How to befriend someone struggling with same-sex attraction (from someone who does)

2 May

From Richard G. Evans at Public Discourse:

Carissa Mulder recently published an excellent essay here at Public Discourse entitled “The Single Life: Where Do We Go from Here?” As Mulder expressed so well, human persons truly are not meant to be alone. We are designed for community. After having a marvelous Lent and subsequently disastrous Easter Sunday totally by myself, I can strongly relate to the author when she encourages married friends to include single people in their holiday celebrations.

My position, however, is slightly different from Mulder’s, because I am a faithful Catholic man who experiences same-sex attraction (SSA). I will never again marry.

Yet, like Mulder, I long for community. I have struggled with loneliness and isolation—experiences that every person, whether single or married, has probably suffered through. Loving community is the solution to this struggle. But how does that happen? How do we go about building such a community, particularly one that will embrace those of us who experience same-sex attraction?

You Already Have SSA Friends and Family

I am acutely aware in writing this that I am but one voice of many. I do not presume to speak on behalf of all within the LGBT or SSA communities. I simply speak for myself. I am a man who, for whatever reason, tends to be drawn to and have a desire for closer attachments to other men than some who are male and heterosexual may be comfortable with or used to.

My purpose here is to appeal particularly to heterosexual men who might be willing to take up a challenge they may never have imagined before: authentically befriending someone from my background. Truth be told, you probably already are friends with some of us—you just do not realize it. They may not have told you, or you may not have guessed. But they are there, or somewhere nearby. Today, I am asking you to listen to an SSA man who may yearn for your presence in his life more than you know.

Many people have strong opinions on what causes same-sex attraction, and on the legal and moral solutions to its existence. But far fewer of these people seem to have the ability or the desire to reach out to those of us with SSA in friendship or to help integrate us into local communities. We from the SSA world need you.

This Easter, for example, I attended the Easter Vigil Mass at my parish, which means so much to me each year. I came home elated—and then crashed, both physically and emotionally. After a very arduous and fruitful Lent, spent striving to keep my Lenten intentions and commitments, I relived my own experience at the Vigil eight years ago, when I returned to the Church after thirty-five years away and was finally confirmed at age fifty. That night, I suppose I expected to be walking on both air and water. Stepping inside my empty apartment and realizing that I could either order take-out or not eat at all was too much for me. I felt forsaken by God, family, and friends, even though I knew that no one intentionally abandoned me. Especially not God! Still, the pain was there and acutely real.

Those who are blessed enough to be married and have families of their own can sometimes forget that those of us called to be celibate and permanently single still have a great need to connect with “family,” particularly on holidays and holy days. This applies to single people from many backgrounds: the widowed, priests, and, of course, those with SSA.

In assisting your friends with same-sex attractions, in particular, the concept of “disinterested friendship” is an important key. The word “disinterested,” as opposed to “uninterested,” means impartial, fair-minded, and neutral. Of course, a disinterested friend does not have to be neutral in judging behavior, but in judging the human involved in such behavior; such a person is willing to be a friend and travelling companion to that person on his or her journey to wholeness. For many, becoming this kind of friend may entail stepping into corners of your own life that are not totally comfortable.

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