drama. She has written for Salty, Hello Giggles, Bisexual Resource Center, and Unicorn Zine. She centers most of her work on relationships, coming out later in life and bisexual representation in TV and film. She was lead in a short film titled Lucky that premiered at HBO’s Outfest and won the Love is Love category at the Queen Palm film festival. When she’s not creating astrology memes, you can find her drinking iced oat milk matcha lavender lattes under the LA sun listening to the same bisexual moody playlist on Spotify.
Follow on IG: @charmeeifyoudare |