My Relationships/Teen Relationships Journeying with Friends with Same-Sex Attractions by Avera Maria Santo I came to terms with the fact that I’m physically attracted to people of the same sex the summer before my junior year of high school. It was by far one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. For much of that time, I tried to just muscle through and stick it out on my own. I quickly realized that wasn’t going to work. One of the most important aspects of my experience has been finding people who uplift, support, and encourage me in my journey toward heaven. No matter what you or those you love are struggling with, understand that having people around you who are on a similar path has a major impact on what’s going to make or break you. As someone who experiences same-sex attraction (SSA), I know how much of a difference intentional and authentic friendships can make. As such, I want to share what’s been helpful to me so you can better accompany those you know and love who may experience these attractions as well. 1. Know who they are. This may seem a bit odd since we’re talking about people you already know and love, but hear me out. When I say know who this person is, I mean really get to know them. Forming and sustaining intentional friendships is important in anyone’s life, but it is especially important for those who experience SSA. This goes deeper than just knowing a person’s favorite color or favorite Starbucks drink. This is a complete willingness to share experiences, to speak openly about what God is doing our lives, to carry one another to Christ when we’re wounded and in need of the care of the divine physician. Having friends in my life who aren’t afraid to invest time and energy in getting to know the real me and who are actively striving for holiness changed everything. These are people who see me as a daughter of God, not simply as my desires and attractions, or whatever else the world seeks to “identify” me as. No one is meant to journey to heaven alone. Our God is a community of persons, and we are made in the image and likeness of that community. It’s no wonder why we long for authentic community with those around us. 2. Know where they’re going. I’m a storyteller by nature. Whether it be through public speaking or written word, storytelling is one of my greatest loves. Some of the best advice I’ve ever received in regard to character development in fiction writing is to not just tell the reader who the character is. Instead, we need to show the reader who the characters are by explaining what it is that they want. A person’s desires reveals a great deal about them. As Catholics, we know that every person is created by God with a fervent desire for Him. In “Confessions,” St. Augustine says, “Thou hast made us for thyself and our hearts are restless till they rest in thee.” Our lives should be a constant movement toward God, through prayer and contemplation, through frequent reception of the sacraments, through loving Christ in those around us. Each of us, even if we choose not to believe it, is being pulled toward God. Heaven is where we ultimately want to end up, and I knew this even as I was coming to terms with my same-sex desires. My friends know where I’m going. They point me toward heaven when they ask me about my prayer life, how often I’ve been frequenting the sacraments, and how I’m dealing with different challenges in my life. This has been essential for both my spiritual and personal growth. If you know and love someone who is experiencing SSA, recognize that, like you, their destination is heaven so we need to commit to journeying with them . 3. Be with them. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve laid in my bed, feeling as if I’m suffocating under the weight of my loneliness and longing. I made a habit of isolating myself from people; of talking so much but never saying enough; of refusing to let people really see me, know me, and love me, which is exactly what every person wants. Ecclesiastes chapter four says that “[t]wo are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up … And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12). So much of the temptation I experience comes when I’m alone, when I isolate myself and feel like I have no one to talk to. Friends who walk alongside me through the depths of my fears and who aren’t afraid to be honest with me are essential. Don’t simply look the other way when your friends or loved ones face temptations, or even when they give in to them. Faithfully remain present to them and invite Christ’s merciful healing and love into the struggle, especially the most broken places; this is the testament of authentic friendship. The fact that I have friends who pray for me, talk with me about my struggles, and remind me of who I am and where I’m going is the reason I am where I am today. For this, I’m forever grateful to them. Ultimately, making yourself available to walk with someone toward a common goal (heaven) is so rewarding, not just for you but for the other person as well. It truly is the greatest form of love to die to yourself for your friends (John 15:13), and it’s this kind of love that we are all called to.