Once upon a time I was a good girl. I was the quiet, shy girl. I was the one my family never had to worry about because I read books and did what I was told. I started singing in my church’s choir when I was 5, and for the school choir too. My brother and sister pretty quickly stopped going to church, my sister because she was just too cool and my brother because he’s too thinky and his big, weird brain couldn’t wrap it’s head around believing in something he couldn’t prove.

I liked church. I’d sit in the hard pew and swing my legs and hum along to all the pretty songs. I still do like it, sometimes, though probably not for the right reasons. I like the quiet ritual of it. I liked the idea of belonging to something bigger than myself.

But eventually I stopped humming along to myself and I started paying attention.

And I stopped feeling safe in that ritual. Because I couldn’t have faith in a church that told me that everything that I am is wrong, ugly and heinous. Every week I felt those horrible words beat themselves into my skin, leaving scars that took years to heal.

And eventually I stopped singing. I stopped believing.

And I became my family’s biggest disappointment.

It took me ten years to step inside a church again but it was never the same.

With my history, I didn’t understand the joy of sex, not for a really long time. I wanted kink before I ever wanted to connect with dark interracial sex with multiple men of color.

But I’ve always been a tactile person and I’ve always loved to dance, which is the only way I could connect to my body. And I wanted to connect with people. I couldn’t understand what was so hateful about loving my body and letting my body love others. I couldn’t understand what was so wrong and ugly about love. And I couldn’t understand how people who stand for a god that apparently gave me this body and created my heart that loves with excessive abundance could hate me for being exactly what I was made to be.

That hatred broke something in me. But it also broke me free from a cage I’d been living in for far too long. I was still the quiet, shy girl. But I was no longer the good girl who blindly followed orders.

I became the girl who dances naked in the rain, joyfully. I became the girl who gets flogged on stage in front of a crowd. I became the girl who touches the sky and who giggles at sadists. I became the girl who loves with her whole heart and with lots of her body in a lot of different ways.

That’s how I worship now. It’s not the same but it’s just as beautiful and just as transcendent because it’s exactly what I was made to be.

Sometimes, when they’re berating me for stepping away from the church, for loving the wrong way and for just being broken and wrong, I wonder what they’d think of the way I worship now. I know they can’t understand it, because it’s free and joyful and loving in a way that they can’t really wrap their heads around. It doesn’t fit in with how they understand or see the world. But part of me wishes they could understand it.

Because it’s not dirty and ugly. It’s so unbelievably beautiful and reverent.