Christianity and sexuality

10 of the hardest things from the last decade

7. I confessed to being a fraud.

The last decade I had a lot of accomplishments. I’m owning my career. I’ve done a ton of writing I’m really proud of (including publishing in a peer-reviewed journal, writing a short children’s novel, completing a 78,000-word memoir, and getting an essay accepted in Commonweal). And I have some amazing friends (as well as a wonderful guy in my life who loves me very much). I live a good life.

But it was also a hard decade.

I’m going to share a list of some of the hardest things in my life from the last decade, because I want people to know that good lives don’t just come out of rainbows and butterflies. There’s real pain and suffering, too. And some of you may be in a hard spot now. Some of you may be grappling with similar pains and sufferings to what I’ve experienced over the last ten years. I want you to know that there can be much more to life than that.

Most of my list has to do with being gay and Catholic. That life has particular and common traumas. But as you read this list, I want you to know that I’ve overcome or am well in the process of overcoming each of these difficulties. I’m stronger because of where I’ve been. I’m proud of how resilient, adaptable, and compassionate this list has made me. Frankly, I think I’m kind of a badass. If you’re in a darker place, I want you to hold on and think that maybe, just maybe, this thing that just totally sucks might make you stronger. So here’s the list:

1. In college, I came out to a group of (very) Catholic friends from my dorm during a sort of intervention, got freaked out by the incident, and then slept in the library for a few nights because I felt like I couldn’t face them.

2. Also around that time, because of a confusing same sex relationship, I got kicked out of my dorm and told not to attend Mass in the chapel there by its priest-rector.

3. I got my heart horribly broken after a confusing 5 year romantic relationship with a man and then had to grapple with the subsequent unmasking of self-deception and his deception. It was horrible.

4. I came far too close to attempting suicide, had a meltdown, and spent a few days under constant watch from my roommates and mother. Then I had to reckon with the pain this brought to my friends and family.

5. I spent several months convincing myself day after day that killing myself was a bad idea.

6. I was asked to apply for a job working for the Church and then was denied the job because I was gay.

7. I confessed to being a fraud.

8. I hosted a casual happy hour to celebrate my commitment to a wonderful man, which many of my closest friends chose not to attend because of religious objections.

9. I had to help someone very close to me deal with employment discrimination in the Church, and deal with the fact that we can’t do anything about it because he’s scared that being open about it will hurt his opportunities to find work in the future.

10. I started a long distance relationship, and got a lot of inappropriate responses to it.

Here’s the list again, with updates:

1. In college, I came out to a group of (very) Catholic friends during a sort of intervention, got freaked out by the incident, and then slept in the library for a few nights because I felt like I couldn’t face them. (Update: We’ve since reconnected, there have been many apologies, and we’re all under good terms.)

2. Also around that time, because of a confusing same sex relationship, I got kicked out of my dorm and told not to attend Mass in the chapel there by its priest-rector. (Update: I’m happy to say that this is great material for a memoir.)

3. I got my heart horribly broken after a confusing 5 year romantic relationship with a man and then had to grapple with the subsequent unmasking of self-deception and his deception. It was horrible. (Update: I think about him from time to time and the things we shared and the good things we had and want to punch him in the face. But I have better things to do and better things to feel. I also decided that the best way to respond to someone who’s afraid of the truth is to tell it. So I put it in the memoir. In that process I learned a lot about us and a lot about myself, and I think I’m better for it.)

4. I came far too close to attempting suicide, had a meltdown, and spent a few days under constant watch from my roommates and mother. Then I had to reckon with the pain this brought to my friends and family. (Update: The experience and the necessary resulting vulnerability ultimately made me much closer with my friends and family.)

5. I spent several months convincing myself day after day that killing myself was a bad idea. (Update: I’m still here, and I intend to stay.)

6. I was asked to apply for a job working for the Church and then was denied the job because I was gay. (Update: Years later, I finally got the courage to be open about this experience. I hope it challenges the Church to do better. I also now have the confidence to say that I’m much better than what happened to me. Eighteen months into my corporate career, I’ve personally written a policy binding on 350,000 employees and negotiated contracts governing tens of millions of dollars. At this point, my perspective on that denied job is not so much that I missed out on an opportunity as it is that they missed out on me. And they’re the lesser for it. My view increasingly is that gay people have to work twice as hard under ten times as much scrutiny in the Church to get half as much as their straight counterparts. This is evil. But I refused to be scared away by it.)

7. I confessed to being a fraud. (Update: I feel really good that I did this.)

8. I hosted a casual happy hour to celebrate my commitment to a wonderful man, which many of my closest friends chose not to attend because of religious objections. (Update: I had to confront homophobia, both internalized and external, and what it means to me philosophically and personally. I took a page out of the books of racial minority friends with racist in-laws and came to appreciate how they navigate the parts of the world that don’t accept what it means for them to love in it. This has made me better understand my need for healthy boundaries in relationships and where I can find my deepest friendships.)

9. I had to help someone very close to me deal with employment discrimination in the Church, and deal with the fact that we can’t do anything about it because he’s scared that being open about it will hurt his opportunities to find work in the future. (Update: This is still not in the ideal state, but, given the above, if you were involved, you should know that it’s not over.)

10. I started a long distance relationship, and got a lot of inappropriate responses to it. (Update: We’re still together. It’s going quite well.)


Chris Damian is a writer, speaker, attorney, and business professional living in the Twin Cities. He received his B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame and his J.D. and M.A. in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas. He is the author of “I Desired You: Intellectual Journals on Faith and (Homo)sexuality” (volumes I and II). He is also the co-founder of YArespond, a group of Catholic young adults seeking informed and holistic responses to the clergy abuse crisis. In his free time, he enjoys hosting dinner parties and creative writing workshops. 

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