I’ve been reading a lot about same-sex attraction these days. I’ve been bringing it to my prayer more and more. The fight has not been easy. Wounds occasionally re-open, especially when reading this blog. It’s reassuring to see however, glimpses of the change I am now pursuing and freely accepting as my vocation in some of my older entries. I’ve deleted some of them because they might be occasions for sin for others. What I’ve kept are earlier works which didn’t center too much on sexuality, and the works which I feel, are necessary to look back upon whenever I feel discouraged.
Speaking of reading my old entries, I believe this little online nook is bound to the trash bin one day. I’m planning to start a new journal—whether or not I share the link is still something I have to figure out—after reading about Henri Nouwen. I’ve been spending a lot of hours learning more about this famed Dutch Catholic priest who suffered depression during his vocation (and also struggled with same-sex attraction). I think it would be better to start a new site where I can freely share my thoughts, my sufferings, without people knowing who I am.
From some of the quotes and articles I’ve read, I see myself a lot in Nouwen, especially where I am now in my spiritual life. One quote of his which struck me the most is:
Every time you do something that comes from your needs for acceptance, affirmation, or affection, and every time you do something that makes these needs grow, you know that you are not with God. These needs will never be satisfied; they will only increase when you yield to them.
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love
This struggle for conversion has not been easy. I’m scared of a lot of things. I’m scared of having people know my cross, my wound. I’m scared of being rejected. Joseph Prever, a Catholic who also suffers from same-sex attraction said it best.
Not that everyone who finds out that I’m gay is like that. Overwhelmingly, the people I’ve told — mainly family and close friends — respond with compassion and even admiration. Usually it’s something like “I’m honored that you trust me enough to tell me this.” But even the most understanding people don’t always understand what I mean, if only because (unlike me) they haven’t had the last 14 years to figure it out, and because “I’m gay” is not a simple sentence.
He also writes:
I also don’t mean to trivialize the experience of having SSA. Sex isn’t everything, but as anyone with any kind of sexual dysfunction knows, it’s an awful lot. Put the sexual aspect together with the other things that homosexual men and women often experience — depression, low self-esteem, loneliness, a sense (however false) of being utterly different — and you have a heavy cross.
I’ve experienced healing in every area I mentioned above, but nobody’s healing is complete this side of heaven. Loneliness can be the worst part: not the absence of friends, I’ve got those, but the effort of forging out a way to live in a society that constantly tells us that romantic love is anyone’s only shot at real happiness, and that celibacy (not to mention virginity!) is some kind of psychological disease.
And there’s the question of friendship. I love men, and I always will. That’s not weird, that’s not strange, that’s not even gay. But it’s not as simple as “look, but don’t touch” — chastity is a question of the heart and soul and emotions, as well as the groin. What do you do if your best friend turns you on? How do you learn to love another man without making him into an idol?
I for one, relate to this. As much as I want to have meaningful friendships with men, I’m at that point where I cannot trust myself or my feelings. And so I’m at that stage in my conversion where I am trying to avoid “occasions” of sin and possible “moments” of falls from grace and devote my time in prayer. I’m also, like I mentioned above, very much afraid of rejection. I’m frightened if I open myself up to people, especially men, they will not be able to take the word “gay” out when they see me – a word I’ve already trashed as a label – and start walking on eggshells around me. Either that, or they start to drift away from me or acting differently. When I was younger, that happened all the time – male classmates becoming hesitant to be around me when they knew about me; male peers judging me, criticizing me, assuming the worst of me. These incidents do much to re-open the wounds of my childhood – the pain of bullying which altered my life.
Still, childhood experiences cannot define who I am. I am still alive. I can still change. With Mary and all the saints, I can follow Christ and through the grace of the Holy Spirit, incline myself to the will of the Father.
In many ways, this whole business of responding to Christ’s call for conversion has revealed to me more than my issues with sexuality, it’s my pride hampering my complete healing. On some days, I still feel out of place. There are days I wish my conversion would be like St. Paul’s–a sudden turnaround from all evil ways to an unhampered, courageous witness of faith. Instead, this new journey has been a gradual, often rocky, trail across dark valleys and scenic peaks highlighted by obstacles and opportunities, setbacks and leaps of faith, disgraces and victories. It’s easy to be dismayed by what seems like a an endless battle and at times, a lack of progress; easy to envy others who seem to find holiness so easily acquired or achieved as if they were born perfectly disposed to God’s grace while I, on the other hand, was born rebellious and vain and incompetent and struggling.
But as St. Therese of Liseux perfectly explained, “…every flower created by Him is beautiful, that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would no longer be enamelled with lovely hues. And so it is in the world of souls, our Lord’s living garden.”
Grace works on nature but does not take it away. Responding to that grace is my choice. How that grace transforms me depends on God. While He works in mysterious ways I take confidence in the certainty that indeed, He has a plan.
One thing I’m trying to do is accepting my wounds as they are, accepting the pain and offering it to God, even when I don’t feel anything, even when my interior life seems dry. Nouwen would often write for people to “own their pain”. He said:
The main question is “Do you own your pain?” As long as you do not own your pain—that is, integrate your pain into your way of being in the world—the danger exists that you will use the other to seek healing for yourself. When you speak to others about your pain without fully owning it, you expect something from them that they cannot give. As a result, you will feel frustrated, and those you wanted to help will feel confused, disappointed, or even further burdened.
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love
A beautiful article by Daniel Mattson also reflects this:
The good that flows from the homosexual inclination is not an exceptional “otherness,” as Elizabeth Scalia seems to suggest. No, the good is the redemptive healing work of God that begins when we honestly acknowledge that homosexuality is a wound… a deep wound within our persons which we joyfully choose to unite with the Suffering Christ, on behalf of those we love so dearly in the gay community. By his wounds we are healed, and by the acceptance and transformation of our wounds, through the love of Christ, the Holy Spirit will draw them home to their Heavenly Father.
Pray for me, that I can really fight, and that God will continue to guide me in this battle. There are still days when the old voice tells me conversion was the wrong choice. I need Mary’s maternal love and consolation more than ever. Pray to her for me.