One of the most frequent objections I hear in regards to my same-sex attractions coupled with my desire to live a chaste life in obedience to God is, “Why are you so ashamed of who you’re attracted to?” My initial response to this objection, I won’t lie, is often laughter. Me? Ashamed? I have a lot to be ashamed of in my life, but my attraction to other women has never been one of those things. It has definitely caused some awkward and embarrassing moments along the way, but I can’t say “shame” has ever been something I’ve felt for it.
Now, when I say “shame,” I’m talking about a deep, grievous sense of guilt or fault. The dictionary definition of “shame” is uncomfortable to read: “A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” Shame is something we feel when we’ve done something wrong or severely out-of-step with what was expected of us. It isn’t the same as some subtle embarrassment, which might turn us red as we realize our weaknesses, or even regret, which causes us to wish we’d done something differently. Shame is what drives us to hide, to withdraw, and more to the point, to feel horrible about ourselves.
So, why am I not ashamed? Isn’t homosexual behavior considered a sin? Doesn’t everyone know that God and the Bible and the Church are all opposed to it? Well, yes. Engaging in sexual acts with another woman would be a sin, because every sexual act which takes place outside the marriage covenant between one man and one woman—according to God’s own designs—is a sin.
But same-sex attractions are not chosen, and sin is always a choice we make. More importantly, while same-sex attraction can without a doubt be a strong temptation to commit sin, it can also be an opportunity to experience magnificent grace when it is surrendered to God. I’ll be bold here and say that because I have come to embrace chastity, my attractions have become an experience through which I have been able to grow closer to the heart of God, in whose image women and men are made.
We can’t choose who we’re attracted to, we can only choose what we do about it, and whether we want to surrender this part of our lives to God or not is a choice we make. Therefore, as one man explained, “Contrary to what the media always implies, the alternative to ‘Gay Pride’ isn’t ‘Gay Shame.'”
If you experience attraction to the same sex, whether alongside attraction to the opposite sex or exclusively, I hope to be clear: this is nothing to be ashamed of. As men and women, we are created in the image and likeness of the same God who calls us to love and has stamped a longing for Him into the core of our hearts. If you feel shame, take it to God in prayer. Be honest with Him and speak to him about your desires. Don’t hide this from Him. Keeping this from God will only diminish the joy in your life—not enhance it. Not to mention, He already knows about it, and He wants to show us how it can make us saints—people who love Him above all else, see His beauty all around us, and are completely wrapped up in His heart with awe.
Emily is a 23-year-old Theology student who spends her free time reading, writing, hanging out with friends, and dyeing her hair ridiculous colors. When she isn’t doing homework, she’s assisting with the youth ministry program at her parish.