All you young teenagers out there who are confused of your sexuality this article is for you. I hope this sheds some light on what you maybe going through. And for parents of teens struggling with SSA, this is also for you.
by. Fr. James McTavish
When a young person declares same sex feelings it should not be assumed automatically that he or she is gay as much adolescent homosexuality is transitory, which often disappears as the young person moves to adulthood. Dr. Joseph Nicolosi reports a study of over 30,000 American youth where 26% of 12-year-olds were unsure if they were heterosexual or homosexual. It would be erroneous to immediately conclude that all these are homosexuals as later only about 2% to 3% of adults with eventually label themselves as homosexual. Nicolosi points out the obvious danger of hastily drawn conclusions: “This means that approximately 90% of these “sexually questioning” teens could erroneously be identified as homosexual, if they are affirmed as gay by a gay-affirmative therapist, school counselor or an on-campus gay club. Hastily concluding that a young person has to live out a gay lifestyle with all its incumbent risks would be inexpedient knowing that “non-heterosexual youth are at increased risk […] for contracting other sexually transmitted infections, using tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, and engaging in behaviors that contribute to violence, depression and suicide.
Variety of Reasons
Same sex feelings in adolescence can occur for a variety of reasons:
A teen may believe he is gay for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with his core sexual identity. His sexual feelings may be rooted in a need for acceptance, approval, of affection from males, or may reflect his loneliness, boredom, or simple curiosity. He may engage in same-sex behavior for adventure, money, peer pressure, or to express hostility against male peers, or general rebellion. He may also find himself reenacting an early trauma of sexual molestation by another male.
Rev. Benedict M. Guevin warns against a “simplistic and monolithic understanding of homosexuality.” He cites the work of French priest and psychoanalyst Tony Anatrella who identifies three types of homosexuality – accidental, reactional, and structural. It may be that homosexual feelings in young people pertain more to accidental homosexuality which “can present itself in either childhood or adolescence by means of experimentation with a person of the same sex – either with someone his or her own age or with someone a little older who initiates the relationship – but without a real desire on the part of the subject. He or she may be led to engage in the relationship out of curiosity, and as a way of reassuring themselves of their own masculinity or femininity.”
A Call to Chastity
In their guidelines on “Pastoral Ministry to Young People with Same-Sex Attraction”, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops encourages the fostering of chastity among teenagers and reminds us that “the whole Christian community has a call to guide its young members who experience same-sex attraction in their journey toward human maturity.” The Catholic Church calls all, both heterosexual and homosexual, to chastity and the Catechism teaches “Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.” However in a secular medical world, the call to chastity is rarely taken seriously.
To live chastely, a real training in virtue is required. This training can be a challenge because the battle is tough as St. Augustine noted: “Among all combats, the combat for chastity is the most violent, because it is a daily combat, and because victory is rare.” Man needs to learn self-mastery: “The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.” Just as repeated good actions can produce virtue, so can repeated bad ones lead to vice. For young people who experience the desire or temptation to engage in homosexual activity it will be most helpful for them to avoid the so-called “proximate occasions of sin” – this can include powerful triggers such as gay pornography or visits to gay bars, discos or saunas – all those situations or choices which can lead to sinful behavior. It is encouraging to note that “by avoiding bad actions and by repeated good actions one can train one’s passions so that they become more spontaneously disposed toward good action […] In this effort to train our desires to be in accord with God’s will, as Christians we do not have to rely solely upon our own powers; we have the Holy Spirit at work in our hearts.”
Temples of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit assists us powerfully in the challenge to remain pure of heart especially in our sex-soaked media world. Our message of chastity runs counter-cultural but the example of St. Pau inspires us. He wrote to the inhabitants of Corinth, a sea port town renowned for sexual licentiousness, and had to remind them not once but twice in the same letter that they were temples of the Holy Spirit. “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16, New American Bible) and three chapters later “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19, New American Bible). The body is sacred and holy because it is a temple of the Holy Spirit. This confers a great dignity on the human body and reminds us that we cannot just do whatever we desire rather we should act responsibly. As St. Paul counseled the Galatians: “The flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want” (Galatians 5:17, New American Bible).
Good Counsel is Needed
Often the media today promotes an alternative view of the body. Rather than being holy it can be presented as a playstation and for pleasure only. Same-sex relationships are flaunted and presented as a normal choice with anyone suggesting otherwise being labeled as homophobic. Good counsel would instead be to tell youth with same-sex feelings that their sexual identity may not yet be fully mature, that their same-sex feelings could be a passing phase, and that an active homosexual lifestyle holds many medical and moral dangers. The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality in the United States cautions thus: “Scientific research supports age-old cultural norms that homosexuality is not a healthy, natural alternative to heterosexuality. Research shows that gay teens are especially vulnerable to substance abuse and early, high-risk sexual behavior. It does far more harm than good to tell a teenager that his or her attractions toward members of the same sex are normal and desirable. Teens in this position need understanding and counseling, not a push in the directions of a potentially deadly lifestyle.