Gender/God's Plan for Sex/Homosexuality/My Relationships/Sex and Chastity/Teen Relationships Dear Society, You Don’t Define Me by Avera Maria Santo My junior of high school, the new girl at school who would soon become my best friend, told me that I was gay. At the time, I was around 16-years-old. The summer before, I had had my first real crush on a girl, and it scared me to death. I had no clue what to do, or what to think, but I did my very best not to think of myself as — that. After she told me this, I began wondering what that term really meant. What did it actually mean to be “gay?” The only knowledge I’d had of the gay lifestyle at that time was from movies and TV. I figured I couldn’t be gay, because I didn’t look like the girls I was seeing on TV, my life didn’t look like theirs, and I didn’t really feel the way that they claimed to. I didn’t want to have a rainbow flag sticker on the back of my car, go to all of the pride rallies, or stand outside of the court houses with signs demanding to be able to marry who I wanted to marry. That’s what I associated with the word “gay.” I couldn’t really relate to any of that, so that meant I couldn’t be gay! — Right? Still, it was becoming harder and harder to deny what I was feeling. My affection for my best friend became stronger and stronger as the year went on, the seemingly lacking amount of communication about homosexuality from the Church left me confused and extremely angry, and I was still hiding this huge secret from everyone. The society that we live in conditioned me to see myself as my sexual orientation, and nothing more. Over and over again, I’d hear phrases like, “I’m gay, that’s just who I am.” Because of what society had told me, I couldn’t see myself as anything more than just gay. Society Doesn’t Decide Here’s the problem with society putting a label on anyone for any reason: society doesn’t have the authority to define human beings. In order for society to be able to define us, it had to create us. Newsflash: society did not create us. “I am the LORD your God… You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20: 2-3). As Christians, we know that the Lord is the only God, and is Lord over all creation, including us! God as Creator, as the Author of life, has authority over us, and, therefore, has the authority to say who and what we are. My identity cannot be reduced to my sexual desires. When you really start to look at the nature of the human person, you can start to understand stand why reducing human beings to their sexual desires makes absolutely no sense. By nature, I am a daughter of God; I am cherished and loved by the Creator of the universe, set on this earth with breath in my lungs to do His will and return back to Him. That’s a lot more than just “I’m attracted to women.” Society Doesn’t Know Love One of the misconceptions I hear the most is this notion that the Catholic Church insists that persons with same-sex attractions can’t love who they want to love, because the Church teaches that acting on these desires is “intrinsically disordered” (CCC 2357). I will admit that this was one of my biggest fears when I was first coming to terms with my same-sex attractions. Society told me very plainly that if I remained a Catholic, I was not going to be able to be true to who I was. But if society had told me the truth, it would’ve said, “the Church will not define and limit you by your attractions, but will call you to the highest form of love, which is far greater than the extent of your attractions.” My homosexual desires have drawn me closer to the cross than I ever imagined possible. I’ve suffered greatly, which has given me the opportunity to love as Christ loved, even unto death. Every day, I’m called to die to myself, and give my life for those that I love, and these desires have taught me to do that in a very unique and profound way. Society tells me that same-sex attraction defines me and, for that reason, I should give into them. But Christ calls me to make a gift of them, handing them over to Him as a beautiful sacrifice joined with His on the cross. Which brings up another point: we are called to suffer as Christ suffered so that, with Him, we can be given over to the Father completely. By giving into every one of our inclinations, attractions, and temptations, doing everything in our power to avoid suffering, or refusing to join our suffering to the cross, is acting contrary to our nature. Asking any person — people who experience same-sex desires included — to live chastity is not asking them to take the easy road; it’s going to be challenging, it’s going to be painful at times, but the suffering of that cross is necessary for the new life that comes with it. This is beauty and sacrifice that society knows absolutely nothing about. Society Can’t Make Me Happy Try as it might, society cannot give me joy that is anywhere near what I’ve experienced within the Church. I have found joy, freedom, and life in not simply saying “no” to society, but in saying “yes” to Christ and to His Church. I’ve found fulfillment in the Christ the Bridegroom, who proudly calls me His beloved. Society can’t tell me anything about real love, because it doesn’t know Love Himself. By nature, we are designed for holiness, for union with God. Society promises us lesser loves, immediate things that will ultimately leave us feeling unfulfilled, confused, and miserable. I know now that, as a teen, I struggled to identify with being called “gay” because that a distortion of my true identity. I’m a child of God, and my deepest desire isn’t to be with a woman, it’s to be with God.