You slut, said my teammates when I told the police that our gymnastics coach was a pedophile. 

She must have asked for it, said my friends’ parents. Our coach was one of the best we’d ever had, and at 9 years old, I harbored a private crush on him. But childish fancy turned to primal fear when he put his hand under my leotard. At that moment, a split occurred within me, born of an introduction into sexuality before I was ready and against my will.

Shame followed me in the years before I spoke up. When no one but the police and my parents believed me, I figured my teammates were right. Puberty hit at about 13, and from that moment, I began an aggressive campaign to systematically destroy my sexuality. I went to barbers for haircuts, wore boy clothes, and made sure I was the most outspoken, confrontational, and bizarre girl in my social sphere.

But that was only half of the split. The other half was an all-consuming need to discover sex. It was beyond lust; very little pleasure existed in my need. I felt shamed again, remembering the words of my team, but the drive did not relent; it was as powerful as my need to be androgynous. All through high school I thought these conflicting instincts would tear me in half.

In a religious context, at least, I seemed to have some direction: sex was something to be explored after marriage, and only girls who disrespected themselves sought to do otherwise. Slut. Purity was prized above all. Urges were natural, but we women were instructed to dress, think, present ourselves, and live in a way that would please God. Half of me dressed like a boy; the other half relentlessly pursued sex.

When I married, I thought my drive would calm, but it didn’t. More often than not, I was repulsed by the idea of being naked. I turned to food this time instead of boy clothes, covering up my body in 100 excess pounds, while the opposite side of my split went online in search of … something. Something reckless, something primal, something salacious and forbidden. Slut. I was sealed in the temple, was a devout member, but I felt more imprisoned in my cocoon of piety than I ever had before.

When my marriage ended three years ago, I began to shed the excess weight. Men began to notice. I was painfully aware of my single status, and the drive, the search, the quest began to merge with my blossoming femininity. It was not until I decided to personally disregard the law of chastity (Slut.) that I discovered that this need could be traced back to my small, innocent 9 year-old self who was simply looking for a way to re-define sex so it could be like everyone said it was: sacred, beautiful, loving, fun.

I am not afraid to be naked anymore. I am not afraid to look like a woman, and I am not afraid to acknowledge the power that emanates from female sexuality. No wonder it is repressed; such a potent force threatens to change the world. I embrace the drive at the cost of my place within my religious community. I have disappointed my Savior. Right?

Slut. This is what some people see. As for me, I can feel the split within me lessening, diminishing, whispering to me of a new life.

I am not a slut.

I am whole.

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