Member Testimony: Peter
I come from New England and I'd like to share with you my story. But before I do I'd like to share some recent happenings.
In the last few years I've made some really excellent friends. One of them was one that I had know since Junior High but only in the last few years came to know well. I considered him to be my best friend. We were hiking partners.
Six months ago he was diagnosed with Leukemia. Apparantly his condition was advanced and in the last few months, I was gifted with the opportunity to be with him regularly as his health failed. Before I knew it he was hospitalized and put on morphine. During the last few weeks, we had the chance to do all the things that really seem to count for best friends.
After he had gone on to the Lord, I decided to go away for a week by myself, hiking in the mountains.I had never done this alone before, but I felt led to spend some solitary time with the Lord.
I began to pray. I started with the Rosary. I think I went through fifteen decades. I then began to praise God and sang until I ran out of songs. When I was finished, I looked around and listened to the peace about me. The only sound was the rushing of the wind. Rain clouds rushed across the top of the mountain and I saw that I was headed into some rough weather. By that time I was nearly at the top. Still quite afraid, I prayed and felt God telling me to not be afraid but to press forward. I continued on.
By then drizzle had begun and the temperature dropped to about 40 degrees. The wind increased and I could barely see in front of me. I could only see one cairn (piles of rocks pointing the way of the trail) at a time guiding me toward the top. At times, there were signs along the way pointing in other directions, but I knew inside I had chosen the right path and so I held to one that indicated the summit.
After another half-hour I finally reached the top. It was quite windy. I spotted a enormous rock there and huddled down in the protection that it offered me from the wind and rain. With the wind cut, there was total silence. I sat there thanking God for coming through on His promise of safety.
I changed out of my wet clothes and began to have a meal with the Lord. Joining me was a jackrabbit, red squirrel and small bird. They seemed to be content hanging around as I recalled times with my best friend.
And so once again I place you and myself in the shelter of the Rock, the Lord Jesus.
Please pray with me now.
Come Lord Jesus. Fill the hearts of your faithful. Enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit and we shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth.
I’m here to share with you my journey in and out of homosexuality. Keep in mind that mine is just one story. I now have dozens of friends who experienced somewhat different paths but have come to many of the same conclusions that I have come to.
Growing up I, like perhaps some of you found relating to others to be a challenging experience. I felt much of the time like I was lost in space. I found it difficult to initiate friendships and difficult to maintain them.
In looking back I can now see that my difficulty in part, sprang out of certain unfulfilled needs.
Do you remember when you were a kid? You guys at one point started needing to feel like one of the guys and you girls started needing to feel like one of the girls. That’s a need for peer love. It’s a real basic need and it lasts for life. And before that time, you guys needed to feel loved by your dad and you girls needed to feel loved by your mom.
We get from these people the acceptance and space to be ourselves. In other words we get unconditional love. Getting that need met when we are kids does something for us. And when it is not met, we can run into problems.
In those early stages, my need for unconditional love went for the most part unmet. I definitely did not feel like one of the guys and I definitely did not feel the safety of my father’s love. I think that’s where much of it started for me.
Now for as long as I can remember, I have had same-sex desires and ten years ago I would have told you that I was gay. I was supporting and very much a part of the whole gay scene. I went to gay bars, gay parades, gay conferences, gay hiking trips, gay restaurants and vacation spots.
It’s a bit of a challenge to stand here before you and talk about all the difficulties, the sin and the choices I made. But God’s grace brought me out of what I now consider dark times and I believe His grace is here right now.
So how far back ? . . . . Well my mom said I came out breach in the waiting room one month early. Well at least I landed on my feet!
That I don’t remember, thank God! But seriously, from my earliest memories I can remember God’s presence. In fact He’s always been around. I’ve always just known that deep down in my day to day existence and when I found myself in the presence of the Eucharist.
As I grew I was like every other kid. I had my interests and things I liked doing. At some point in the single digits, I began to desire to be more with my father. That’s a natural thing. So I turned from my Mom toward him. I looked for his guidance and his "OK" to come close. But he did not give it to me. This hurt and I felt betrayed. I began to lose my love and respect for him.
Like many of us, my dad had his problems. He struggled with work-aholism. He worked too much. And alcoholism. He drank too much. To the outside world, he was a happy hardworking person. At home he was frequently harsh, intimidating and arrogant. I knew somehow that this was making his despair and loneliness and at times I felt bad for him.
Never the less he wasn’t there emotionally for me and the rest of the family. At some point early on I began to be the emotional support for the family and especially my mother. This put me in an awkward place. At this very important time, my childhood, I felt forced to do a very adult thing. I had to support my mother in place of him.
So, I needed my dad's love, but it was kept distant from me as I took on some untimely responsibilities. This hurt. This hurt a lot. I felt engulfed by the pain of it all. And, I became sad and angry about it as there seemed no way out. These strong feelings of mine didn’t seem to help though. I just felt more and more bad about it all.
Eventually, to protect or defend myself, I began to put up walls and detach from this real and painful place in my life. I began watching a lot of TV. I stayed away from my dad. I didn’t want to be like him. I didn’t want to know him. I also felt a growing distance from the boys in my neighborhood and school. I just couldn't seem to identify with them. Although I wanted to be friends with them, I was afraid of them and what they 'might' do to me. Frequently, I felt like I was fumbling around them and so to be safe, I kept them at a distance.
I began to distance myself from my feelings too. They were just too much for me to bear. Anger and fear were quickly denied and drowned out by the distractions of television and other imaginative pursuits.
Television was the perfect escape for me. It blurred out the noise and disappointments. It made me feel safe and "happy". It gave me something to laugh at. It made a great wall.
TV became a substitute for my dad. A good one too. It never yelled at me, never put me down and it would present nicer adults for me to be with in my imagination. My growing channel surfing habit became a kind of daily quest for the good dad and even friend experience. The characters weren’t real but I didn’t seem to pay much attention to that fact.
Now up to this point I didn't really experience sexual feelings, but more of a desire to be in the loving and accepting presence of other men and boys. I watched them all from a distance and never got close enough to make any real contact with them.
Approaching junior high, when puberty arrived, the search took on a new character. Sexual feelings flooded in and began to attach themselves to the images I was focusing in on. I didn’t know what was going on and I was scared but also amazed. I started masturbating.
In regards to my knowledge of sexuality at this time, I had somewhat of a sheltered life and knew nothing about the sexual feelings I was beginning to experience. All I knew in my little isolated world was that I found a new way to relieve my pain.
Did I experience sexual feelings for girls too? No. For whatever reason, there seemed to be no room in me for that. I would talk a lot to the girls in school and in the neighborhood. It was a kind of frenetic talk that kept them close in conversation but at a distance too. I now know that the talking too was a form of self protection.
Then in high school, I started to talk with counselors. I was sad and felt confused. I was concerned that I couldn’t make friends. The counselors helped me to air out my feelings. It felt good to do so in the presence of an adult and not be criticized. And yet we never seemed to get at the crux of the matter. I never seemed to receive enough truth-filled leadership. It all seemed like fluff talk.
In college I mentioned to a counselor my masturbation and attraction to men. That counselor brought definition to my experience. He said, "Peter, have you considered that you might be gay?" He then in later sessions indicated to me in subtle ways that I might find greater satisfaction in having sex with men.
I believe now that he meant well, but was really offering me a form of misguided compassion to help me with my pain. But, you know?. . . He really didn’t understand me.
On the surface I was thrilled to think that I would be connecting with others and it would be a pleasure-full experience instead of painful, but deep down, what he was saying didn’t seem to sit right with me. But, I figured that I was naïve and didn’t know enough about all these things.
The counselor suggested that I visit a gay support group in the area. I did and right when I entered the room, I became overwhelmed by the closeness and sensations I was experiencing all at once from other men.
Soon, I met a person there with whom I had my first sexual encounter. Before long I started have sex with other guys. First one then another. Some I stayed with for six or more months, others a few weeks. There seemed to be and endless supply of sex partners.
Amidst all of this sexual excitement, I still had an ache inside. But I felt compelled to continue on with the gay sex as it helped me to forget about the pain. For five years, I tried to find the love I needed in some guy’s arms and at times I felt I had it. I also felt accepted and like one of the group.
Was I scared of getting AIDS? Yes I was. But I was so focused on the sexual pleasure and the possibility of developing true friendships that it seemed to promise, that it just didn't seem to matter much to me at the time to think about the dangers of STD's.
Although there was one encounter that stopped me in my tracks forcing me to reconsider what I was doing. After inviting a stranger off the street to come into my apartment after getting the signals from him that he wanted sex and in the middle of having sex with him, I asked him what his name was. He said, "No names. Just sex. Now get on with it."
I knew at that point that something was very wrong with the direction I was heading. No more was it left up to my imagination to guess that these encounters would possibly lead to a fulfilling way of life. I began to turn to my belief in God for answers.
Now this may sound strange, but while all of this was going on, I believed in God. I attended mass and prayed a lot but frequently found myself crying for no apparent reason.
Then it happened. I started crying out to the Lord in the midst of my tears. I began desperately asking for his help.
Not to long later, a woman named Mimi, I barely knew at work approached me in the cafeteria and said, "Peter, would you mind have lunch with me?" I agreed and we shared lunch. As we were getting ready to leave, she paused and said, "Peter, prayer is an important part of my life. I’m Christian and sometimes I get a word of knowledge for someone. I have one for you. Would you mind if I share it with you? I said, "Sure, let’s go for a walk."
I had no idea what was about to happen. As we walked through the parking lot, she continued on. "If I’m wrong Peter, I apologize. But do you struggle with homosexual feelings?" I did something I never had never done before in front of anyone except a counselor from years back. I broke down in tears. "Yes", I replied, "And I am suffering so much."
A strange experience ensued. I felt such deep sorrow, I wept as she embraced me, and yet, I felt total joy at the same time. God was reaching out to me through the fog, with the arms of another.
She took my hand and prayed with me. Later she told me about a group at her church where people who struggled as I did, gave and received support to one another toward approaching the issues surrounding homosexuality from a Christian perspective. I joined through group and began attending weekly meetings.
The next year and a half were great! The group helped me to put many of the pieces of my life together. I began to realize what was going on inside me. I stopped having sex with men and masturbating and I had some great fellowship experiences. I felt like I was on the right track for the first time in my life.
I stayed with them for a while and received much from that time shared with them, but they weren’t Catholic and I knew in my heart that I needed to fellowship with others with the Eucharist at the center of our friendships. Being with them became an increasing problem for me, so I eventually drifted away.
I soon lost sight of where I was headed and started having sex again. I acted out much less than before but I became confused and lonely again all the same. I fell into despair and many nights I cried myself to sleep. I waited. Four years went by.
On one particular night, again after crying to the Lord, I felt Jesus speak to me. He told me to get back on track. I cried, no, I screamed out loud, "How Lord?! How can I?! Why have you left me alone again?! I can’t do this alone Lord!" In a loving and firm voice in my heart, He replied that He was going to help me.
Have you ever had that deep sense of God speaking to you? It’s a gift. Pay attention to it.
That week a friend called. He had no idea of my situation. He was just a church acquaintance wanting to get back in touch. On that particular day, he just happened to call me. He began rattling off about his work with teens and began asking me if I would be willing to help out. I said, "No, ... no Bob, I just can't." He asked, "Why not? What's happening?" I said, "I have something really big that I'm dealing with that I just can't share." He said, "Maybe take chance Peter? Please take a chance and tell me about it. " I paused and then began to share my struggle. I was scared but the words just seemed to flow out.
When I was finished, he said, "Yes, I think you need to deal with this first. Will you allow me to help you?" I said, "Ok, but what do you have in mind?" He paused and began telling me about a International Catholic support group for men and women called Courage. I said, "Really? Catholic? "Yes" He said, "And in fact, the very next week there just happens to be its annual conference in the area." I couldn't believe it. Yes! God came through again. I prayed, "Thank you Jesus! Thank you for your kindness and mercy and your people like Bob and Mimi!"
I went to the conference and felt God’s loving embrace again. I also began attending local Courage meetings weekly. During this time I began learning again. In fact I learned a new word, chastity, and began living it.
As I began to strive toward living a chaste life a new world opened up around me. Health friendships with men began forming and I felt a greater and deeper sense of maturity and love.
I also felt the moral support of others to continue on with chaste living. Things really began to come together. I began to attend Courage meetings. I fellowshipped with members outside the meetings hiking, visiting those in need, dining, and catching a movie now and then.
My desire to have sex subsided. I also began to have powerful dreams in which Jesus directed me to get back into the fight. He told me to put my life in good order and to remove anything that tempted me back into my addictions.
I gave away my television and began to attend mass and confession regularly. God I believe has honored my commitments.
Not too long afterwards he sent me an excellent Catholic NARTH counselor. In our sessions I identified more of the needs and have brought them to the Lord bit by bit and they are all being met one at a time. I have also learned how to better apply my Catholic beliefs in different situations.
As a result, I have taken back my hatred and defensiveness around my dad. I can love him now. In fact we get along remarkably well. Is he no longer an alcoholic? No, he still drinks, but I have found forgiveness to be a remarkable gift and have learned to take advantage of it regularly.
The pain? It’s gone. It seemed to burst one day like a storm cloud after the thunder and I began to feel a growing inner strength.
Am I still tempted. Yes at times but not so frequently anymore. Since now I have a stronger prayer life, the regular presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Confession and people I can turn to when I'm in need. I am also a presence to others who are in need. Supporting all this are several good friends who I can feel like one of the guys with. Some I met at a young adults group.
I am also dating women. What an awesome experience now to do it without feeling so much stress and the need to talk endlessly to keep that safe distance.
Do I engage in sexual activity with women now? No. In fact, I feel very strongly now about developing a friendship first and waiting until marriage before engaging in sex. I am finding through this a maturity and satisfaction that I never had in the gay life. I am also experiencing the desire to be closer to women that is more in line with natural male tendencies.
You know? It’s been a long journey, but honestly I can say it’s all been worth it. The growth, the learning and even the struggles over the years have in some ways been a gift, however, the last several years of chaste living in Christ have been truly the best years so far.
I've been given the opportunities to share my witness to others. I've also been learning the fullness of the Catholic faith and have come to a more solid sense of my relationship with God and others. Where I go from here I do not know. I will follow the guiding cairns one at a time and trust in God's love staying on His path.
Some final thoughts.
Do you have the gift of friendship to make another guy or girl feel like one of the guys or girls? If so, please share it. Even if the other puts before you that he or she is gay. You don't have to agree with what they are doing. Love does not always mean agreeing with someone. But, we are called to love. Bob and Mimi did not agree that I should go on with the gay life. But they did pray with me and offered their friendship and direction.
And if you yourself feel gay or tempted to engage in sex outside of marriage, strive to live chastely, learn as much as you can about what's you are going through, seek out true friendships and most importantly get close to the Lord. Cry out to Him and take his lead. He will not let you down.