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Forbidden Love

Kaya Ortiz – Untying the Knot

"Having grown up in church, we had been taught all our lives that we had to suppress our sexuality and that the only place that we would find that kind of fulfillment was in marriage."

Forbidden Love was an oral storytelling project dedicated to love in all its forms.

Kaya married the first boy she ever dated. At first, it was like a quintessential love story, but not soon after it was clear that some things needed to change.

Copyright © 2021 Kaya Ortiz

This story and corresponding images have been licensed to the Centre for Stories by the Storyteller. For reproduction and distribution of this story/image please contact the Centre for Stories.

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So, five years ago, when I was just 20 years’ old, I married the first boy I ever dated. Now Nathan was this leader of the church band – a church that I was attending in Hobart with my family. He had long caramel hair that he kept tied in a low ponytail and he played a cherry-red electric guitar that instantly caught my eye.

Now my dad is a Reverend-Doctor so he’s forever trying to get me more involved in church things and he signed me up to play guitar as well. And I was on this band with Nathan for about a year before we sort of got to talking and texting and, you know, hanging out, but I was 18, you know, daughter of a pastor, technically not allowed to be dating yet, but I figured my dad would warm up to Nathan, after all, he’s a church kid and he was studying, at the time, to be a pastor. So, my dad did warm up to him and, after two years of dating, Nathan and I did what good Christian girls and boys do, and, in December 2015, we tied the knot.

But a few years, a few months sorry, after the wedding, I started to realise something about myself that’s kind of important. I was working a casual job at a news agency at the time and I just learned that someone I’d been working with for a couple of years was a lesbian. And that triggered something in my brain and I started to remember all of these random events from my teenage years, that I’d just barely left behind, and I realised that maybe I wasn’t straight. So, of course, being newly married, I totally panicked.

I spent months just thinking about this, by myself, wondering if I was gay or bisexual and what this would mean for my marriage, especially since Nathan was a pastor. And it took, you know, several months, before I finally told him. And actually I told him just a few days after our one-year wedding anniversary. We were in the car driving home from the carols that we had just performed at and I turned to him and said, “This year I realised that I like girls and I’m bisexual.” So Nathan obviously had a lot of questions, but he was really cool about. And then I told him, you know, “Obviously I don’t want anything to change, I still want to be with you,” and he told me that I could tell him about any crushes that I’m having on anyone.

So over time I’ve told him about the many crushes that I’m having on girls, and there were a lot of girls, but I don’t tell him about the crushing weight that sometimes finds me in the middle of the night, just this fear that I’ll never have the one thing I truly want: just to be with a girl. But other than that, our marriage is going pretty well! We make a great team, we’re best friends, and when he gets a job in Canberra in 2018 we move up there and leave everything in Hobart behind.

So, for this year in Canberra we only have each other. I also happen to have a lot of time on my hands so I’m doing a lot more thinking, again, about everything, and I still feel like there’s something that isn’t adding up. So, one cold night in Canberra, when Nathan and I are lying in bed, I tell him, “I think I might be asexual.” And I can hear the relief in his voice when he says that that makes sense. But we still have a problem because he’s not asexual and both of us, having grown up in church, had been told all our lives that we had to suppress our sexuality and that the only place that we would find that kind of fulfilment was in marriage. But obviously neither of us had found that in our marriage in spite of everything else that had been going so well. But it takes another year, and another interstate move, before we can sort of begin to solve that problem.

In 2019, we come to Perth and it’s a totally clean slate. And a few months after we move we’re back in bed, it’s a warm night this time, and we can feel the sort of the desperation in the air to just find something that will help us. And we don’t know this but we’re kind of thinking the same thing, it’s just that it feels like knocking on the gates of Hell to even say it out loud, but eventually we do: maybe, we should open our marriage. Okay. We take a few days to think about it but we decide to try it because we don’t really have a choice at this point. And the decision feels momentous but it’s totally anticlimactic because what do you do when you decide to open a marriage? Get some dating apps and then you wait…and wait and wait and then, guess what, it’s 2020, the whole world is basically in lockdown so there’s absolutely nothing happening and I’m beginning to fear that this will never happen for me, I’ll never have the one thing I truly want – just to be with a girl – especially because who would even want to date an asexual who’s married to a man?

Of course I keep trying and one day I match with this girl on Bumble. Her name is Jen and for the first time things were turning out a bit differently. We hit it off, we’re talking about writing and then, suddenly, we’re talking non-stop for a week. Turns out we have great timing because it’s the end of May and lockdown restrictions have just started to ease. So, one night when we’re texting really late, at 4 o’clock in the morning, we decide that we’re going to meet up later that same day. We meet up at a beach and I see this gorgeous girl with dark wavy hair and big eyes and she dares me to run into the freezing ocean, but it’s my mind that’s racing to keep up with her.

We go on more dates and I realise that not only do I really like this girl but I’m really attracted to her and I’m feeling something that I’ve never felt before. A few weeks into dating I invite her over to mine and Nathan’s one-bedroom apartment. So I’m just sitting there waiting for Nathan to leave for work and he’s getting ready to go and we’re just chatting and he says, “What are you and Jen planning to do?” We’re pretty open about everything so I tell him the truth and I say, “We’re probably going to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race and make out,” and he says, “Cool, have fun!” and leaves for work.

Jen comes over and we watch Drag Race and make out – a lot, as it turns out – the hours pass by really quickly. She goes home, Nathan comes back, and he’s just putting his things away, you know, winding down after work, and we’re making small talk, but the first thing he asks me is, “What did you and Jen get up to?” I don’t say anything, I just look at him like, “You asked me that same thing when you left so you should know,” and he knows exactly why I’m just looking at him. And then he looks at the clock, and looks back at me and he says, “I was gone for six hours. Were you guys just making out for six hours?” I look away guiltily and don’t say anything and he takes my silence as confirmation which, honestly, it is, but then he just gets this look on his face. He’s like squinting, but he’s got this little half-smile like he’s just figured out someone’s secret and then he goes in to the bedroom to get changed.

I’m still sitting on the couch where just an hour ago I’d had this hot girl sitting in my lap and I asked him, “Is that a bad thing?” and then he comes out, just wearing his underwear, stands in the doorway and says, “No, it’s not a bad thing, I just think you’re a lesbian.” So there I am, speechless again, he goes back into the bedroom and I’m just thinking about what he said, but it’s not a revelation to me. I know he’s right. I’ve known since I was 20 years’ old and realised that maybe I wanted to kiss my lesbian co-worker at work, and since I was 16 and a classmate just straight-up asked me if I was a lesbian and I’d said, “No way!” and since I was fourteen, the first time I’d ever had a crush on a girl from church and I knew it would never be allowed.

And all these years, all of these things – my Christian upbringing, my parents’ expectations, and then my marriage to Nathan – had just become these ropes that bound around me so tightly that I could barely breathe let alone break free. But I think Nathan was brave enough to reach in to the deep, dark part of me that I was just running from and tug on this massive knot until everything unravelled and in that moment it didn’t matter what the consequences may have been, it didn’t matter that maybe my future was suddenly totally uncertain, it just mattered that I could finally say what I had known to be true all along: that I’m a lesbian.

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