Same sex attraction and the gay or homosexual lifestyle do not have to go together. Being attracted to people of the same sex is not something that a person can control. However, having sexual relations with people of the same sex which goes with the gay lifestyle is a matter of choice. The family has a crucial role in forming children who experience same sex attraction, and helping them realize that the path to a happy and fulfilling life should not be conditioned by what the world and especially the often sex-obsessed media is promoting.
The third session of the DBCS Ongoing Formation Series for 2016, Accompanying Families Today in the spirit of Pope Francis’s Amoris Laetitia, was held last September 12 and featured the testimonies of two men who have come to terms with same sex attraction, discerned, and chose to be faithful to God’s plan in their lives. Ansel Beluso, scriptwriter and radio show host, found his calling in marriage, while Marwil Llasos, lawyer and Catholic apologist, embraced single blessedness.
Acceptance and Love
Marwil Llasos was raised by his extended family, composed mostly of female role models, including three aunts, while his mother worked abroad. He basically grew up with no father figure. “Even my cousins were all girls,” he added.
“I had no idea what same sex attraction was about as a child,” but while he was in school, a friend who openly spoke about his attraction to other boys became a strong influence. And Marwil eventually developed the same attitude as his friend due to the bandwagon mentality. He became obsessed with idea of falling in love.
“Where was my family at this point?” Apparently, he behaved differently at home; for example, his family did not see him sporting the same hairspray-riddled hairdo as he did in school. But they eventually found out because one of his teachers told them about it.
Some people can be cruel when confronted with same sex attraction and homosexuality, but Marwil was blessed because “the atmosphere was different at home; I was given unconditional love. At the same time, it was clear to me that my family would not accept the gay lifestyle. In practice, even without reading the Catechism, I realized that the homosexual must be distinguished from the gay lifestyle. My family had values, especially when it came to their faith… and they did not define me based on my sexual orientation. They taught me how to respect myself, and how not to let others disrespect me. Huwag kumilos na bastusin. Learn to respect others, and learn to respect yourself, so you can also be treated with respect. I hold on to these teachings. Many people with same sex attraction are disrespected because they allow it to happen.”
When he went to the university for his undergraduate studies, he had a lot of time away from his family. The false sense of freedom that was part of university culture made him look for love in the wrong people, and the wrong places.
But he candidly admitted that none of these relationships really satisfied him. “And I was looking for something that truly satisfies which led to my conversion. I tried other groups ― like the born again Christians ― and returned to the Catholic Church. Crucial to my conversion is the acceptance that I am gay. This was the beginning. And I was looking for love from a father figure, and I found this in God ― a Father who never leaves you, who keeps His promises…. No one can match this love and faithfulness. I found love with Love Himself, Love in Person. And I discerned that I am called to single blessedness.”
Single blessedness as a vocation in the Church is not always understood or appreciated for its full value. Marwil’s personal sharing underscored the beauty of this calling, in which a lay man or a lay woman whose primary concern is to live out his or her duties in the world (unlike religious and priests) forgoes marriage to give himself or herself more completely in the service of God and neighbor.
“My consecrated love is inclusive – for all that God loves,” he said.
He realized that “joy cannot be found in sex alone. Joy is found in higher values or things. Sexual activity does not define who we are or what makes us happy…. My perception of relationships has changed. There can be chaste relationships. Purity. I find satisfaction in serving the Lord and other human persons.”
Like everyone else, the LGBT are really just searching for fulfillment and happiness. “They are searching for joy, what can satisfy them. But they will not find it unless they go to God.”
Toward a Better Understanding of the Homosexual Condition
Ansel Beluso presented a synthesis of a three-day seminar on homosexuality and how to accompany people with same sex attraction. It includes five important points, namely:
- What does the Church say about homosexuality?
- Origins of homosexuality
- Can homosexuals change?
- What should their parents do?
- What should Christians do?
What does the Church say about homosexuality?
Ansel cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), no. 2357, which talks about homosexuality, defining it as “relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex.”
“Tradition has always declared homosexual acts as ‘intrinsically disordered’ — but this does not mean that the Church is condemning homosexuals. The Church is merely stating a truth or a fact. When it uses the term ‘grave depravity,’ the Church means that homosexual acts go against the plan of God: sex and gender are not two different things. You cannot say, ‘My sex is male because I have a male sex organ but my gender is female,’” he explained.
By the term “intrinsically disordered,” the Church means that any sexual activity is disordered if it is not ordered to the two ends of marriage ― unitive and procreative ― both of which necessitate the distinct contributions of a man (husband) and a woman (wife).
An objective disorder, Ansel added, also refers to something “that predisposes the person to that which is ultimately not good for him. And so the Church cautions people with same sex attraction, ‘Anak labanan mo yan, dadalhin ka niyan sa ikapapahamak mo (My child, do not give in, continue to struggle against that which would only destroy you).’”
The Church is not condemning but issuing a caution as a loving mother, reminding her children that “you have it in you to overcome it!” It is not condemning the person, Ansel reiterated.
How can homosexuality ruin the person? Ansel mentioned that on the physical level, homosexual behavior leads to disease, even death. And on the spiritual level, it can lead to the loss of grace, turning away from the Lord who alone gives the fullness of life and peace.
Ansel said it is important to note that “the homosexual condition is not the person’s choice and by itself is not sinful…. When a homosexual forms the decision to live his homosexuality ― that is, to choose the gay lifestyle ― this is sinful because it means having sexual relations with the people of the same sex, which goes against God’s plan for sexuality.”
He added that while homosexuals should take care not to cause a scandal, other people should refrain from shunning them or discriminating against them for whatever reason. As the Church also says, homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” (CCC, no. 2358).
For their part, “Catholic homosexuals are called to unite with the Lord’s cross.” Viewed from this perspective, Ansel said, homosexuality can be seen as a blessing because it is an opportunity to unite with the Lord’s cross. Like all Catholics, they too are called to be chaste.
Chastity as a virtue is lived out in a particular way, depending on the state of life, and involves self-mastery. “It is to be like God, to do what is good and right.” This is what authentic freedom is, to be free the way that God is free (that is, free to do what is good).
Origins of homosexuality
There has been a longstanding opposition between two views: Nature or nurture? Are gays born or made? Ansel said there is no conclusive proof about why and how it happens. “The pastoral direction is not to argue or debate about it endlessly. The arguments just go around and around ― with no suitable resolution in view.”
At the last count there have been more than 90 categories related to homosexuality, “exceeding even the letters of the alphabet,” he quipped.
Studies have shown that homosexual tendencies may develop due to early conditions that a person experiences as a child ― from 18 months to 3 years old, “earlier than when the child is able to develop a conscious memory.” Ansel said that it happens too early in life, that it is not remembered, leading people to think it is inborn. “The condition is affirmed at adolescence when gender identity is often concretized.”
According to the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, adolescent homosexuality can disappear. Based on a study in the United States, 26% of 12 years olds were not sure if they were heterosexual, but it is not right to accept or already presume that they are gay since only 2–3% of adults admit that they are homosexual.
Conditions that are predominant among homosexuals include the following:
- Father wounding – This occurs when the son does not feel loved by the father or is not able to identify with him as a role model either because of abandonment or because of the father’s disinterest in his son. Father wounding may also be inflicted by other father figures, and occurs when the boy’s masculine nature is not affirmed by a father figure. In the case of a daughter who becomes a lesbian when she is older, the condition is mother wounding, and the feminine nature is not affirmed by the mother figure.
- Mother-son relationship problems – This occurs when the son becomes overly dependent on his mother and consequently starts viewing men from her perspective. He then finds comfort in women and their friendship, seeing femininity as more superior ― more loving, more sensitive, more safe than masculinity. Women become his role models and buddies, girls are then viewed as his “same sex” and boys as the “opposite sex.” In the case of a daughter who becomes a lesbian, the condition involves father-daughter relationship problems, and the girl ends up seeing men as more superior, viewing them as her “same sex.”
- Acutely sensitive personality trait – When a boy is more spiritually inclined and thin-skinned compared to other boys, his father may become disappointed with him because he is not into rough play or sports. A pattern of rejection from the father and others who want to change his personality is sure to cause conflict. In the case of a girl, she may be more competitive and rough compared to other girls, and may end up being rejected by the mother.
- Conflict with male peers – Low gender self-esteem causes the boy to pine for acceptance by other males, especially those whose masculinity they admire. As he begins to idolize other men with certain strong masculine qualities, the gulf between him and these “real men” widens. Unable to measure up to the standards of other males, he spends more playtime with girls. “When this becomes the pattern, that’s when the problem begins,” noted Ansel. The boy is not fully masculine but not feminine either. In the case of a girl who is more competitive than the average girl, the reverse happens, and she will end up identifying more with boys, and playing with them.
- Early sexual awakening – This includes the experience of sexual abuse as a child, as well as of pornography at a young age.
- Poorly defined gender roles – These include a dominant mother, a subservient father, and the confusing portrayal of gender roles in TV shows and movies. If the child identifies with these poorly defined gender roles and is then affirmed by members of the family who find the behavior amusing or funny, this could become a pattern for the child.
Can homosexuals change?
Ansel pointed out that heterosexuality is not necessarily the goal of change. It is true that some have succeeded in overcoming same sex attraction, but others have become frustrated in trying to do so.
“Any degree of change toward greater peace, to lessen depression and darkness, is good…. What matters is to live a life consistent with their values and goals, with what makes them happy… a life that is in line with God’s will for them.”
He identified three steps in this challenging process:
First, believe that change is possible. People who have lived with same sex attraction all their life will often find it hard to believe that they can change. So, having faith that they can change is the first step.
Second, desire change. Ansel said that “desiring in the Catholic context includes discernment.” And he added that desire, while it is important, is not enough. It should lead to the third step.
Do it! Ansel listed some “baby steps” to help facilitate change. Note that the steps are directed to homosexual men:
- Befriend men who embody traits that you admire/envy, discover their weaknesses, strengths, talents, skills. Learn that men and women are different not just anatomically but also in the way they walk, talk, think, feel, etc.
- Work to developing in yourself more of the traits that you admire in others, and discover in yourself things that other men admire. Admit or accept those that you cannot change.
- Stop criticizing and comparing yourself with others. The more you see how alike you are with other men, the more you will see them as like you ― as brothers and not as potential lovers.
- Distance yourself from a gay identity, gay relationships, and activities that will make you identify with women.
- Recognize that you become what you think and how you act, so detach yourself from people who tie you to a homosexual identity; try to become what you want to become.
- Break away from relationships with females who cannot help you or might not know how to support your commitment to change.
- Find support in mature men who are secure in their heterosexuality, tell them what you need and how they can help.
- Be accountable to the Catholic charismatic leader who is assigned to helping you. It is good to have a pastoral program in the Church that is directed to people with same sex attraction. The program, said Ansel, requires creativity because gays can be very sensitive; they do not want to get hurt anymore.
- Explore the masculine world; increasingly model yourself after men (how they speak, dress, move, relate with women).
- From a place of masculine strength it is possible to relate with women in a way that enhances even more your masculinity (that is, as provider, protector, lover, life partner), unlike before when femininity emasculates you, because you want to be like a woman.
Ansel reiterated that heterosexuality need not be the goal. “What matters is shifting from a life of sinfulness to a life of holiness, according to God’s will.”
What should their parents do?
A practical way of helping a pre-adolescent son with gay affectations, is not to cheer him on. Rather, Ansel said, the parents should affirm the boy’s identity as masculine and identify the factors in the family that may encourage homosexual behaviour. For example, perhaps the father needs to spend more time with the son, and give him more affection and affirmation. Conversely, the mother may need to step back and give her son room to become independent and mature.
Ansel underscored the role of parents as the first educators and teachers of the faith. “Parents should go the extra mile to communicate with their children. They should help the child develop a relationship with God and help them know about God’s love and His help in the face of difficulties and problems in life.”
He advised parents that if an adult child comes to them to say that he is gay, their response should be:
Love him: “Accept him. Assure him of unqualified love. Decide to help him cope with his condition.”
Love him: “Journey with the adult child (the mother with daughter; the father with son). Ask for forgiveness and do not try to justify your past actions. Try to reach a level of trust and confidence where your child can say the truth and not what you want to hear. Learn with him what needs to be known about the homosexual condition. Be discerning. Aim to understand and not to be confused further. Be aware of two paradigms: first (from the Church), that homosexual acts are sinful and should (and can) be overcome; second (from the world), the gay lifestyle is healthy and should be lived out. It is better to do research ahead of time so that when you learn with your son, you do not end up going to sources that will only confuse you both further.”
Love him: “Love him and firmly witness to the child how much God loves him. Change is necessary, and he should walk the path to repentance and renewal. Help create the environment where the child can reconnect with God and desire the path toward change.”
Establishing some rules with an adult gay child may be necessary. For example, to ensure that he does not dishonor his parents, he should not bring his boyfriend home to the family. “Love comes in the form of an active refusal to support the gay lifestyle, not because you’re embarrassed, but because it is bad for your child. Continue to love, and keep an open door for when he desires reconciliation,” Ansel added.
He also emphasized the importance of prayer, which should be taught at a young age, and should become more mature and intense as the child grows older. “Encourage your child to pray, go to confession, go to Mass and receive Holy Communion as essential habits in Christian life.” Parents should be role models, providing their child with a holy example.
Ansel noted that it can be difficult for parents to be firm and encourage their child to change when the adult gay child supports the family financially. And yet even in this situation, parents must not forget their role.
“A person with same sex attraction has so many struggles which seem to be insurmountable. Pray for God’s spirit to guide your child and send him the right people to help him.”
What should Christians do?
Finally, Ansel gave the following recommendations to all Christians who, as Christ’s very own, should rightly welcome, support, assist, and love their brothers and sisters who have same sex attraction:
“Develop the desire to help and the will to be available. Re-examine your feelings and attitudes toward homosexuals and purge what is negative. Discover good things about them. Refrain from negative actions, and see how you can help. Create activities for bonding. Do not treat them as homosexuals but as the real men [or the real women] that God created them to be. Ask for forgiveness for past wrongs. Provide an environment that will help them change. Make them feel that you care. Take the initiative and call them, spend time with them… encourage them to be honest with you.”
Maria Divina Solano, MRS, MATh is a graduate of DBCS. She is a guest professor and Research Coordinator and Consultant.