By T.J. Armendariz, Franciscan University of Steubenville
It took me almost sixteen years to accept that I experience same-sex attractions. While I have always had a measure of fascination with the male body, I had never thought much of it until the end of seventh grade when my parents caught me viewing gay pornographic images. Their inquiry into my actions included asking if I was “gay,” which I was not yet sure of, yet out of stubbornness I refused to accept the possibility that it was true. My pornographic habits started as a misguided attempt at satisfying curiosity, which was rapidly sexualized and, though my parents tried to stop it, became a full-blown addiction. By the end of ninth grade, despite the fact that I was frequently viewing gay porn and finding myself attracted to other guys at school, I still did not accept the possibility that I was gay.
My homosexuality became harder to deny by the start of ninth grade, which was accompanied by the start of a masturbation habit. By the end of that year, my sexual fantasies became increasingly intense, often involving my male classmates, yet I still refused to admit, even to myself, that I experienced same-sex attractions. From this downward trajectory, my life took an upward turn when I attended the Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference (DCYC) that January. Saturday night of DCYC included adoration, accompanied by a live praise band, and it was a transformative experience. I finally felt the love of God and how he saw all my mistakes yet loves me despite them. I finally accepted how much I needed God’s love and aid, how it is Him whom we are truly longing for; as St. Augustine says in his Confessions “Our hearts are restless until it rests in Thee”. I felt a tremendous reassurance of God’s love, that whatever I had done, God still loved me and wanted me. While this transformed my faith from something I knew in my head and a series of rules I had to follow to avoid Hell into a loving response to the One who loved me first, it did not change the fact that I was addicted to these sexual habits, which are sinful regardless of sexual orientation. That summer I went with my parish to one of the Steubenville Mid-America conferences, and while I was convinced of my need to change, I still could not break my habits.
It was not until October of that year that I stumbled upon a set of recordings of Steubenville Conference workshop talks entitled “Love and Same Sex Attraction”. I rapidly watched a few sessions, including ones by Jason Evert, Joel Stepanek, and Fr. Mike Schmitz. Through seeing these videos, I came to realize that this “Same Sex Attraction” thing they were talking about described my experience, and that though it would require a difficult path, there was a road and home for me in the Church. Despite this comfort of finally understanding and accepting this as a part of my life, I still felt miserable. The guy I had considered my best friend ended our friendship shortly after I came out to him, and despite the comfort of knowing there was a vocational calling for me, I was left wishing I could have marriage, a family, kids, or even going on dates to look forward to.
That February I went to DCYC again, and in adoration I poured out this pain to our Lord, who is so kind that he did not simply come to save us but to experience the sufferings of humanity so we are never alone in our suffering, who finds every minute pain of his children worthy of his time and attention. For most of adoration I did not feel anything, until the celebrant started recessing with the Monstrance. The band started playing “How Great is Our God” by Chris Tomlin, and it struck me in an instant how great He must be to love us so much, not just that He would go through the pains of the passion, but that the God who created the universe and everything in it, the God whom all of time and space cannot contain, would be so humble to become incarnate in a little white disk of bread. This brought me to my knees, sobbing as I realized how truly great God is and how if he could do this for us, he certainly can make me happy with the life he gives me.
By strange coincidence, or Divine Providence, as our session ended, I realized I had feelings for one of my friends, who happened to be the girl on my left during adoration. This simultaneously boosted my hope and joy yet tore it to the ground. While it gave me hope of a family, it also made me sad as she was discerning becoming a nun and was two grades ahead of me. Though she has since discerned out of becoming a nun and turned me down when I asked her out, the thought still gives me hope that someday maybe God can and will fulfill my desire for a family.
I do not want to give anyone a false hope that by following Christ, their attractions will change. I still predominately experience attractions to the same sex, and I have no idea what God has in store for me. I do know this however: God has a plan for me, God loves me, and His plan will lead to my ultimate happiness. Whether or not you know someone who experiences same sex attraction, I must ask that, as the church asks, you be kind in your words and actions to those who do experience them, the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2358 says “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination must be discouraged”. While people are often too scared to speak up, gay jokes, referring to certain actions as “gay,” and saying things like “no homo” is really just hurtful, as it trivializes friendship and makes it clear that people with same sex attractions are excluded and unwelcome. We need friendship, love, and affection just as much as everyone else, and unfortunately we do not have the same opportunities for experiencing it that people attracted to the opposite sex do. Sadly, many of us have touch as one of our top love languages, but society has sexualized touch so much that it is nearly impossible for us to have these needs met outside of a homosexual romantic or sexual relationship. We need your friendship and acceptance to draw us closer to God and be drawn out of ourselves, and there are many things in turn that you will miss out on by avoiding our friendship. If you find yourself experiencing same sex attractions, know this: God has a plan for you, God loves you very much, and God’s plan is the only way you will truly find happiness.