Hello! A while ago you invited those with Same Sex Attractions to share their thoughts and experiences with you. I have been thinking about writing to you for some time now, and, if you’ve received this message, apparently I have succeeded!
I am a woman who experiences strong attractions to the same sex, and who strives to live a chaste life following the teachings of The Church. For years, I was angry that The Church said that I could not be a good Catholic and have a romantic relationship with a woman and I followed only out of obedience while still maintaining relationships in my fantasy life. I put myself in situations where I might fall and it wouldn’t be my fault, and entered into co-dependent friendships where I could make the other my whole world even if it wasn’t sexual. I lived a life filled with a lot of pain, a lot of self hatred, and a lot of secrecy. I still struggle with those things, but not nearly as much Praise God. I have been on a journey of healing for a while now. Here is part of my story.
I began to become involved with the Courage ministry, and shared my experiences and desires with other female Courage members online. I shared how I was on the fence about wanting a relationship, but knowing that I shouldn’t do it. While online is nowhere near enough, it is what I had, and they gave it to me straight (no pun intended.) They told me of the co-dependency and pain in their same-sex relationships. They shared their stories of leaving lovers to go back to the Eucharist, and how much pain it was to be cut off from that incredibly intimate relationship with Him that we are able to have. This began to open my eyes.
I then saw a counselor who shared with me information on the nature of intimacy verses autonomy, and that two people of opposite sexes who become sexual can understand where one ends and the other begins, because they are different. Two people of the same sex often get lost in each other and lose their identity. I know this can happen with opposite sexes too, but I began to notice how I felt about the women I was interested in and how I put them on pedestals and lost some of myself the more I focused on them. She also taught me about annihilation anxiety. This is paraphrased from old memory: “That feeling of panic you get when your friend leaves,” she said, “is not about your friend. It is called annihilation anxiety. Little children get this when their moms withdraw because they feel like they will cease to exist. And it is true, if a baby’s mom doesn’t care about her she may die. But you won’t die if your friend leaves, you just feel like you will because you never gained that security in your mother. This isn’t about your friend, it is about your childhood.” I also began to explore my feelings that my mom wasn’t enough and I still needed a woman’s touch, and my fear of my father who has several issues which had strong consequences for the joy and security of this little girl.
I did as much research as I could after that on attachment theory (wonderful by the way), and the psychological causes of same sex attraction. I know some people believe that people are born with it. I know my psychological history enough to know that I wasn’t but that doesn’t change the fact that I feel it very strongly, and it is much worse when my prayer life isn’t intact. This understanding was further confirmed at a Courage Conference where Janelle Hallman (the author of The Heart of Female Same Sex Attraction) spoke. (Again, what I am about to say is paraphrased from memory. Please do not hold Janelle to what I will tell you but go read her book or listen to her talks) She spoke about how femininity and security is developed and nurtured in a girl and then spoke about what happens when this breaks down. I was amazed. As she began to talk about moms not bonding with their girls in a certain way, dad’s not coming into the girls life and affirming her for who she is, being excluded when it comes to peers, and a whole lot of other things I don’t remember, I began to get tears in my eyes because she was telling my life’s story. I looked around to see a room of wet eyes. She was telling the life story of all of us.
This doesn’t mean that all women who experience these things will develop Same Sex Attraction or that all of us have the same experience. We all have different personalities and experiences vary. It does mean that my longing for a woman makes sense from broken peer relationships to an ever present continuing need to be mothered all mixed with my sexuality as I have grown… it simply all makes sense.
This knowledge was enough for me for a long time, but knowledge alone is not enough. I need healing, and I need community. At Courage Conferences I was able to feel like myself, I could be known and accepted in my Catholicism and love for Jesus and The Church, and I could be known and accepted in my Same Sex Attraction. But that was only once a year, and most years I cannot afford to go. There is no Courage group where I live. As far as healing goes I have been seeking healing for years for all the effects of my broken, dysfunctional, scary, and lonely childhood and for the effects of the addictions that I turned to for comfort and for freedom from these addictions. There are people who have known me to be defensive and needy in the past who would be surprised at the change. But some problems still remain.
I still struggle with self-hatred. The lusts of men and their actions on behalf of it play a huge part in my Same Sex Attraction. But when I am tempted to lust, lust, or am even only attracted to a woman I feel like one of the scary people, and I am having a hard time simply accepting myself and being proud of the lengths I have gone to for a pure mind and an absence of co-dependency in my life even if the struggle continues. When I take time to pray and partake of the sacraments, this gets so much better, yet I still run from God and then return. I still need help here. I know Catholics who are attracted to the same sex who don’t struggle with this as much as I do. I know there is hope. One priest said that I should look at how this struggle makes me a better person, at the gift that it is (without sinning of course). I am still struggling with what that might mean.
I am still afraid to get close to people. Being left out as a teen and pre-teen has a lot to do with my Same Sex Attraction. Not being as close with girls as I wanted to in childhood I still just want my BFF that I see all the time, but it gets mixed up with my sexuality now. Part of the healing is to let myself have friends, true friends. But if I tell them about the Same Sex Attraction, I may not let myself be their friend for fear of how they would interpret my friendliness, or they may withdraw as has happened many times before. Two friends who were close as sisters to me just withdrew as soon as they found out and my heart broke; this isn’t something I wish to repeat. True friendship, with all the heart to hearts and the platonic physical affection too is harder when people know about this struggle unless they make it clear they just don’t care. Praise God for these people! But if I don’t tell them I feel like we can never get too close because I am not being myself, and who knows what would happen if they found out. Obviously, one doesn’t have to tell everyone everything, and I am much more than a woman with SSA, but these fears still consume me. I still need help here.
My mother-longing is still here. I need spiritual healing, psychological healing, and to become close with Jesus’ mom. I have done a lot of work on this.. I need to keep working and not give up. An older mentor would help here. I am also still afraid of men and have decided that I will try to let myself become friends with good men in hopes that this will slowly change; I love spending time with married couples where I can be a friend to the man in a safe environment with his wife. I also struggle with hope. I was not meant to be alone in the world, that is not who I am. But because of the Same Sex Attraction it doesn’t seem as if the convent or marriage are an option. I know in my head that isn’t true. A man is a person, and if I get to know him as a person I can probably happily marry him. I know many others who have done the same thing. One man told me that if he were tempted to lust it would be for other men, but lust isn’t part of his life anymore and he’s very much in love with his wife. Also, women with SSA have gone into convents and focused on Jesus, not on the other women there. So my fears are simply fears. But I still struggle with them nonetheless.
I know I need to use these continuing struggles as my catalyst for relying on Jesus in everything and I know I have work to do. I share my weaknesses because others may relate. I wish, for their sake I could share more of my life experience but being in a position where church people may not trust you for one reason, and secular people may not trust you for the opposite reason, means that anonymity is best for now. I wish it weren’t so.
Though I need to continue to do my work, there is work the community can do to help people like me as well. The community can support Courage or something like Courage. They aren’t allowed in every diocese, and every priest does not support them. No, they are not a “we hate gays so let’s all change them” organization. What they are is a place to work on chastity in a place where you can feel like you belong.
I have a couple female friends who have shared in the context of flippant casual remarks how uncomfortable they are with gays. They both want to be really good friends with me, and probably won’t ever understand why my friendship with them will only go so far. You never know who is listening when you make those comments, how much they are struggling to follow Christ’s teaching, or how much they want to be part of a group. The community can show some sensitivity here; that would really help. It would also help if people started being a little more open about and focused on the love and Mercy of God knowing that we’ve all sinned. Churches are still a place where often people think they need to fit into a mold to belong. The moral teachings still matter, but Christ is the center of our faith, and look who he hung out with and reached out to and gave second chances to. We need to be like that. No wonder so many of my friends who experience Same Sex Attraction leave The Church. They want to feel included. Please, help us to feel included in The Church now. People of The Church, please be what we are called to be. If someone hired me to do this outreach I’d do it in a minute, so passionate am I about the fact that it needs to happen.
This is all I have to say for now. Thank you for extending this opportunity Mark, and I am happy to answer any questions. God bless you and thank you for all you do.