Welcome to The Learning Curve! A publication inspired by using my own privilege and allowing others with less of a voice to communicate their stories through me. Each month, readers vote on a theme that they want to be covered and would enjoy learning more about. Then, I set out to find people who are willing to share their personal stories with me and the rest of the Learning Curve community. This months' topic is mental health and mental illness.
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**Photos have been removed from this story as the subject is still not fully 'out' to their family members**
A person who identifies as genderfluid is someone whose gender identity is not fixed, wedmd says. It can change overtime or from day to day. Fluid is a form of gender identity or gender expression, rather than a sexual orientation.
Kara Murphy, 23, grew up in a southern Baptist household as the oldest of three children. Throughout her life, she can remember going back and forth between her interests and understanding of the religion her family practiced.
Now, she identifies as nondenominational—she has a belief in God and prays regularly, or talks to him throughout her days, but she does not identify with a certain religious practice.
“For a long time, God to me felt hateful and was a reason to hate other people,” she said. “But now I think that ultimately God is here to mainly offer people love and comfort in a world that is obviously full of its own hate.”
Murphy’s battle with her beliefs can date back to when she was as young as five-years-old and the societal norms that come with being born as a biological male, she said, remembering vividly that she wanted a tea set for her birthday and that her parents were hesitant, but got it for her anyways.
Her curiosity continued; clipping hair extensions into her then, short hair, or rolling her hair into her mother’s rollers. At such a young age still, her parents coined it as a “tendency,” or something like that, she said.
Though, the tendencies continued and by age 11, she can remember watching a movie where a man dresses up like a woman and feeling a strong desire to try that herself, she said, still being biologically pressured into masculinity. She wandered into her mother’s closet when her parents were away and tried on the feminine clothing, just as she had seen in the movie.
One day, feeling riskier than before, Murphy put on women’s clothing while her parents were home. Her father caught her and became angry. She told her father the she was just confused.
“Apparently he thought I was confused by women or something, I don’t know, because he decided to have the sex talk with me,” Murphy said. “That was such a weird and scarring thing to happen at that age.”
After the incident with her father, Murphy felt she needed to suppress any desires, confusion and curiosity regarding her gender identity. She focused strictly on her studies, basketball and the Christian faith in order to better distract herself.
Throughout her high school years, Murphy would frequently find herself back in her mother’s closet—still expected to dress in masculine clothing at the time—but, it only when her parents were away, or when everyone in the house was asleep, she said.
“The crazy thing is I did that up until my senior year of high school, all while being homophobic, transphobic and everything else that was actively against what I was doing,” she said.
As Murphy’s senior year of high school was coming to an end, she began to have a serious fear that she was not going to be Christian much longer. The thought scared her, and ultimately led her to choose a Christian university to further her studies.
She enrolled at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, and when her freshman year came around, she felt strongly that this education would make her stop having an urge to dress in women’s clothing, she said.
Though, the opposite occurred.
Murphy found a group of students who were not technically supposed to be LGBTQ+ on the Christian campus, but they formed a community anyways, she said. It was within this group that Murphy felt most comfortable and welcomed.
While she did not “come out” during her time at Taylor, and is still not fully “out” now, she did find a sense of happiness that she long lacked during her high school years, she said.
She began dating a woman her sophomore year, then still identifying as a male. Her girlfriend helped her feel comfortable with herself. The two remain together today and she has helped Murphy along the journey to find out who she truly is, she said, noting that her senior year of college, she felt comfortable enough to open up to some people that she was participating in drag performances.
Murphy graduated from Taylor University in 2021 and is pursuing a law degree through Florida A&M University in Orlando, Florida. Her college girlfriend also lives in Orlando and the two have gotten closer since being out of the Christian campus environment, Murphy said.
Living in Orlando has helped her discover more of her true identity, she said. She openly, and comfortable now identifies as a gender fluid bisexual—meaning on certain days she feels more inclined to dress feminine or masculine. The bisexual identification means that romantically she is interested in either men or women.
“Coming out was a stressful process because it was something I knew for a while, but didn’t really want to say out loud,” Murphy said.
She is currently in the process of coming out to people in her life who, she figures, will not respond well to her coming out as gender-fluid, she said. She is doing this in preparation for when she fully tells her parents—who still call each Sunday to make sure she has attended a church service.
As she works through the list of people she is coming out to, she has been pleasantly surprised at the support received from a few friends she expected to react differently. For those who did react the way she expected, she said, it feels amazing.
“It has felt amazing because I am able to realize they were not actually my friend,” she said. “I have lost people who were only friends with certain parts of me, and that feels so freeing.”
Despite a troubled adolescence, thoughts of suicide and being outcasted from social groups, Murphy remains confident in discovering her true self, she said. The time she spends in Orlando now is of the utmost importance to her because she is able to experiment with religion on her own terms, while also making new friends that she better identifies with.