Supporting Fellow Catholics with Same-Sex Attraction



By Mariel Chee

What is it like to be a Catholic who experiences Same-Sex Attraction (SSA)? My interest in this hidden community within our church led me to embark on an artistic project in my final year of university. As part of the research process, I had the privilege of interviewing 15 female Catholics with SSA in Singapore. Some of them shared their struggles to reconcile their sexuality with their faith, while others did not perceive a conflict between the two. Few chose the path of chastity.

From our conversations, it occurred to me that well-intentioned though our actions may be, they can sometimes unwittingly push our fellow brothers and sisters away. Several women left the church because they felt ostracised by community members. Instead of compassion, they were greeted with “thou shalt nots” or “the bible says this” or some other language that created hostility. Church members did not seem to understand that the condition of same-sex attraction is not a sin; what the church does not condone are homosexual acts.

How do we as a church create a welcoming, loving home for all? I have gathered some pastoral notes based on my conversations with these women, and have observed that everyone grapples with these issues differently. I hope that highlighting these stories, it will nurture sensitivity and engender a more concerted response of love. I hope it will also bring about a shift in our approach when journeying with those with SSA who strive for chastity.

The first thing to know is that if someone chooses to share with you his/her struggle with SSA, it is a big step for him/her. It takes boatloads of courage to open up. They are probably thinking, “If I share this with you, will you judge me? Will you treat me differently?” Thus, how you respond to them will impact how they perceive God and the church for a long time.

Hold Space for Vulnerability
Words matter. How we hold spaces for others through our words, matter, especially when they have taken massive courage to be vulnerable with us. The “Clueless Evaders” amongst us would smile and politely say, “Thank you for sharing. Who’s next?” Or if we are unsure how to handle their sharing, shrug it off dismissively, “Well, it’s just another struggle. Everyone feels the same way.” Even if said out of goodwill or a general helplessness in the moment, they may take it as a sign that it is not a safe space to be vulnerable, and will possibly shut themselves out of your community and the church for a while.

The bottom line is to honour the person who has shared his/her struggles. It is perfectly fine to thank him/her, but not to abruptly move on as if you are checking off a task list. What you could say instead is, “Thank you for sharing with me. I know how difficult it must have been to decide to share; it was very brave of you.” After acknowledging their courage, offer some words that assure the other that he/she is loved beyond this. While there is no one “right” thing to say, some words create distance, while others, a space of intimacy and authenticity.

Love Persons as Persons, not Projects
Loving somebody does not mean compulsively seeking to fix them. Enter the next group of community members: “The Fixer Uppers”. When someone shares with you their struggle with SSA, you try to offer a slew of advice. This may be necessary at some point, but a relationship built on love has first to be established. They need to know that they are loved unconditionally, that you are there foremost as a friend, not an advice dispenser. The “Fixer Upper” approach affirms the feeling that one is broken, worthless, a mistake. Avoid taking the moral high-ground, even if in earnest. You are a friend, not their messiah. Imposing truths before relationship only pushes them away. But when they are ready, make sure that you have been educated on our Catholic teachings.

Another common group is what I call the “Praying Mantis”, whose mantra is “Come, let’s pray.” What our friends with SSA need is not for someone to “pray their gay away”. One of our interviewees, Danielle*, shared, “I don’t need you to pray for me now. I just want you to listen. I don’t need you to think that my soul needs saving. I just want a friend.” It is wonderful to pray together, but again, is the person ready? What are their needs at this moment? “We want to be treated as people, not projects, and certainly not problems to be solved.” said Danielle.

Parents, Don’t Put Your Child Back Into the Closet
Parents, when your kids come out to you, do not tell them that it’s “just a phase”. Teenagers will feel hurt if you belittle their struggle, and may instead try to prove you wrong. Even if that is true later, it is not for you to judge now. And do not put your kid back into the closet by shutting him/her off or refusing to listen. One of our interviewees recounted her mother telling her, “How can you be like this if you’re going for Mass and serving in church?” One parent even went to the extreme of sprinkling holy water on her child so she will be “cured”. Guilt-tripping a child, threatening him/her, or dismissing him/her will do a lot of harm to the young person trying to understand his/her sexuality in relation to his/her faith. Some of our interviewees shared that they felt like they were a disappointment to their parents.

Loving someone means wanting the best for them. Instead of making them feel even worse or diminishing their self-worth, parents should direct them first to God. It is hardest for a person to come out to anyone, especially those who are closest to them – their family. Let them know that they are loved no matter what. Then, they will be more open to sharing with and listening to you.

Let Them Fall in Love with God
We still have a long way to go as a church in learning how to receive our brothers and sisters with SSA with love. We should be heartened to know that there are those who have decisively chosen to live out chastity in their lives. Most do so because someone in the church, either a cell group leader, a fellow community member, or a priest during the Sacrament of Reconciliation, has shown them the face of Christ. “[My leader] saw past my struggles and loved me as a child of God,” said Leah. “She embraced me in my humanity in a non-disparaging way. She led me to God.” Another interviewee, Hannah, also said, “[My community members] recognised my struggle, honoured it, and gave me space to fall in love with Jesus. It’s not theology but a deep encounter I had of God which made me realise that this higher love is worth sacrificing all else for.”

Chastity is for All
People who experience SSA are just like you and me. Their SSA, however, means that they also experience intense loneliness, fear of being judged and ostracised, and struggle to remain chaste. Chastity is for every single baptised Catholic whether we have SSA or OSA (opposite-sex attraction). We are all sinners called to a Greater Love. There is no need to dramatise or downplay anyone with SSA, but let us honour their dignities as children of God, persons worthy of love.

Mariel is a final year student in a local university. She interviewed 15 Catholic ladies with SSA for her final year project, and in this article shares some insights derived from her study.

*Names have been changed for confidentiality

Gay or SSA?

There is a difference between being gay and having SSA.

Same-sex attraction (SSA) is the correct term to describe a situation when a guy or girl is attracted to someone of the same sex. Just like opposite-sex attraction (OSA), having SSA in itself is not a sin. It is not an inclination chosen but one that arose through the interplay of complex factors, including psycho-familial-social ones. However, the Church teaches us that if we act on our SSA or OSA in a lustful way (e.g. through sexual activities, masturbation or pornography) then these acts are sins.

The term “gay”/”lesbian” is usually used to describe not just having SSA, but being open to acting upon it (e.g. having sexual relationships with people of the same sex, watching gay pornography, dwelling on gay sexual fantasies). It’s also used as a way to define or label people (e.g. “I am gay”) but the Church believes that our identity is much more than just who we are attracted to!

Now that we understand the difference between the two words, it is important to use them correctly. They are not interchangeable. If one is struggling to live the virtue of chastity, it is proper to say “I am a person with SSA”, but incorrect to say “I am gay”. If one freely chooses to engage in gay acts, it may then be correct to say that “I participate in gay activities” or “I am in a gay relationship”.

The Church applies the same standards to SSA and OSA. Regardless of whether someone has SSA or OSA, it is never okay to be unchaste with the person you are attracted to. Even married couples are called to live conjugal chastity – this does not mean having a non-sexual relationship, but living chastely in a way that is appropriate to the husband-wife relationship. Chastity increases love in the long run.

If you have questions, please write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
ACF will be organising a symposium on Understanding Same Sex Attraction: Providing Friendship, Parental or Pastoral Guidance on 30th September 2017, 9am-1pm, at St Peter’s Auditorium in CAEC 2 Highland Road. To register, please go to www.catholicfamily.org.sg/ssas.
For individuals, parents or spouse, if you need to speak to someone about SSA, you may call Family Life Society at 64880278.

Learning to be the man that God created me to be



By Zach Lim


I am married and experience same sex attraction (SSA). Yes, my wife knows about my attractions. No, I don’t have a secret boyfriend behind my wife’s back. And yes, it’s a heterosexual marriage. While marriage isn’t the cure or redemption to SSA, I could only give of myself entirely in marriage after a long process of redemption, conversion and surrendering my areas of woundedness and darkness to God. Post-wedding bells, the attraction to other men continue to lurk and to haunt, and threaten to distort my marriage. So, the daily turning-towards-Jesus continues as I learn to be the man God had created me to be and to stand up for my wife, whom God has blessed me with.

To witness my bride walking down the aisle, with our family and friends cheering us on… this was nothing short of a miracle! Just 5 years before my wedding, I was hungry for sexual intimacy with other men and hating God (and myself) for having such desires. At that time, God seemed so cruel – condemning me to a lifetime of loneliness with no one to love me for who I am. I had no one to talk to, my desperation swelled as more friends started getting attached and married. I started envisioning a life as a lone ranger (or the ever available godfather). There were times when I wanted to throw myself off the roof and choose to end my life.

The turning point? My college chaplain introduced me to the Theology of the Body (a series of Wednesday audiences from St John Paul the Great). Through a prayerful reflection of TOB, I learnt that the devil does not have his own clay and seeks to distort all that is good, true and beautiful. So, rather than repressing this lust I experienced for other men (which almost invariably bounces back violently), it became a question of unwinding the distortions in my sexuality and my desire for intimacy. I had longed for communion and validation, and had sought these through desiring physicality with gorgeous men.

My journey of unwinding these distortions was one of seeking God to heal my poor self-esteem, forgiving those who could not love me the way I needed to be loved and building up my masculinity through the lens of Christ (and not the world’s).

Self-esteem and masculinity
I realised a similarity between all the men who attracted me. In part, my preferences were ‘educated’ by the pornography that I had watched. More significantly, all of them possessed a certain physical or character trait that I wanted or perceived to be lacking in myself. A good body, charismatic charm, soft blond hair, blue eyes, chiseled abs, etc.

Knowing this, I became aware of my crippling sense of inadequacy and how my erotic attractions were driven by comparison and male jealousy. I had also benchmarked my own masculinity with the men portrayed in movies and magazines. Ultimately, it was the Truth that set me free. The truth that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139), that I am not an accident and I am God’s masterpiece. To belittle myself would be to belittle my creator who has made me. Recognising the truth of my belovedness in God’s eyes, I eventually modeled my masculinity after Jesus.

Forgiveness
While my parents did everything within their knowledge to provide for my needs, I grew up in an environment where my parents were fighting regularly and where affection was seldom shown. I was fearful of marriage, thinking that it would only lead to heartache and bitter quarrelling. I could never connect with my father – it always felt like he loved my other siblings better, or that I couldn’t be the man he wants me to be. I couldn’t learn what masculinity means from my dad, and naturally couldn’t turn to him in the midst of my SSA struggles. This time round, it was forgiveness that set me free.

To recognise that my parents are not perfect and loved me the way they knew how, and to intercede for them and their marriage. I was set free from the lies I had believed about marriage and gradually healed from my emotional wounds and painful memories.

Today, the married me continues to struggle with my broken self-esteem and to live in the truth of my identity and sexuality. To accept the lie of following my sexual impulses and entertain my attraction for other men would mean stomping on my wedding vows to my wife. Yet there are days where I am battered by work and I find my eyes lingering on that dude with the smart navy suit. Sometimes, my mind wonders and wanders into what lies under the suit. Regardless of how far I fall into the rabbit hole, or whether I act upon these temptations, my safeguard is to always be completely vulnerable with my wife and come clean with my distortions each time they come up. While it is tempting to seem strong and not confess my sexual weaknesses, both my marriage and I have benefited from mustering the courage to do otherwise.

Indeed God’s glory is made manifest in my weaknesses. One of the greatest driving force in my marriage is our couple mission to reveal the Trinitarian love and to inspire authentic relationships and families. Together, we tell the stories of how the Divine Physician has healed us from our shame and our wounds. Through our marriage, we welcome couples into our lives and home and share with them our journey, joys and struggles of living a Catholic family. We desire that all of God’s children will be set free from the lies and distortions about their sexuality and bodies and that families would live out the love of the Trinity. Join us in praying for and working towards a world where all recognise the beauty of authentic love!

*Names have been changed for confidentiality

Amoris Laetitia

The Church makes her own the attitude of the Lord Jesus, who offers his boundless love to each person
without exception. During the Synod, we discussed the situation of families whose members include persons who experience same-sex attraction, a situation not easy either for parents or for children.
We would like before all else to rea
ffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence. 
Such families should be given respectful pastoral guidance, so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives. - Amoris Laetitia, 250

An excerpt from Amoris laetitia (Latin: The Joy of Love)
a post-synodal apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis
released in April 2016.

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