Tag Archives: Sexual Identity

Father to Son

Father to Son

This letter was written by an anonymous father of a teenager struggling with sexual identity issues.  The letter was written without the intention of giving it to the boy, but perhaps just because the situation provided a reason to get these thoughts out.

Son,

We need to have a heart to heart talk.  The most important thing I need to tell you is that I love you.  Very, very much.  There is absolutely nothing that could ever make me stop loving you.  I am your dad and you are my son; forever.

In the world of psychology, they say a person is formed by nature and nurture.  Nature, naturally, refers to that with which we were born.  Our genetic makeup, predispositions and internal programing.  Nurture refers to our environment.  The external factors.  Our experiences; parents and family; environment; where we’ve lived and when we lived there.  To what degree nature and nurture affect us is an ongoing discussion.  Some psychologists believe nature is a stronger factor than nurture.  Others say the opposite.  I used to think it was stronger on the nurture side.  Over the years I have come to believe that nature plays the bigger part.

You remind me so much of myself at your age.  We each have lived in very different times, and the environments in which we experienced our childhoods are very different from each other.  I want you to realize how much I can relate to you; the things you are experiencing.  I am going to tell you a few things about myself here.  Some of this you may already know.  Some, maybe not.  If I go on about something I have already told you about, please be considerate and take it in anyway.

When I was about your age I was a bit of a mess.  With divorced alcoholic parents, the nurture part was not so hot.  My older brother, who had to deal with the same environment as me, was completely different from me socially.  He had a lot of friends and was very popular in school.  I did not have many friends and struggled socially.  I was smaller than most kids my age and was bullied.  I was very sensitive and hurt inside most of the time.  I couldn’t understand why nobody liked me and so many tortured me.

In the late 1960’s and early 70’s views on sexual identity were different than they are today.  Nowadays, society is much more accepting of alternative sexual identities and lifestyles than it was then.  There are still a lot of people around that have hatred and bias toward people different from themselves, but not nearly as bad as it was then.  When I was your age, being different was a death sentence.  For the most part the only people who associated with homosexuals were other homosexuals, and their lives were literally in danger.

I recall when I was in 7th or 8th grade I was walking down the hall at school and a girl I had a crush on was coming toward me.  I bravely made eye contact with her and smiled.  Her face contorted as if she had just taken a bite of something rotten and called me a “Femme!”  That was a label that carried an awful stigma.  It was a derogatory term used to deride boys with a feminine nature.  To be brandished a femme was to be cast out socially.  I was traumatized.

I believe the “femme” of my childhood days would in today’s world be called “transgender.”  If in my childhood I had lived in the same environment of today I probably would have accepted being that.  It wouldn’t have been hard to find people who accepted me.  No one accepted me at that age, and that hurt.  I was confused.  I was grappling with my self-image.  I wondered if I was a homosexual.  I remember thinking that maybe the reason I was feminine was because I was really a girl living in the body of a boy.

Where I lived we didn’t have Middle School.  Junior High School was 7th, 8th and 9th grade, and High School was 10th, 11th and 12th grade.  My summer after 9th grade, between Junior High and High School, my mother told me she was selling the house and we were moving to an apartment she had found close to where she worked.  It meant moving to a new school district.  I would enter High School not knowing anyone.  My mother thought I would be upset about moving away from all my friends.  She didn’t know that I didn’t have any friends.  I couldn’t wait to move.  This was my big chance to reset my image; start my life over.

I approached High School very carefully.  I chose a new group of friends and was successful at resurrecting my image.  I got all screwed up in different ways.  I began drinking and doing drugs.  But, that’s another story.

In 1976, in college, I took a class called The Psychology of Sex.  I wrote a paper in which I posited a theory about human sexuality.  I remember I got an A.  To summarize, gender is a given.  Only two options: male or female.  However, there are two inherent sexual proclivities, that are not necessarily affected by gender, that have a profound effect on one’s sexuality.

One proclivity is between Masculinity and Femininity.  To some degree each of us have a masculine and a feminine nature.  For example, a person might be 80% feminine and 20% masculine.  A man could be very feminine in nature, a woman might be very masculine, and vice versa.

The other proclivity is between heterosexuality and homosexuality.  For whatever reason, no matter the cause (which is a huge issue in itself) people are to some degree sexually attracted to either the same or opposite gender as oneself.

These two proclivities do not necessarily cause or correlate with each other, or with gender.  Everyone is either male or female, and falls somewhere on the lines for each of the above.  A predominantly masculine man or woman can be either heterosexual or homosexual.  Same for a feminine man or woman.

What does all this really mean?  Should we conclude that because we all have a proclivity to one or another that we have a right to behave according to our proclivities?  When I was young homosexuality was generally considered to be a psychological disorder, and a feminine boy just needed to “man up.”  Now that seems a bit harsh, doesn’t it?  What is the norm?  Are we not all disordered?  Regardless of proclivity, are we doing the right thing by accepting homosexual behavior as normal?  Would it be in his best interest to encourage a feminine boy to go ahead and “be a girl?”

Saint Pope John Paul the Great taught through his work titled Theology of the Body that God created us in His image; man and woman, He created us.  God gave us the wonderful gift of sex for marriage.  Marriage is Sacred.  A healthy sexual relationship is wonderful, but any kind of sexual activity outside of marriage is sin.  I’m not looking down on people for their sins.  When it comes to human sexuality, we are all disordered.  We are all sinners and require God’s grace for forgiveness.  It’s high on my list every time I approach the confessional.

Atheism and agnosticism are on the rise.  Ironic isn’t it, that this coincides with a growing general acceptance of alternative sexual identities and lifestyles.  It’s not hard to understand why someone who wishes to practice an alternative sexual lifestyle would also decide to write God out of the picture.  Church teachings just don’t jive with our preferences.

No one is an atheist or agnostic because they reasoned it out.  People choose to be an atheist or agnostic because they don’t want to believe in God.  To acknowledge the existence of God would be to surrender personal sovereignty and accept that there is such a thing as morality.

We need to accept ourselves for what we are; for how God made us and what His plans are for us.  A feminine boy should not be encouraged to be something he isn’t.  He is not a girl.  He is a boy.  A feminine boy, yes, but a boy none the less.  A person with same sex attraction cannot hope to realize their desires pursuing disordered sinful behavior.  We all are called by God, our creator, to a unique vocation.  Rising above and conquering our disordered desires brings us closer to our destiny; closer to our Creator, who is Love.  Those with more challenging disorders have a higher calling, perhaps a life of celibacy.  I certainly isn’t easy, but doing things God’s way is the best way.

Son, because you are not yet a legal adult and ready to move out on your own, you must live with us, your parents.  We are family.  Your mom and I are responsible for you.  So as your parents we too must draw the lines somewhere.  There must be rules.  We will need to talk these things through.  We will listen to you, but you will need to accept our authority.  We don’t make rules because we want to hurt you.  We make rules because we love you.

I will always love you.

Love,

Dad

Someone I Love

Someone I Love

Someone I love is an atheist.  He would say he has reasoned it out.  He was born into a Catholic family.  Four years at a Catholic college, where he studied under an atheist philosophy Professor, cured him of that nonsense.  He’s read Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and others.  He says the atheist world view makes more sense than religion.

Now, I do not think he is an atheist because he reasoned it out.  I think he believes there is no God because he doesn’t want there to be a God.  He is homosexual.  To believe in the existence of God would lead to the acceptance of objective Truth.  That means acknowledging that our own ideas of what is right and what is wrong could be mistaken.

Catholic teaching on the subject of homosexuality might come as a surprise to many people.  First and foremost, the Catholic Church emphasizes every human being, having been created by God, in His image and likeness, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.  We are called to love all people, even those who disagree with our theology and world view.

Whatever the reasons, or causes of homosexuality, whether it be genetic, environmental or conditional, an obvious fact is that it is real.  Some people are just not sexually attracted to the opposite sex, but instead are sexually attracted to the same sex.  It’s a fact.  The Church teaching is that it is not a sin to be homosexual; however, the Church also teaches that any sexual behavior outside of the sacramental union of marriage is sin.  And marriage is the union of one man and one woman.  That goes for everyone.

When I was in my twenties I called myself an atheist.  Although I would have told you that I had, the Truth is I hadn’t reasoned it out that there’s no God.  I was using drugs, and was engaging in frequent casual sexual encounters.  I didn’t want to believe in God because I knew, deep down inside, it would mean no more sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.  The Truth is my behavior was disordered.

People often object when one defines homosexual activity as “disordered.”  I understand that.  I have come to accept that the Truth is, sexually, we all are disordered.  God created everything with a plan.  The plan for sex was marriage.  There are two primary purposes for sex.  First, procreation.  All sexual activity must be open to the possibility of the creation of a new life.  Babies.  Second, marital union.  The joy of sex is fulfilled to the highest degree as an expression of love and bonding between a married man and woman.  If either of these two purposes are absent from a sexual act, then it is sin.

God also endowed us with free will.  There is Truth.  There is right.  There is wrong.  And we have been given the freedom choose for ourselves.  What good would our love for anyone be, especially for God, if we were compelled to it?

I know there are many Christian denominations that have altered the doctrine on these things.  I believe the Catholic Church teaching to be correct because the Catholic Church, as is present in the world today, is the apostolic succession, the lineage of the original Church founded by Jesus about 2,000 years ago.  If the history of Christianity were to be visually represented like a family tree, the Catholic Church would be the main branch, with all other Christian denominations being the subsidiary branches and twigs splitting off it.

I’ve come to the Catholic Church through a series of conversions.  From atheist, to agnostic, to believer, to Protestant and eventually Roman Catholic.  I took that last leap, about ten years ago, mainly because I wish to cleave to the Main Branch.  And, as time goes by, I am more and more convinced.  Not only is it fulfilment in my heart and in my soul, but it is so reasonable.  It just makes so much sense.

My loved one who is homosexual naturally and completely disagrees with everything I’s said so far.  But I still love him.  We are extended family.  In-laws.  Over the years our approach (my wife’s and mine), to him has evolved.  We’ve learned the hard way that our efforts to convince him of the Truth have not only been ineffective, but have been damaging.  Eventually, after some very had years, we seem to have come to a mutual understanding.  We love and respect each other.  We accept that we have completely different world views, and it is best not to engage in conversations about it.  We pray for him.  We love him.

Yet, there is this underlying tension.  It seems inevitable that the time will come when we will be faced with a situation when our differences cannot be avoided.  How do we respond when confronted?  After some prayerful, and tearful, consideration we’ve concluded there is only one way.  Since the whole of our differences stem from one foundational difference, that in and of itself should be the only response.

“We believe in God.  You don’t.”

Say no more.  Say no less.

Drawing the Line

Drawing the Line

There appears to be a movement among youth these days which involves tying one’s identity to their sexuality.  One is either heterosexual (straight), homosexual (gay or lesbian), or bisexual (AC/DC).  These are terms familiar to most of my generation; the tail end of the Baby Boomers.  In our youth, we were aware of these sexual preferences; however, it wasn’t nearly so big of a deal as it is today.  The history of the shift is a very interesting study.  The latest trend we are witnessing is the “coming out” of transgenderism, which involves one being born with one set of sexual organs attached to the body (either male or female), but identifying one’s self as being the other.

While having a discussion about sexual identity, a teenager advises me that all his friends are bisexual, and he thinks he is bisexual as well.  When I asked him what that means to him, he explains that he sometimes is sexually attracted to girls, but sometimes to boys.  At different times, he has had a “crush” on either a male or a female.  He seemed a bit taken aback when I asked him “what difference does that make?”  I explained that in all my years, (being old by most age group standards), although I have never engaged in sexual activity with a male, I have also been sexually attracted to men as well as women at times.  I explained that in my early twenties I also held the notion that my “sexual identity” (I guess it is appropriate to call it that) was to refrain from committed relationships and engage in as many sexual encounters with as many women as possible.  I was a serious womanizer in those days.  Although I don’t agree with this activity today, at the time I felt it was right to do so.

How do we determine what kind of sexual behavior is acceptable, and what is not?  Obviously a “moral” question, the type which the world today teaches is not appropriate to put upon anyone.  Again I find myself quoting G.K. Chesterton, who notably stated that morality, like art, involves drawing the line somewhere.

Thank God for His Church.  It seems always His ways are the best, the right, the moral ways.  No matter how much we feel our way best, or perhaps don’t want that Christian morality messing with our good time, the Truth stands fast, and we either learn eventually that His ways are the best ways, or we remain in denial.

So, my question to the young lad, “what difference does that make?” takes on a whole new meaning for the serious Christian.  Because God really makes it quite simple for us.  As Saint Pope John Paul II so eloquently explains in Theology of the Body, sex is a wonderful beautiful gift that God created for marriage, for which there are only two acceptable purposes.  The primary purpose is children.  Every sexual act must be open to the possibility of the conception of a new human being.  The secondary purpose is the expression of bonding love and unity between a married man and woman.  Any sexual behavior outside of these two purposes is sin.  Marriage can only be between one man and one woman, and it is a lifetime commitment.

So, it really doesn’t matter if you find a same-sex person sexually appealing.  Whether you identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or whatever.  If you are not married, and you find yourself sexually drawn to any person of any sex, if you accept and love Jesus, you just don’t go there.  It is not a sin to have sexual attractions.  It is perfectly normal, regardless of your “preference.”  It is not sinful to be attracted to someone, same or opposite sex, as long as we don’t give in to lust.  The sin is in the behavior, not in the proclivity.  Do we act out on our impulses or do we rise above them?

John Joseph Cardinal O’Connor served as Archbishop of New York from 1984 until his death in 2000.  He was adamant concerning Church teaching on sexuality, and he received a lot of static from the society of his day about it.  When he would come out with statements supporting the Church’s teaching, he got a lot of bad press, and sometimes hordes of protestors on his doorstep.  Something that went unreported however, is how Cardinal O’Connor would visit the AIDS ward in the hospital, lovingly ministering to the suffering there.  We are called to hold fast to Truth when it comes to sin.  But, we recognize we are all sinners, and there can be no doubt that there are none among us who are free from disordered sexuality.

In our sexually overcharged society it is impossible to avoid the bombardment of sexual imagery.  I am a man married and faithful to my wife for almost 22 years now.  Thanks be to God!  Don’t you think there had to have been times in those years when I was tempted to sin? Of course there were.  And I’m sure having to put up with me all this time my dear spouse feels the same as well.  But, you see, fidelity is not about whether or not you are tempted.  It’s about not responding to the temptation with sinful and disordered behavior.  Like Chesterton said, you have got to draw the line somewhere.