I often get overwhelmed when someone asks me to share about my life, my background, and my struggles. There’s no easy place to begin, and often things feel too heavy, too nuanced, and too raw to pour out on the unsuspecting masses. My goal for this post, and any future posts, is that it is nothing heavier than I can stand. Just a moment of recognition–of the beauty, of the pain, and of their braided path throughout my life.
The second time I kissed a woman, I cried.
To be fair, the first time I kissed a woman, the first time I kissed anyone actually, I was 9. We were hiding away in a small treehouse in her backyard. She was the pastor’s daughter.
I don’t really remember it.
I don’t really remember the moment of the kiss, but I remember how I felt about the girl. I remember my body felt warm when we were sitting, playing together. I remember wanting to be close to her.
That experience was a quick blip. Something I stored away in my mind.
My family is deeply Christian. In high school, I fully bought into that narrative. For several years, Christianity was a sincere source of peace and hope for me. My family was experiencing financial and health issues, and I was thrown under the weight of hard times for the first time. I found a sense of belonging and community in those beliefs. Staying in line with purity culture, I had written off pretty much any form of sexual expression as a sin.
Masturbation, porn, attraction, arousal–they were all things to be ashamed of. Things to be shut out completely.
I think I fully recognized I was “tempted” by women when I was 19. I was married at the time (which is a long story for another time), so the realization felt dangerous. I had reigned in my attraction to men, but this unexpected finding within myself felt like something to be afraid of.
So I began a journey to understand my sexuality. First, motivated by the need to control it–to remove any temptation or threat to my marriage, but with time, my motivation deepened into a desire to know myself. As the abuse I experienced with my ex over my 5-year marriage grew more frequent and more intense, I found myself desperate to better understand who I was.
The motivations behind that desire for self-knowing were probably two-sided. On one end, I was seeking a way to be better for my ex in all the ways he was telling me I needed to be. On the other end, I was leaning more into my own strength as my home became a place of hostility.
I set off on a journey of self-knowing, and somewhere within this place I gently learned to recognize and not run from my sexuality. Like a stranger passing you on the street, holding a box of hot pastries–you catch a whiff, there’s the sudden shock of something wonderful nearby, and the sharp realization that it’s not for you. It was a desire in myself that I recognized I could never indulge in. A goodness, out of reach, that was never to be held, never to be taken. I think from this mental place I was freed from the judgment and shame I had been taught over my many years in Christianity. In that setting, my understanding and acceptance of my sexuality was purely a mental exercise, with no intention or possibility of action.
So this brings us to the second time I kissed a woman.
I remember this kiss perfectly.
I remember the sweetness of her breath. Her face so focused, looking up into mine. I remember how small she felt in my arms.
Everything felt so normal. So peaceful. So easy. And suddenly, I realized that the goodness I never believed was for me was here. Right in front of me. Some feelings are too strong, too meaningful, to express in words. More than a kiss, it was the recognition of a journey. A path of pain and beauty, liberation and healing, compassion and self-advocacy all braided together like a crown on my head. So I cried.
Rebecca is a conservation ecologist living in Colorado with her partner Erin. Her research works to validate citizen science initiatives. Through using data collected by local communities in Hawaii, she is investigating how ocean warming affects marine creatures. She’s passionate about engaging with the outdoors as a form of empowerment, both for herself and for others. She loves climbing, paddling, petting stranger’s dogs, and cookies.