Have you heard of Courage International? It is the official Catholic apostolate for men, women, and their loved ones who struggle with SSA (same-sex attraction).
I have a very dear young friend by the name of Andrés, a beautiful young Latino man who was born and raised in Mexico, where he still lives. I recently learned more about his story, and it is indeed a compelling one. One of the most striking pieces is an astounding sense of how much we are alike.
I am thirty-five years his senior, a Caucasian raised in rural Minnesota, and we are separated by a rather troubled border and an entirely different culture and way of living. Still, it seems to me that his life parallels mine in various unexpected ways, particularly in the area of this SSA battle. Science, although short of proving what causes homosexual inclinations within some of us, has left us some clues along the way. Were it not for the outward differences, we could almost switch places in regard to a number of steps in our respective journeys home to Christ and the Church we both now love.
This month I proudly share the path to holiness exhibited by my friend, knowing the very fact he comes from a different generation and culture than I strengthens my conviction that SSA is caused by inner wounds. We urgently need God and the bride of Christ, both Eucharistically and through her human members, in order to make it through life. May his story be a blessing to you.
Wounded in the Womb
Andrés’s wounds began even before he was born. He was the middle son of three. His father had hoped for a daughter. My friend’s father had spent much time speaking to and of him while he was yet pre-born, calling him his princess and other endearing but clearly feminine names and pronouns. Science cannot definitively tell us how much unborn children can understand but it is known that they feel pain and clearly can sense the mood of their mother and other loved ones. My friend believes he was already unconsciously rejecting his own masculinity before ever making his earthly appearance in 1991.
After he was born, his mother was overprotective. The intent was a genuine maternal instinct, but the effect was that Andrés did not identify or connect with his dad. In addition, his father worked long hours and, as he puts it, “couldn’t give the love he didn’t get.”
Another commonality between his growing up and mine was that his mother pointed out his father’s faults, whether real or perceived, in an effort to warn him not to follow in the same footsteps. Again, I get it. Sadly, whatever the motive, doing so was like poison to our souls.
Once Andrés began school, he found other boys did not always accept him due to the feminine side he had begun subtly exhibiting. Ditto. For both of us, it was painfully puzzling. We wondered why we were not accepted by the “real” boys. As Andrés says, “girls, on the other hand, were friendly and protective,” and he was able to make friendships with them far more easily. Same here.
Pornography, My “Friend”
As time went on, this young man’s gentle and sensitive nature became the brunt of jokes, cruel pranks, and sexual harassment by other children. They sometimes bullied and touched him physically which further damaged his sense of masculinity and self-respect. He became more solitary until one day, at the tender age of 13, someone in school showed him some pictures of profane sexuality. In his words, these images “broke the innocence” he had. I too had a similar experience around the same age. Andrés says, “All of this (aloneness) built up within me, and in light of it, the only ‘faithful friend’ who always was there to ‘liberate’ my pain was pornography.” An addiction was born.
Andrés: From Porn to Pain
At age 16, carrying the wounds of youth and the damage of porn, he began to move beyond the lewd pictures and into the seamy world of real-time sexual encounters. Here is what he says about that period in his life, and it is the story of hundreds of other youth, whether same or other-sex attracted:
I hung out with the first guy in my life and although it felt very nice at the beginning, I became a slave. I yearned for crumbs of love and I was instead given sex. Due to loneliness, rejection, shortage of love and my lacking sense of dignity as a person, I agreed to it. One man, ten years older than I, became very significant to me, not realizing the harm I was causing myself through this illicit association. He was the seemingly perfect man, attentive, handsome, athletic, and with plenty of money and sexual experience. He was everything I had yearned for, but his heart was, in reality, cold and distant. He used me to have pleasure, and I used him to take the place of my dad and receive what I had missed in care and companionship. We both were using each other.
These are tremendously sad and painful words from someone only in his mid-teens. But his story does get better in a real way.
Catholicism and Courage
Andrés never put aside his Catholic faith. One day, as his life was spiraling out of control, he prayed, fervently shaking his virtual fist at God. He felt God speaking within, saying that he would, in fact, die if he continued following the path he was on. Andrés was bitterly angry. God had confronted him, and so he confronted God right back. Why was God not there when the kids in school had mocked him? Where was He when copious tears had so often filled his young eyes? Finally, since He was “gay” anyway, why not just kill him now if he was meant to die either way? God, seeing so much deeper within his agonized pleas, let him know that He had been there all along and had great plans for him.
I doubt Saul of Tarsus was more surprised when he had his Damascus road experience. Andrés had heard God speak, and this time he listened and was never again the same. His belief is that God then whispered to him the following–
“I have great things for you and I want you to live in me, I love you because you are my son and I have always been with you, I have suffered with you and I have a promise for you, don’t cut the road. You are a man. I even named you Andrés, meaning man.”
The path home had begun.
People do not change overnight, and just like all of us whose sexual identities have for whatever reason been broken, this young man is still growing into his manhood. As he aptly puts it, “I came to Courage shattered, broken and torn apart inside, but standing, and ready to work.” And work he does. Today he no longer sees himself as “gay” or homosexual but simply as God’s child. Nothing more or less. No other labels are needed to define this young man of God. He is, at his young age, the Courage Latino Chihuahua’s Lay Coordinator, and I for one believe nothing will stop him in his quest for holiness and wholeness.
Resources For Further Help
I end this brief introduction of my friend to the greater Catholic world by giving, with his permission, some links for those who struggle in this area, whether Spanish or English speaking. The first link is directly to him, firstname.lastname@example.org, and the second is to Courage International’s greater Latino outreach http://www.courage-latino.org. Finally, the main Courage International website http://couragerc.org has a wealth of help available, and it too is listed here.
Who knows, one day you may be a man (or woman) like my friend and brother Andrés is rapidly becoming. Simply come “broken but ready to work.” God can and will do the rest.