Growing up in Mexico, where nearly 98 million people are Catholic, religion was an integral part of my upbringing. My parents were devout believers and even sang in the church choir. In fact, my name itself means “God’s gift,” a testament to the role religion played in my family.
As a child, I attended catechism classes and loved every moment of it. I remember being so excited the first time I got to eat the wine-soaked host. But as I got older, things started to change.
In 2017, when I was in junior high, I began to experience bullying. It wasn’t physical or verbal abuse, but rather a complete lack of acknowledgment from my peers. I was ignored, talked about behind my back, and even cyberbullied. The pain was unbearable, and I remember crying myself to sleep at night, begging God to make it stop.
But it never did. And as a result, I developed an eating disorder that lasted for 7 years. I was trapped in a cycle of self-hatred and despair, feeling completely alone in the world.
As I struggled to cope with the bullying, I began to question my faith. I had been taught that if I prayed hard enough, God would answer my prayers. But where was he now, when I needed him the most?
In 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and I found myself in a state of deep introspection. I realized that I didn’t know who I was outside of the strict confines of my religious upbringing. Growing up, I was forbidden from enjoying many movies, books, and songs because they were deemed “satanic” by my family. I felt like I had missed out on so much, and I didn’t even know where to begin in discovering my true interests.
But confinement also gave me the chance to explore my sexuality. I had always felt different from my peers, but it wasn’t until I was alone with my thoughts that I realized I was attracted to women. The revelation was both terrifying and liberating, and I spent months reading and researching everything I could about sexual orientation and gender identity.
However, my newfound acceptance of my sexuality was tempered by the internalized homophobia that had been instilled in me by years of religious indoctrination. I knew that people in the LGBTQIA+ community were often condemned by religious leaders and their followers, and I couldn’t help but feel like I was somehow “wrong” or “sinful” for feeling the way I did.
Despite these struggles, I have come a long way in accepting myself for who I am. I am open with my friends and loved ones about my sexuality, and I even dream of one day finding a partner. But there are still moments when I can’t help but feel like I’m living a double life, hiding the most authentic parts of myself from the world out of fear of being judged or rejected.
Ultimately, religion has had a profound impact on my life, for better or for worse. But even as I continue to grapple with the complexities of faith and identity, I know that I am not alone. And that gives me hope for the future.