I remember sitting there on the dirty concrete floor of my dad’s workshop. The cold and damp cement had caused those moldy old porno magazines my dad kept there to have a dusty feeling and a stale smell of mildew. I had stumbled upon that sinful stash; a tangible mark of my dad’s struggle that would, in time, become my own. I think I was probably about 4 or 5 years old and I knew shame in that moment.
From that early exposure to a reality of sin far beyond my tender age, I knew that something was wrong with what I had found and there was a reason it was hidden away. In the same way, I knew that what I saw in those specific magazines was not appealing to me, and that if this was something that should trigger in me a reaction of desire for women, it didn’t. Now, I know that pornography is not a true representation of human sexuality, but in that disordered presentation of sex I knew I was different.
From that early “sexualization” of my emotions and experiences at such a young age, I began to know that I desired to belong to the world of men. However, instead of sharing typical interests in “guy stuff” with other men, I was interested in flowers, cooking, vegetable gardening, crafts, and spending time with my mom and grandma. I found myself far outside the circle of other men and boys. When I was in school, I would stand self-consciously with the girls, looking on as the boys played sports. By twelve, my family had moved three or more times and I was depressed, knowing my life would be one of bearing this painful cross. I turned to prayer and dived deeper into faith. Eventually, I came to believe that I was being called to the priesthood. I told no one for the next seven years.
I continued to find solace in prayer, but also became more painfully aware of the shame that came from a habit of pornography, lust, and sexual impurity. That early and continued exposure to pornography morphed into my own source of “comfort” and one that haunted me in prayer and in life. By that time, I was accessing gay porn from my family’s computer and noticing more and more that I did not belong to the “world of men." Depression tightened its grip and I began to know suffering more intimately.
It wasn’t until I was a junior in high school that I had what I would consider my first friend. He was a popular, athletic, and Godly man. I was attracted and he was naïve enough to not notice. Over the next couple years it became more and more of a codependent relationship, the first of many. That codependency and my same-sex-attractions was a volatile combination that tainted friendships right up, and through, my eventual six years in seminary. I left formation in the midst of my worst depression and sought professional inpatient treatment.
It was there, in treatment, that I met a group of devout religious women who witnessed compassion, holy same-sex love, and faith. Healing and acceptance of my cross had finally begun in my late twenties. I became aware of how to allow the painful cross of same-sex-attraction to become the largest window of grace in my life. Allowing this grace to permeate my life sharpened my awareness of God’s desire to use my cross, and my feeble will, as an instrument of healing to others.
Here would be the perfect place to say, “I am free of this burden!” and yet I won’t. I am not. Now, in my thirties, I still struggle with those same sins from twenty years ago. I do so with humble hope, knowing that God is leading me and allowing me to bear this cross for His glory. I embrace the sacraments of the Church praying, not for purity itself, but for a deeper love of Christ, from which purity will flow. My time in seminary gifted me with many friends in the priesthood. My candidness with those holy priests allows them to better minister with awareness and sensitivity when they encounter same-sex-attraction in their flock or in the confessional. God is using my cross for His glory in His Church and, though broken and feeble, I am grateful to be entrusted with this instrument allowing love to flow to my brothers and
sisters who share this same burden.
"Casey" is a pseudonym. This story is anonymous for personal and professional reasons.