Another Reader Writes to Describe His Experience…

as a faithful Catholic wrestling with SSA:

At the end of your post “an-interesting-letter-from-a-gay-reader” you said you “would be particularly interested in hearing from gay readers who are attempting to live as a Catholic disciple of Jesus” so I thought I would share my perspective.

It is difficult for me to speak about because I fear the reactions from the “conservative Catholic inquisitors”, “the unchaste”, and others who promote homosexuality. I believe, though, that if more and more people like me, who experience homosexual attractions start speaking up we can spread more hope.  I’ll start with a brief account of my story so you know where I’m coming from.

I have experienced homosexual attractions since I remember having sexual feelings. Even before then I remember a longing that though, pre-sexual, was probably the same thing. It felt natural, like I was just made ‘this way’ and was always ‘this way’.  When I was 23, I reverted to the Church.  I began to love Her teachings and began learning everything I could about what She taught and how to live it. I was fully committed to Jesus through Holy Mother Church. But there was this problem of the homosexual desires that felt “natural” to me.  Why would God make me ‘this way’ if the behavior is wrong? I found the Courage Apostolate in my city and this pretty much saved my life.  I had loved Holy Mother Church but had been torn apart by not living Her teachings and the apparent contradiction that God would make me ‘this way’.  I found other men and woman at Courage who wanted to live chaste lives and be disciples of Christ who also experienced homosexual attractions.

After a few years of Courage meetings, I felt like there was something still not right.  I heard Christopher West say, “Christ did not come to give us coping mechanisms for our sins, but to redeem us.”  Well, if that is true, and the Church teaches that homosexual attractions are disorders, and if the Church’s meaning of disordered desires is the same as a disordered desire to eat too much, gossip, or any other manifestation of concupiscence, then maybe I wasn’t born/made ‘this way’.  After all, “male and female He created them”.

I did some research and found NARTH. Then I found other like-minded men who believed that homosexual attractions can be reduced and in some cases eliminated.  It has been 7 years since I started reparative therapy and other things to reduce and/or eliminate my homosexual attractions.  It has worked; better than I would have ever hoped for. It has literally saved my life.

Reparative therapy is not really about change, but about becoming what I already am. A man. As I approach human perfection, all manifestations of concupiscence will diminish, including my homosexual attractions.  I found that holding on to a ‘gay’, ‘homosexual’, ‘ssa’, or ‘gay Catholic and okay with it’ identity was incongruent with living a spiritual life.  Sure, I may still have homosexual attractions and my keep having them until the last second of Purgatory, but that doesn’t mean that I am ‘gay’.  I am a man, not a gay man, not an ssa man, not a straight man for that matter; I’m a man. Since baptism leaves an indelible mark on my soul then I am a Catholic man.

My homosexual attractions no longer plague me and are drastically reduced.  In fact, I only have them when I’m tempted to lust or am in fact lusting.  This is much, much different than before because now it feels like lust and before it felt natural.  Now when I feel homosexual attractions they feel ‘wrong’.  Not the moral kind of wrong but more like a hunger craving for junk food. Yeah, I could eat the junk food and feel full but not satisfied or nourished; that kind of wrong. I experience chaste heterosexual attractions and, though I never expected it, I now long to spend my life with a women and even doing what man and woman do to become mother and father together.  Sure, if I lust, it is for men. Should I make it a goal to lust after women? No.  I already experience chaste heterosexual desire for women (though even 3 years ago I thought it was impossible) so why don’t I just keep taking the lust to the foot of the cross and work on that? That is what I’m doing, and thanks be to God, it is working.

That is my brief story. These are my positions:

  • Homosexual attractions are mutable; they can be changed.
  • Homosexual attractions are just another manifestation of concupiscence and so at some point on the path to Christian perfection, even if that is in purgatory, they will disappear.
  • It is not necessary to seek to change homosexual attractions to live a rich, spiritual life. Seeking chastity, (avoiding sin and the near occasion of sin) is all that is required.
  • Some may have other virtues they want/need to grow in and, since they are living a chaste life, don’t have a need to make changing homosexual attractions a priority.
  • No reparative therapy can be shame based. Anyone who will be successful must first believe or come to believe that they are good and valuable just as they are, unchanged, before realizing any success in any reparative therapy.
  • ”Gay” and ”homosexual” are not nouns or adjectives to describe a person.

I’m writing this because I’ve read two articles on your blog lately from individuals who experience homosexual attractions and are living a sincere Christian life like I am and I have found that I don’t agree with them on some points. I can’t argue, as you said, against their experience and I don’t want to.

But this is my experience. Should I just shut up about it because it doesn’t agree with someone else’s experience?

I want to answer some of the points brought up by the man who wrote the email in the post I referenced above.

1. “Deemphasize the reliance on psychological models of same-sex attraction.”  I agree with the reader that “too many…conflate the theological and psychological meanings of the term ‘disorder’” and I agree that it causes many problems.  I don’t know that I agree to de-emphazie the psychological modesl though. Those models have saved my life. I’m guessing that we really aren’t talking about the same thing since we seem to share different experiences.  I know of many “outrageous therapeutic procedures”. I don’t recommend those. Some of them treat the homosexual attractions as the problem when they are really only a symptom. Other “therapies” seem to be shame based and shame never results in lasting change.  The most important work for anyone with homosexual attractions, if they aren’t there already, is to come to believe that they are good and valuable just as they are, unchanged.  And we can’t do that if we say, “God didn’t make you that way, you must change.”  I say, “you are good and valuable unchanged and I love you and accept you just as you are. I believe that you will find the path to ultimate fulfillment and happiness if you seek change in they way I have. Would you like to try? I accept you either way.”  I have experienced true freedom with reparative therapies and it would be a crime for me to not tell others and offer it to them.

2. “Allow for the use of the terms “gay” and “homosexual” used as a noun.”  No, I won’t do that.  From my perspective of the common culture, “gay” and “homosexual” means someone who, BY NATURE, experiences homosexual attractions. Those words connote a “gay” or “homosexual” identity.  I believe that homosexual attractions are a manifestation of concupiscence and therefore, not part of any identity.  If I call anyone, those who practice and promote homosexual behavior or those who experience homosexuality and practice chastity, a gay or a homosexual than I am confirming them in a FALSE identity and that is a violence against their person.

3. “Canonize a gay saint.” I hear you. I would love if if that happened with the emphasis that he or she is a saint just like any other saint. This difference is difficult to demonstrate because so many people extol saints of different races and social class, but none of us put race or social background on the same tier as alcoholism or serial un-chastity. The saint canonized and know for his homosexual attractions will still be known for leading a life of heroic virtue. The life of heroic virtue is hard and meritorious for anyone no matter the crosses they endure.

4. “Be able to offer a tangible alternative to the life offered by homosexual activists.” I’d like to hear more about your reader’s experience with this. This has not been my experience.  I have found a life that offers male intimacy, male companionship, and brotherhood that does not involve the genitals.  I have the possibility of a stable family with a wife.  So I was offered that alternative to the gay lifestyle and I have taken it.

5. “Never use the Theology of the Body as an apologetical tool for same-sex attractions unless you are also prepared to answer some of the grim, unsavory implications that flow from it.” I would like to hear more of your reader’s take on this.  I have found TOB to be very helpful to me and it offered me hope many years ago that has proved very fruitful.  Maybe I’m illogical, but I did not find TOB to only offer me “a beautiful vision of sexuality that [I am] too depraved to participate meaningfully in.”  I participate in it now by chastity and I hope to participate in it more through marriage in the future.  Maybe the difference is that I believe that homosexual attracts can (can, not must) be changed. I’m guessing that your reader doesn’t and that is why we have different “logical conclusions.” Heterosexual desire is not necessary for full inclusion into the spiritual life and neither is marriage.  It is possible though; it is what I have found God is leading me to.

6. Actively promote Courage as a social outlet.” I agree with the reader on this.

Mark, thank you for giving space on your blog for those posts and if you chose, this that I’m writing now.  I’ve felt like I need to speak about my experience for many years but I’m afraid to do it.  This is me getting my feet wet and may lead to more. Please do not call me gay, a gay reader, or a gay Catholic. A Catholic with homosexual attractions works just fine. A Catholic man is even better.

I’m grateful for the people who have written.  Part of what strikes me is the sheer multiplicity and variety of experiences.  I think it ‘s good to see.

  • kmk1916

    Thanks, person who wrote this, and God bless you! THe Lord does indeed love us, beyond compare.

  • Andrew

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! This was extremely enlightening…and refreshing to read.

    MARK – thank you for posting this!

  • Mary B.

    Beautifully written and incredibly inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

  • Michaelus

    ” I believe that homosexual attractions are a manifestation of concupiscence and therefore, not part of any identity. ” Amen brother.

    • Gregory Peterson

      I would think that everything is part of your individual identity… which would include living with or rejecting manifestations of concupiscence.

      • Catholic Man

        There is a sense of identity that means something like, “everything I chose to be and do.” I’m not using the term in that sense. I using “identity” to mean “the immutable parts of myself that I am at my core”. Homosexual attractions are not part of that identity in that second sense. Though I do recognize them as part of my identity in the first sense.

  • Churro Pope

    Sounds like this brother was swimming in money, lots and lots of money, and time, to be able to afford all those years of reparative therapy. I hear the going rates are pretty high. As a gay (adj.) Catholic man working in civil service I can barely afford to pay attention. I’d have to more than double my pay in order to afford something like that.

    One other thing, concupiscence doesn’t diminish until we die. The last part of Romans 7 proves that conclusively.

    • Catholic Man

      As a matter of fact I’m not now nor ever was swimming in money. There was quite a bit of expense though; you’re right. I didn’t see a therapist very much and found ways to accomplish this for less money. I have only spent about $1500/year. That is about what the average American spends on cable every year, I think, or close to it. I did have to go in debt a bit but it is still worth it. The damage that would have been done in my life had I not done it would have been far worse than the damage that has been done to my credit. I would have paid 3x the amount and not considered it a mistake.

  • Rosemarie

    +J.M.J+

    After the recent demise of Exodus International, I read testimonials written by people who were damaged by reparative therapy as adolescents. I also read about people who formerly claimed to have been “cured” of homosexuality but now say it didn’t work and have embraced the idea that “God made me this way and it’s okay.” This caused me to doubt whether reparative therapy even works at all. In light of what this man says, however, maybe some success is possible for mature individuals who have a strong motivation to modify their behavior and realistic expectations of what can – and what won’t – change.

    I think part of the reason why Evangelical ex-gay methods failed in the past was unrealistic expectations. They think that prayer, therapy or whatever method they use will ultimately render them indistinguishable from people who have been heterosexual their entire lives. Therefore, they assume that, once the transformation is complete, they will no longer experience the slightest attraction to the same sex. Of course, one is never totally free from temptation during life, so the expectation of eventual freedom from all homosexual temptation is not realistic.

    I can see how this could lead to confusion, and ultimately frustration, on the part of someone who thinks they’re “cured” and will never have those feelings again. The man who wrote to Mark seems to have a more realistic view: the feelings have been reduced, they still pop up at times but that just means I have to resist them. Maybe if more “ex-gays” had that view they would not have given up.

    • Catholic Man

      Many people have been damaged by so-called reparative therapy; especially as adolescents. The biggest problem with reparative therapy is when it is shame based. Any therapy is shame based if a parent is making the child go. Whether it is from the family or from the faith community if the person has a belief that the reparative therapy is going to be the thing that gets them “accepted” and makes them “acceptable” to others then it will ultimately fail no matter how good the therapy is.

      Everyone must first believe that they are good and valuable just as they are, unchanged, before any real work can begin.

      That is my guess as to the primary reason Evangelical ex-gay methods fail. The rhetoric behind them is that they will be an “abomination” and unacceptable to God as long as they have these attractions. Secondarily are the unrealistic expectations that you cited. Those are a real problem as well.

  • Stu

    I applaud the author; a “Catholic man”.

    You are in my prayers,sir, and have my respect. (And please keep me in your prayers.)

  • Grateful Revert

    In the midst of our genital obsessed culture, it is heartening beyond words to hear from another person who doesn’t believe our sexuality is our identity.

  • Josh

    May God bless you for your courage in sharing your story. I’ll say an Ave Maria for you and your intentions.

  • Mastermind

    I became athiest/agnostic for this very reason, because I hate gay-straight dichotomies.We are all “bi-sexual” in a way. We are all born with both male and female gonads. We all develop masculine and feminine qualities over time due to hormones and other factors. Our “biology” can indeed be changed or mastered and our “temptations” put to the periphery. I hate the gay obsession with Catholic/Christian bloggers right now. Why can’t they focus on something, like say, the sufferings that people born intersex have to go through? Why must we always yield to the “world” and its stupid whims? Accepting Hiedegger, why can’t we value other authentic lifestyles, especially the “ex-gay” one? We use it to justify something as horrible as Euthanasia. Why can’t we use Hiedegger to justify the ex-gay phenomenon? Is being “gay” somehow more authentic than being “ex-gay”? I fear such thoughts are too complex for most people, however, who prefer either-or dichotomies.

    • M.M.

      Moreover, even bisexual, pansexual and non-sexual theorists disagree with the gay-straight dichotomy. It actually has a name. It is called “biphobia.” And both “gays” and “straight” people can be accused of this crime, this mortal sin. Being biphobic produces more harm in the person confused about his or her sexual identity then does homophobia! Wake up people. See the reality for what it really is — a plethora of realities and not just one simple-minded one.

      • Catholic Man

        I see the reality of the world I live in now with all it’s limited knowledge and perceptions. Some of that knowledge corresponds with “actual reality” as do some of my perceptions. Many of my beliefs and perceptions do not correspond to “real reality” though. There is only one truth and one reality. But the world I live in is “real” to me. It is my “reality” even though I know that some parts of it are false. I just don’t know which ones quite yet.

        I’m not sure I completely got your point, but I have seen this false dichotomy cause a lot of harm. Many men who would never have developed a homosexual identity do so now because they have what would have been a fleeting attraction in adolescence become a “thing” to mean that they are “gay”. Similarly, men who never experienced a homosexual attraction fear having any non-sexual intimate and loving relationships with other men because it would mean they are “gay”. This results in a lot of very lonely men.

        I believe everyone needs intimate, loving, and strong relationships with those of their same gender but if it involves the genitals then you’re doing it wrong.

    • enness

      “We are all born with both male and female gonads.”

      Sorry, I’m going to need a *lot* more proof of that. I really question the idea that I had testes (or something indistinct) as a newborn.

    • Catholic Man

      I appreciate your rejection of false dichotomies. I often feel very persecuted because of my choice to pursue change.

  • Gary Keith Chesterton

    God bless this brave man.

  • Maria

    I agree with this man’s letter, I think it fits with church teachings and scripture and sends a message of hope. I think the obsession in our culture with sexual “identity” (as if that were a thing) is destructive and infantile. I know churchgoing Catholics who seem to think it is a little fun or racy to not-so-secretly hint that they sometimes experience ssa as well as hetero feelings…it should not be trendy. It shouldn’t be shamed either. Just accepted as part of a fallen world. Jesus gives us new life.

  • http://brianniemeier.com/ Brian Niemeier

    Your great faith and courage humbles me, sir.

  • Andy, Bad Person

    Thank you for sharing your story. I don’t know what the right answers to these issues are, and since I have no experience with the attraction, it’s better that I don’t. But I am very happy that this conversation is starting to happen and that more people in your situation can find solidarity in their experiences.

  • Gregory Peterson

    Interesting, and I like interesting…though I can’t say that I agree with much of it.

    “Gay” is many things. Social constructs. A declaration of a certain sort of personal integrity. A worldwide, evermore interconnected, egalitarian-ish movement. A worldwide, evermore interconnected, egalitarian-ish community….majority Asian. Personal identity. Shorthand for a sexual orientation. An adolescent’s insult.

    Gay offers the possibility of a stable relationship with a spouse, the possibility of of you and your spouse raising a family together, comfortably growing old together. Minority stress takes its toll, and life in the 21st Century probably makes forming stable relationships more difficult for more than just for GLBT people (as if other ages didn’t have their own impediments for that)… but the possibility is nevertheless real. has been done, is being done.

    You seem to be denying that a Gay man can be “a man.” Pretty shabby, if I’m reading that correctly. Gay comes in cisgendered and transgendered… Male, Female, Transgendered Male, Transgendered Female, Third Gender/Third Sex in some cultures. If someone says he’s a man…why argue? They know who they are, and it’s fine by me.

    People can come in “bisexual” mode, and I think that one can nudge one’s sexuality on the sexual continuum towards the heterosexual side…but nudging can usually go only so far, and many remain on the Gay side of the continuum. Why should they deny themselves the loving touch of a soul mate? I see no reason as to why they shouldn’t. Love makes “objectively disordered” an obvious insult.

    To me, concupiscence makes life a little more interesting, more sensual…and people more attractive…lol. It means that we’re a social species, that we long for one another, need one another. Enjoy it responsibly.

  • Thomas Boynton Tucker

    This letter corresponds with the experience of others who have noted significant decrease in same sex attraction after realizing what the source of those feelings were in their background and history. As Catholics, we start with the ideal that God made them male and female, and made them for each other. We see this readily in nature, but we also live now in a broken world, and so nature and lives do not always correspond to the ideal. When people understand the reasons for their “broken-ness”, in whatever realm it may be (same-sex attraction, adulterous desire,drug addiction, depression), they are better able to heal. There are reasons for these things; there are causes. Maybe we don’t even reach the fullness of health, and have to live with some degree of broken-ness. But we still long for healing, and I think it is a good thing to recognize the difference between health and unhealth, rather than to pretend that what is not healthy is healthy.

    • Gregory Peterson

      It is defamation to compare Gay people with adultery, drug addiction etc. and call them all “broken.” You can safely operate heavy machinery while under the influence of Gay.

      Gay isn’t a pathology that needs healing. It’s a community with members who have to deal with a lot of unjustly created minority stress. It’s minority stress that’s unhealthy for Gay people…and for other minority communities which experience similar stresses..

      • Thomas Boynton Tucker

        We will disagree about it being a pathology. I understand that you don’t see it as part of the brokenness of the world. I do. It has nothing to do with operating heavy equipment. And don’t be so fearful of accepting the label of broken. We are all broken in various ways. Better to own up to it, call it what it is, strive to understand why, and heal whatever brokenness you have, whether it be sexual or physical or emotional, with the grace of God.

        • Gregory Peterson

          Demanding that Gay people acknowledge that they are broken because they are Gay is not the same thing as acknowledging your own brokenness.

          Demanding that Gay people acknowledge that they are broken because they are Gay is unethically coercive and creates dangerous minority stress.

          • Thomas Boynton Tucker

            No one here has demanded anything.

            • Gregory Peterson

              That is not how I read your initial post. I’m glad that I misread intent.

            • Kay Glines

              Unfortunately, the gay movement buys into the notion of a “thought crime.” It’s not that people of faith are actually committing any overt act against them, but they are so insecure about this degenerate existence of theirs that they cannot bear to think that someone out there might think ill of them, so it’s as if they want to silence all dissent, take away Christians’ constitutional right to free speech. Not to fully approve of their promiscuity is construed as “hate.” The comments they post all over the web show severe mental and emotional issues, these are not posted by people who are at ease in their own skins, there is like an obsession with shouting to the world “I’m just as good as you are!” and we all know that only an insecure, emotionally needy person behaves in this childish fashion. We were discussing this the other night in our women’s group and one of the women made an interesting suggestion: Is their obsession with “marriage” a matter of wanting to set up household with someone like themselves, to share this bitter and poisonous view of the world, so they’ll never have any chance to mull over the emptiness of their lives and make a clean break from it? Who knows what horrible childhood events lead to such twisting of a person’s soul, like someone who has been raised in a cage and cannot cope with the world in an adult way?

              • Gregory Peterson

                Your post reminds me of Bayard Rustin’s observation.

                “Racism isn’t just about black and white.”

                …silence all dissent, take away Christians’ constitutional right to free speech… degenerate existence… promiscuity… severe mental and emotional issues… behaves in this childish fashion… “marriage”… bitter and poisonous view of the world… emptiness of their lives… cannot cope with the world in an adult way…

                You sound much like a 1950-60s segregationist talking about the NAACP, Black civil rights activists and the “unnatural sin of miscegenation.”

  • nick

    Thank you Mark for being an honest striving Christian and being unafraid of sharing that experience on this very personal question. In the present politically charged atmosphere this has become part of the Culture War. As someone has aptly stated “the first casualty of war is the truth”. The last thing people need here is to be made cannon fodder in this particular skirmish.

    I have known quite a few folks who have been GLBT. These people have been have been troubled, seemingly more than most. For Christians who are struggling with this I would suggest reading Chapter 4 of a book called Sheep In Wolves Clothing by Valerie J. McIntyre. This is a clear and insightful understanding of authors process of healing a deep wound struck by her mother when she was quite young ,due to her mother’s own deep wounded-ness. She sulked and swore everlasting hatred for her mother. After experiencing this she tended more towards her father as well as rejecting her femininity. Although she didn’t have SSA she was having difficulty with growing up as a woman. She also had “transference” issues with women in authority. Until she acknowledged the hate she had sworn for her mother when she was a child she didn’t experience healing. This hatred was sinful but not acknowledged when she was an adult. Only when she was able to fully recall this and fully forgive her mother was she free to truly become a fulfilled woman and mother.

    Unless you read the unfolding of this story its difficult to understand, and what I’ve said here doesn’t do it justice. You may say that this is just one persons story. But I would caution anyone dismissing this for two reasons. The first is the universal presence of sin, in this case hatred and pride-fulness. Even though it was as a child, Valerie secretly carried this over into adulthood when she did not admit and take responsibility for it. Second is the current awful state of parenting and the family for probably 50 years now. Children are being hurt and often very deeply. Every kid knows intuitively or have been told by their parents that mom
    and dad love them and have a sacred responsibility to nurture them into
    adulthood. Depending on the personality and makeup of the child they will be experience real difficulty when it comes to becoming men or women if mom and dad were perceived as behaving horribly to them.

    This is a big topic, but unless Christian love and forgiveness is brought into the discussion, as Mark has so courageously done, we won’t be making much progress towards happiness or holiness.

    Nick


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X