Katy Perry has emotionally opened up about her strict Christian upbringing, and revealed that she was taught to “pray the gay away at Jesus camps” after experimenting with her sexuality as a teenager.
The 32-year-old singer was accepting the National Equality Award at the 2017 Human Rights Campaign Gala in Los Angeles when she decided to address her own experiences in a thought-provoking speech.
Referring to her breakout hit single, I Kissed A Girl, Perry revealed: “I speak my truths and I paint my fantasies into these little bite-sized pop songs. For instance, I kissed a girl and I liked it.”
She continued: “Truth be told, I did more than that. But how was I going to reconcile that with the gospel-singing girl raised in youth groups that were pro-conversion camps?
“What I did know was that I was curious and even then I knew sexuality wasn’t as black and white as this dress.”
When I Kissed A Girl came out in 2008, it was slammed by some critics for being “demeaning” to the gay community. Referring to the controversy, Perry said: “Honestly, I haven’t always gotten it right, but in 2008 when that song came out, I knew that I started a conversation that a lot of the world seemed curious enough to sing along to.”
Perry – who was raised by Protestant pastor parents – went on to explain to the audience that her “bubble burst” when she realised that being gay did not mean you would burn in hell.
“My first words were ‘mama’ and ‘dada’, ‘God’ and ‘Satan’,” she said. “When I was growing up homosexuality was synonymous with the word ‘abomination’ and ‘Hell’, a place of gnashing of teeth, continuous burning of skin and probably Mike Pence’s ultimate guest list for a BBQ.
“So, for most of my unconscious adolescence, I prayed the gay away at my Jesus camps.”
“But then in the middle of it all, in a twist of events, I found my gift,” said Perry. “And my gift introduced me to people outside my bubble, and my bubble started to burst.
“These people were nothing like I’d been taught to fear. They were the most free, strong, kind and inclusive people I had ever met. Oh my goddess, what a revelation – and not the last chapter of the Bible.
“Suffice to say, it’s been a long road for me and I’m sure a long road for many of you out there. I know it doesn’t always feel safe to live out who you are, but here’s the thing, though: I would not have chosen a different road.”
She finished powerfully by reminding the audience: “You don’t get to choose your family, but you can choose your tribe.”
Perry received her award as a result of her recent advocacy for LGBTQ rights, including her campaigning for Hillary Clinton before the US election last year.
Chad Griffin, the HRC president, said in a statement that Perry had used her “powerful voice and international platform to speak out for LGBTQ equality”.
“Her compelling advocacy, from the stage to the campaign trail, has had a profound effect on the lives of LGBTQ people – and, in particular, young people. Katy’s message of inclusion and equality continues to inspire us and the world.”
Images: Rex Features