Katy Perry says that her strict Christian upbringing forced her to hide her sexuality, the world-famous pop singer revealed at the Human Rights Campaign Gala in Los Angeles on Saturday.
Perry, who shot to fame with the 2008 hit song I Kissed a Girl, has not been secretive about her sometime-interest in women, but she has never fully admitted that she’d gone beyond simple experimentation. Her pastor parents and their teachings, she insists, made her feel ashamed about her desires, so she kept that side of herself hidden.
“I speak my truths and I paint my fantasies into these little bite-size pop songs,” Perry said to the audience as she accepted the National Equality Award at the gala. “For instance, ‘I kissed a girl and I liked it.’ Truth be told, I did more than that.”
Perry famously grew up in a restrictive family; her parents, Keith and Mary Hudson, are Christian preachers. As a child, Perry would frequently attend church youth group sessions, and the views professed differed greatly from what she felt inside. (For example, there was support for conversion camps, controversial organizations that claim to eradicate someone’s homosexuality through faith.)
“How was I going to reconcile that with a gospel-singing girl raised in youth groups that were pro-conversion camps?” she said at the gala. “What I did know was I was curious and even then, I knew sexuality wasn’t as black and white as this dress. And honestly, I haven’t always gotten it right, but in 2008 when that song came out, I knew that I started a conversation and a lot of the world seemed curious enough to sing along, too.”
“The atmosphere I grew up in was 100 per cent Christian,” Perry said in her 2012 documentary Part of Me. “I started singing in the church, I never really had another plan.”
In 2013, Perry told Marie Claire that she no longer considers herself a Christian, but still has a “deep connection with God.”
“I’m not Buddhist, I’m not Hindu, I’m not Christian, but I still feel like I have a deep connection with God. I pray all the time — for self-control, for humility,” she said. “There’s a lot of gratitude in it. Just saying ‘thank you’ sometimes is better than asking for things.”
She doesn’t resent her rigid upbringing, either, saying that she learned “priceless lessons.”
After meeting multitudes of people in the LGBTQ community, Perry said that she realized her sexuality was nothing to be ashamed of, adding that she used to try to “pray the gay away” after an upbringing of strictness.
“My [closet] bubble started to burst,” she said. “These people were nothing like I had been taught to fear. They were the most free, strong, kind and inclusive people I have ever met. They stimulated my mind, and they filled my heart with joy, and they danced with joy while doing it. These people are actually magic, and they are magic because they are living their truth.”
Perry closed her speech with a declaration that all people, no matter what their sexual preferences, are equal and deserving of a happy life.
“No longer can I sit in silence. I have to stand up for what I feel is true, and that is equality and justice for all, period.”
For the record, Perry’s parents still support her career, and were reportedly “very proud” of their daughter singing Rise at the latest Olympics. They sometimes accompany Perry to award ceremonies as well.