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Doctrine Faith Formation Guest Posts Same Sex Attraction

My Catholic Kid is Gay! Now What??

In a previous article, I detailed my ongoing struggle with same-sex attraction (SSA) as I live out my vocation as a Catholic wife and mother. From that perspective, I’d like to share what I think is an authentically loving response to what strikes fear into the hearts of most faithful Catholic parents: your son or daughter coming out as a gay man or lesbian.

As someone who knows this struggle intimately, I’ve thought a great deal about how I would respond to such an admission by my child. Obviously, I’d have a slight advantage over most Catholic mothers because I have my own SSA journey to share. But even beyond that, if my son came to me and confessed to SSA, I would:

  1. Listen to him compassionately and let him unburden his heart without seeing me react in horror, disgust, or disappointment.
  2. Reassure him I love him unconditionally. That he has no reason to be ashamed. That we are all sinners in need of God’s grace. That no cross is more disgusting or better than another.
  3. Ask if he’s considered he might be called to the single life or religious life, which brings with it a deeper union with God than is usually possible in marriage and family. Offer resources about the theology of the body if he hasn’t studied it and it open to it.
  4. Ask if he’d like to seek therapy with a Catholic counselor trained in dealing with SSA. Yes, these people exist and they know how to handle this cross in souls sensitively and with great compassion. As a Catholic, I believe that SSA is a disorder and just as with any disorder, I’d recommend individual counseling.*
  5. If he wants counseling, I’d offer to pay for it. And assure him I have no expectation he will emerge from the experience “cured” of his SSA. That I expect it will be a lifelong cross for him. That I will love him even if he emerges as an on-fire, flaming homosexual drag queen, even if I’m praying for that NOT to happen!
  6. If he chooses not to seek counseling, tell him the option is always there. And assure him, again and again, that I’ll love him no matter what.
  7. Then, I’d drop the subject–unless he asked me to talk about it.
  8. Love him.
  9. Pray for him.
  10. Sacrifice for him.

Our first priest once said, “When people tell you they’re tempted to sin, you pull them close. Once they sin, you pull them closer.” Unless you’ve experienced it, you can’t imagine the self-loathing and shame that comes with SSA. So it’s critically important that we as Catholic parents do everything we can to assure our children who have this cross that while we can’t support them having a romantic or sexual relationship with someone of the same sex, we will always, always love them deeply as a person. Jesus loved us “even as we were sinners.” Even when we’re rotten to the core, He still adores us and pursues us. I’d want my son to know I still love his sense of humor, admire his cooking skills, and appreciate his kind soul—regardless of what else he does in his life. This message–that he is more than “gay”–is something he won’t be hearing in the gay subculture.

The single greatest thing we must do if our child struggles with SSA is keep the relationship loving and open. If we worked hard while raising our child to ensure he understands the Church’s teaching about sexuality, then more preaching will only drive a wedge between you and you’ll lose the Catholic influence you could have on his life. When our children have chosen the wrong path, we need to fight their sin with prayer and sacrifice, NOT words. A person who constantly hears he’s disordered will feel deep shame and avoid you, no matter how many times you follow it up with, “But I love you anyway!”

For as long as my son remained chaste, I’d encourage him to remain an active member of our faith. The only reason I’ve been able to maintain a loving, fruitful marriage despite SSA is because of God’s grace. There is no greater weapon in the battle for chastity—for gay or straight people—than the Eucharist and Confession.

But what if my son decided to live openly as a gay man and had a partner? How should we treat our children’s gay and lesbian partners? The answer, for me, is simple: I’d treat the partner with love and respect, too. If we were still raising his younger siblings, I’d privately ask the couple to avoid public displays of affection when around them, because it can be confusing for children. As long as they agreed to that, I’d have my son and his partner as part of all of our family gatherings. His partner would be welcome in our home, because he, too, has that inherent dignity that makes him precious to God. Like my son, he deserves to be loved and respected, too. He deserves to see what Catholicism really is, too.

For those of you who find that idea offensive, let me ask: if your daughter had a child out of wedlock and lived with the child’s father without being married, would you tell your daughter that her child’s father isn’t welcome in your home or at family events? Not likely. You’d love them both, pray for them, and hope your witness speaks to their hearts and leads them to Christ. I’m very disturbed that parents wouldn’t dream of shunning one part of a straight couple that’s living in sin think shunning their child’s gay partner is acceptable.

This isn’t to say there aren’t non-negotiables. If my son asked me to participate in events that would legitimize his relationship with his partner, such as a gay wedding ceremony or gay pride parade, the answer would be a gentle but firm, “NO.” Whether we like it or not, our presence as such events would cause scandal. People would rightly think, “Well, if the practicing Catholics are here, it can’t be all that bad!”

This is all the ideal, of course,  and not every person will accept your attempts to love the sinner but remain a committed Catholic. It seems tolerance of gays and lesbians isn’t good enough anymore…you must celebrate homosexuality or risk being vilified. My son could choose to be one of those “all or nothing” people, who can’t accept that I’m faithful to the Church. He may hold a grudge and try to sabotage our relationship or even cut me out of his life. If he insisted on promoting his choices to me (probably in a misguided attempt to get my approval), he shouldn’t be surprised if our relationship ends up strained and distant.

If he is receptive to a relationship based on mutual respect, however, he ought to know me well enough not to be surprised when I decline to attend the gay pride parade. And a loving, open relationship means he’s more likely to want me in his life even if I’m not his cheerleader. If I can accept and love him as a person, even though I disagree with his morality, why can’t he accept me and love me as a faithful Catholic, even if he thinks I’m wrong? Respect is a two-way street.

We are called to love as Jesus loves–and that means warts and all. One of the most common criticisms of Catholics is that we don’t practice the love we preach. When it comes to having a child with SSA, let your love do the preaching for you.

 

*By counseling, I’m NOT referring to “conversion therapy,” which is largely a Protestant construct. These programs aim to “cure” SSA through prayer and mental reconditioning. Some of them also use heavy-handed, abusive practices such as electrocution, verbal threats, and humiliation to change the person’s sexual orientation. Homosexuality is a complex pathology and not something consciously chosen by the person. Programs that propose to “pray away the gay” do great harm to souls when the person exits with his SSA intact, and not as the morally upright straight person he’s told God wants him to be. The intensified self-hatred participants feel after “failing” the program too often leads to severe depression, self-destructive behavior, and even suicide.

As a Catholic and as someone who struggles with SSA, I believe wholeheartedly that it IS a disorder, however. And because of that, I would recommend therapy with a sensitive Catholic counselor trained specifically in helping those who bear this cross. I’d recommend the same to any of my children who suffered from a psychological or spiritual disorder that threatens to lead them away from their Catholic faith.

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Conversion Doctrine Faith Formation Guest Posts Offering your suffering Prayer Same Sex Attraction Testimonials

Life after Lesbianism

In January, I wrote about my struggles with same-sex attraction (SSA), while living out my vocation as a Catholic wife and mother. The article was picked up by several Catholic websites and secular blogs. I wrote the article anonymously and considering the vitriol of the comments that followed, I’m glad I did. Especially after reading one man’s enraged, sentence-by-sentence dissection of the piece on a site called Facepunch.

There seemed to be three main objections to my testimony:

1. I’m not a “real” lesbian so I shouldn’t be calling myself one;

2. I’m living a false, inauthentic life that’s unfair to my husband and children and that’s bound to self-destruct; and

3. I’m harming people who struggle with SSA by suggesting they can overcome their sexual orientation.

I was struck by how important labels are to people. At times, multiple commenters were arguing over whether I was lesbian, bisexual, or straight. Some claimed I was never a lesbian (despite living as one) or that I hadn’t been with a woman long enough. Which begs the question–how long does one have to have to engage in homosexual acts before it’s acceptable to be called gay or lesbian? Because apparently, three years is not enough.

I’ll admit I titled the article “Confessions of a Recovering Lesbian” to get it in front of those who wouldn’t be interested in reading one titled, “Embracing Catholic Chastity.” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there really isn’t a label that fits a person like me. I’m not attracted to men, so I’m not heterosexual or bisexual. I’m not living out my attraction to women, so I’m not a lesbian. What’s most accurate is to say that I’m attracted to women, but I’m most attracted to one man–my husband. And that the emotional, spiritual, and physical bond I have with him entirely eclipses the attraction to people of either sex. Is there a label that encompasses all that? I think so: married.

But even if detractors couldn’t agree on what to call me, they at least agreed I’m a fraud. The people willing to let me call myself a lesbian insisted I was just stifling my “real” self, which would inevitably emerge when I encountered “the next Nora.” Though we live in a culture that celebrates girl-on-girl pornography and threesomes, my poor husband is an object of pity because I’m attracted to women. No one wanted to consider what kind of amazing man it would take to inspire  such loyalty in a woman.

I think my biggest mistake was stating I struggle with SSA “on a daily basis.” This gave the impression my waking hours are consumed by the struggle to desire my husband and not to desire sexual union with a woman, which is simply not true. I’m a mother of nearly half-dozen children; like most women in that situation, most of my life is consumed by how I will be meeting the needs of my family, not how I can fulfill my sexual desires.

Most of the time, my SSA isn’t an issue because I’m spiritually fulfilled by God and intellectually, physically, and mentally fulfilled by my husband. But there are times, as I said, when I’m struggling to get “in the mood” (and show me a woman—lesbian or otherwise, who doesn’t) and it’s those times when I’m most vulnerable to the thoughts and images I know will get the job done. Just as straight people are vulnerable to infidelity when their marriage is floundering, I’m vulnerable to thinking about the easy camaraderie of a woman when I feel emotionally estranged from my husband due to a fight or just the daily grind of life.

People who interpret these temptations as evidence I’m suppressing my true self have an immature understanding of what love—especially married love—actually is. It’s true that love is often sparked by a sexual attraction, and ours was no exception. But love is ultimately expressed in action, not in feelings. I watched Titanic along with everyone else, but all I could think about was how what Rose and Jack had was infatuation, not love. Love is making dinner and doing laundry after a full day at work because your wife is puking her guts out from morning sickness. Love is sacrificing time to yourself so your husband can go on a retreat to get closer to the Lord. Love is wiping the vomit off your terminally-ill wife’s aged face…changing your comatose husband’s adult diapers…caring for her even after she has forgotten who you are. Love is the Cross.

I’m human and I struggle with temptation at times; who doesn’t? But I also accept that the Church speaks with the voice of Christ, so I accept that my homosexual desires are disordered and ought not to be indulged. I’m not especially disciplined or faithful, but I have an unshakeable trust that God will provide all the graces I need to resist SSA and build a happy, fulfilling marriage. Marriage and family life are the means by which God has chosen to sanctify me, with SSA just one of many afflictions He’s trying to rout from my soul. And not even the worst one, at that.

Which brings me to the third criticism readers of my testimony had: that by sharing that I’m happily married, I’m proposing marriage as an effective “cure” for SSA. I wasn’t and I’m not. Marriage is a call to lifelong union, not a “treatment,” and it’s not the answer for every person who struggles with SSA. One of the things I love about Catholicism is that it admits to multiple paths to holiness, or vocations. For people who have a deep revulsion to being intimate with the opposite sex, marriage is almost certainly not their vocation. But we are all called to a vocation; whether that’s marriage, religious life, or the single life is something only the person can answer through prayerful discernment.

Can a person be “cured” of SSA? Yes, sometimes. And sometimes not. Homosexuality is a complex pathology that has biological, psychological, and spiritual causes and only God knows the full extent of why and how a person experiences SSA. And only God knows why He calls some of us to greater holiness through marriage, while others are called to holiness in religious communities or as a single person within the world. To those who claim it’s cruel to deny those with SSA the joy of physical union, I can only point out that the Church does not force anyone into a life of chastity.

It’s rare to find a person today that isn’t broken in some aspect of his or her sexuality. But to be healed, we must first admit we’re sick. Most people, even most Catholics, are unwilling to admit that SSA is a disorder in the first place. In the past, those who suffered this affliction were victims of prejudice and violence. Now our sins are celebrated as an expression of our deepest selves. Few know how to offer the truth in love, as Jesus did. If Our Lord were with us today, we’d almost certainly find him in the gay bars—healing those willing to admit they need Him, with a final, gentle call to “go and sin no more.”

 

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Doctrine Faith Formation Guest Posts Same Sex Attraction Testimonials

Confessions of a Recovering Lesbian

One of the most controversial teachings of Catholicism is its teaching on homosexuality. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. (2357)

For most of us, this teaching is challenging, especially if someone we love is gay or lesbian. But what if you are the Catholic struggling with these desires? Is it possible to be faithful to the Church’s teachings and still be happy?

Yes, it is.

I am a 37-year-old Catholic woman who has been happily married for nearly 15 years. We have five children that I homeschool. I also struggle daily with same-sex attraction.

Most gays and lesbians will tell you they “knew” they were homosexual from a young age. I didn’t. I had the usual crushes on boys growing up and like most heterosexual women, envisoned myself getting married and having children with a great man.

Then I met Nora. Nora lived in my freshman dorm and we had several classes together, so we began spending a lot of time together. My boyfriend encouraged the friendship because it gave me a buddy when he was working. Nora and I had many of the same interests and were quickly “BFFs.”

One day a few months later, however, a startling thought crossed my mind: “I’m in love with Nora.” It frightened me badly to have that thought. I cried for hours, trying to figure a way out of the conundrum of being in love with a woman. It was all there, just as it had been with men: the emotional and yes, even the physical attraction.

I avoided Nora, but she insisted on knowing what was wrong. I finally told her how I felt, almost hoping she’d recoil in horror. Instead, she confessed she felt the same about me. And no, neither of us had ever been attracted to a woman before.

I know some of you may be thinking, “What do you mean, you just ‘woke up’ one day and fell in love with a woman? Can that really happen??” Not really. There were many factors in both our pasts that made us vulnerable to same-sex attraction. Nora had been repeatedly molested by a male cousin as a child. I was abandoned by my birth mother and grew up being physically abused by my mentally-ill adoptive mother. For Nora, I was safe. For me, Nora offered the nurturing bond with a female I’d never had. Neither of us had had any guidance about sexuality other than “don’t get pregnant.” Nor did we have any faith in God, which made it easier to ignore our consciences when tempted to become involved.

That summer, we began what turned out to be a three-year affair. Nora and I chose to be roommates for my remaining two years of college. Bizarrely enough, we periodically dated men while together. In the days before same-sex “marriage” and Cat Cora’s embryo exchanges, neither of us could imagine giving up our dream of a “real” family. I realize now that despite our attraction to one another, God’s call to union through marriage was still written on our hearts. We cared deeply for one another, but we still wanted the fairy tale wedding, the marriage, the children, the white picket fence. And in our mind, none of that was possible as a lesbian couple.

Perhaps that’s why we went to great pains to hide our relationship from friends and family. Though we couldn’t imagine life without one another, we couldn’t imagine a future together, either. We both felt an enormous sense of shame about our behavior, though most of our friends were liberal and would never have judged us. Half our friends were even gay or lesbian themselves. Yet we instinctively protected our images as heterosexual women.

A few months before graduation, I met a young man whose brilliant mind and sense of humor ended my relationship with Nora. Though I didn’t marry him, he nonetheless offered me the sense of normalcy I’d craved since becoming involved with a woman. Nora didn’t take it well and decided to come out as a lesbian to her family. She exposed our secret to anyone who would listen. Her family, which had warmly welcomed me into their home for three years, completely shunned me. In their eyes, I had corrupted their daughter and was a sexual deviant.

I never dated another woman after Nora, mostly because I never met another to whom I felt such a strong emotional attraction. The sexual attraction to women, however, never went away. I discovered that while I was still attracted to individual men, I was primarily attracted to women as a whole both sexually and emotionally.

Two years later, I met my husband, a man I felt all those things for and more. I went into marriage happy I’d finally achieved a “normal” life. Yet even then, same-sex attraction insidiously inserted itself. When I traveled out of town for work, I struggled not to go to lesbian bars. But I had promised fidelity and I had to honor that. I somehow knew if I cheated on my husband, I would be truly lost as a person. I thank God every day for helping me fight down those temptations.

Then we became Catholic. If our vows were sacred before, now they were sacramental. And while I was obedient to the Church, I did not fully understand its teachings on sexuality until I studied the “theology of the body” by John Paul II. Finally, I understood my body’s purpose and why marriage was so sacred. I understood why I’d never been satisfied with Nora and why I’d yearned to unite myself to a man and have a family.

But understanding my sexuality did not make the temptations go away. I could not just turn off the habit of being sexually aroused by women. For a while, I convinced myself that as long as I wasn’t actually engaging in homosexual acts, I wasn’t sinning (i.e., fantasy is okay). The more I understood authentic chastity, however, the flimsier this excluse became. Am I “pure of heart” when indulging in sinful fantasies during the most intimate act of my marriage? How is imagining another person during that time respectful to my beloved? I knew that real chastity required something more than simply following the letter of the law; it required a conversion of heart.

I am happy to say that the battle today is easier than in the early years of marriage. I remain faithful to God and my husband because I work hard to avoid near occasions of sin. For instance, I avoid deeply emotional friendships with women that eclipse the one with my husband. I don’t watch gay- and lesbian-themed movies. I also have trained my imagination to avoid impure fantasies. It can be tempting to fall into old thought patterns, especially if I’m tired. But if necessary, I’ll shut down physically and emotionally to avoid offending God. No fleeting sensual pleasure is worth offending Jesus, who suffered so much to save me.

It helps, too, to know that what I have with my husband trumps anything I could have had in a homosexual relationship. The most amazing quality of our union is God’s gift of cooperating with him in creating a unique person who possesses an immortal soul. It’s a transcendent, awesome spiritual privilege I would have missed as a lesbian.

Naturally, I have profound compassion for those who struggle as I do. But I don’t believe we must indulge same-sex attraction if we experience it. I’m really no different than a straight man who struggles not to objectify women. Or a straight woman who is tempted to fornicate. We’re all broken people, which is why we all need Christ.

I’m not capable of re-ordering my broken sexuality, but as I’ve witnessed in the past decade, it can be reordered with grace and trust in Jesus. It just takes time and a desire to be healed. Sanctification, after all, is a lifelong process. I take comfort in the fact that slowly but surely, God is healing the wounds in my soul from the sexual sins that marred it.

Does God love His children who struggle with same-sex attraction? Yes, of course. But He loves us too much to leave us that way.