When Katy Perry released the pop hit “I Kissed a Girl" in 2008, she says she was starting a conversation with people around the world.
“Truth be told, I did more than that!” she told the audience of the 2017 HRC Los Angeles Gala while accepting the National Equality Award on Saturday night. “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 that sexuality was not as black and white as this dress.
“But in 2008, when that song came out, I knew that it started a conversation that a lot of the world seemed curious enough to sing along to it.”
Perry went on to detail her religious upbringing (both of her parents are pastors) and how she “prayed the gay away at Jesus camps.” But soon her “bubble started to burst” and she discovered people who were different from her.
“These people were nothing like I had been taught to fear. They were the most free, strong, kind, and inclusive people that I have ever met,” she said. “They stimulated my mind, and they filled my heart with joy, and they danced with joy while doing it. These people are actually, magic, and they are magic because they are living their truth.”
Although she strayed away from the beliefs of her religion, Perry says she wouldn’t have chosen a different path for herself: “Priceless lessons happen large. The path of discovery has made me, has tested me, and forever changed me. You don’t get to choose your family, but you can choose your tribe,” she said. “I stand here as real evidence for all that no matter where you came from it is about where you are going, that real change, real evolution, and that real perception shift can happen, if we open our minds and soften our hearts.”
The pop star added that it would’ve been a lot easier for her to stay the “whipped-creamed-t–s-springing-poppy-lite-coffee-fun-anthem-animal-totem-singing-girl” who remained neutral politically.
“No longer can I sit in silence,” she says. “I have to stand up what I feel is true and that is equality and justice for all, period.”
This article originally appeared on PEOPLE.