“So, are you dating anyone?”

Since college, this question has been a source, at best, of discomfort; at worst, of insecurity. Those who ask are well-meaning; most simply just making conversation. I usually respond with a simple “Not at the moment” trying to play it cool, but I feel my pulse race and body become tense. After answering “Not at the moment” several times to the same person, my mind goes to the question… “What if they find me out…what if they know I have same-sex attractions?”

For some background…

I went to college at a Protestant school with a “ring before spring” culture – many students anxious and eager to get engaged before graduation. A frequent topic of conversation was one’s dating life; or lack thereof. I remember at times being asked the oh-so-common “Are there any girls in your life?” question, and sometimes throwing out names of women who I found pretty and engaging in conversation. There likely was little romantic attraction, but I felt it “covered me” from being “found out.”

One instance, in particular, stands out.

I’m 21 years old, in a bunk room in San Jose, Costa Rica on a short-term study abroad trip. The five of us men in the bunk room know each other fairly well, as we are all students together at our college in the U.S. It’s late and the lights are out. But the chatter continues. Here it comes:

“So, Brian, any girls in your life?”

Something about being in this bunk room, at night, in the dark, with four other men intensifies the worry of being “found out.” The best I could do was say “I’m content with being single right now.” A response from one of the bunkmates was less than flattering…

“Single and content…that’s what you always say! I’m starting to think you’re gay!”

Again, my heart races…more so than usual! I’m humiliated and don’t know what to say; hoping no one continues the conversation or asks further questions. All I can assume is that they now feel uncomfortable sharing a bunk room with me…

Fast-forward a decade or so, after returning to the Catholic church, this question strikes a deeper chord. It’s no longer so much the “Are you dating anyone?” question I receive, but instead “Are you married?”, “Any kids?” And for these too, I can sense a similarly defensive feeling. I still occasionally worry they may assume I experience same-sex attractions, but I also falsely assume they wonder what’s “wrong” with me for not having a more vowed state of life. Do they assume I’m lazy, afraid of commitment, or selfish? Without having a more obvious role of leading, protecting, and providing for by giving myself to a wife and children, a religious community, or through pastoring a parish, I wonder if in the eyes of others I’m somehow not a “real” man? If I’m honest, this can sometimes lead to feelings of envy and self-pity. But as Catholics, we don’t allow feelings to rule us but truth!

What is the truth?

Using reason and faith, I can answer these aforementioned “what if” questions in the following ways:

  1. What if they “figure me out?”  Who cares! None of us are defined by our attractions. If anything, the Church benefits by the witness of men and women with same-sex attractions striving to give themselves fully to God and live a faithful life based on the truth and fullness of Catholic teaching.
  2. What if they don’t think I’m a “real” man for not having a vowed vocation?  They’re wrong! We are blessed to have a number of canonized lay saints, both men and women, who remained single and in the world: St. Guiseppe Moscati, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Benedict Joseph Labre come to mind. These men and women became the men and women God wanted them to be, and by doing so became great saints.

I do feel the Church would benefit from further explaining the meaning and importance of spiritual motherhood and fatherhood for those living in the world. But it seems to me that for those of us who are single, the question we should ask ourselves each day is “What can I do to be a gift to others?” Perhaps by doing so – and consequently seeing and providing for the needs of others we encounter – we are taking a simple step to living the spiritual parenthood we are called to. We must remember that no (worldly) relationship, state in life, or circumstance whatsoever will ever leave us truly fulfilled in this life. Feelings of emptiness are something we all face; but if we allow Him to, God can use this feeling of emptiness to draw us nearer to Him. By doing so, each of us comes closer and closer to becoming the saint we are intended to be.

Thanks be to God!

*    *    *

Brian R. is a 32 year old in the Washington, DC area who works as a hospice nurse. He has been involved with Courage since 2018 and is active in the Baltimore, Washington, and Arlington chapters. He loves outdoor activities with friends, coffee and a good book, and quiet time in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

The opinions and experiences expressed in each blog entry in “The Upper Room” belong solely to the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of Courage International, Inc. Some entries have been edited for length and clarity.