“Hot, horny and holy,” was all it took to elicit snorts and guffaws from me and dozens of other LGBTQ Catholics on a religious retreat earlier this month. Our lecturer, a queer theologian, was exploring the sexual ethics of homosexuality when he brought out this show-stopping line.

And it was already a helluva show. Think about it—acknowledging that ‘out’ church-goers might actually want to (and God forbid, enjoy) fucking. We spent part of our weekend addressing the age-old question on carnality that has specifically plagued religious gays for generations: Is there genuinely a way for LGBTQ people to be devout sexual beings? Could we live authentically without the shame placed on us by an ancient religious institution that still isn’t even sure how to approach us?

Most LGBTQ Catholics will tell you that, at one point in their lives (if not still ongoing), they’ve had sexual hang-ups because of Church teachings. Even as sexually confused adolescents trying to fully understand our desires at the onset of puberty, we were taught that masturbation constituted adultery; that premarital sex was a ‘mortal sin’ that could lead to eternal damnation; and that gay sexual acts, in particular, were egregious and inherently disgusting in the eyes of the Lord. Talk about some pretty heavy stuff before high school!

What does it say about the gay community if we are actively perpetuating lookism culture or adhering to racist and size-ist ideals?

That’s part of the reason I spent my teenage years (unsuccessfully) trying to give up masturbation for Lent. Or why, after my very first sexual encounter with another boy, I immediately looked up confession times at my college’s Catholic Center. I needed God to know that I was sorry for sucking dick because I, like other queer people, was indoctrinated early enough to think I had to be remorseful for those kinds of things.

But was I really? If my straight Catholic counterparts were unapologetically having the kind of sex they wanted, why couldn’t I? I mean, would God consider their ‘sin’ different and less offensive simply because it involved two separate types of genitals? Because I thought, when it came to intercourse, Scripture applied to everyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, right? It didn’t feel that way then or now based on how much straight sexuality has always been celebrated by mainstream culture as both acceptable and natural regardless of marital status.

That arbitrary delineation ultimately forces queer Catholics to see our God-given desires as “unnatural” and dirty whether within the context of a long-term relationship or a casual hookup. And while I’m sure a good majority of straight Catholics will admit to initially feeling guilty about their bedroom shenanigans, I’d venture to say that it has never risen to the level of shame LGBTQ Catholics experience regularly. Most straight individuals don’t know what it’s like to feel inherently flawed because of their attraction, thus hindering the development of meaningful partnerships throughout the course of several years.

It certainly doesn’t help that many feel the need to judge queer lives based on their limited understanding of what happens behind closed doors. And the truth is, it can be anything, considering every LGBTQ person views sexual expression, intimacy, monogamy and love differently in relation to their existing spiritual beliefs, if any. When I was single for roughly three years, I constantly battled myself about using Grindr and similar apps because I thought it reflected poorly on me as a church-going Christian. How could I possibly show my face at Mass on Sunday knowing that I happily spent Saturday with ‘LatinPapi87?’

It took me almost a decade to learn that sexual and spiritual gratification are equally life-affirming.

I had to start telling myself that, as an adult engaging in consensual sexual activities, I was still the kind, generous person God created me to be. But sometimes I just wanted to cum. As our queer theologian from this month’s religious retreat outlined, being honest and vulnerable with another human being, no matter the circumstances, is key to becoming “sexual disciples.” In his words, even if you’re in the middle of a one-night stand, are you holding that other person as sacred? Are we tender with them after the physical part is over? How are we acting before and after sex? Is that behavior something we need to question within ourselves?

Many view gay hookup culture as vapid, and there’s some truth to that. For every person looking for a sweet soul to strike up a connection with, there are others who place countless restrictions on who their respondents can be (i.e. “no fats, no femmes, no Asians” is a disgusting standard for some). What does it say about the gay community if we are actively perpetuating lookism culture or adhering to racist and size-ist ideals? Would that make God happy? Of course it wouldn’t. And it shouldn’t make us either.

Depending on how we conduct ourselves as grown men and women in any sexual scenario, LGBTQ Catholics should never discredit their wants and desires for the sake of following a sexually repressive dogma that doesn’t make sense in this millennium. What does make sense? Loving and caring for others and protecting their emotional and physical nakedness as you would have them do for you. It took me almost a decade to learn that sexual and spiritual gratification are equally life-affirming. Didn’t need catechism classes for that, though. Sorry, Sister Sandra.