Following what has just happened in Orlando, I have a simple word of advice for younger people, especially those raised in conservative religious contexts, who are struggling with issues about gender and sexual orientation:
Avoid Catholic news and blog sites online.
These are not healthy places for you to visit, if you're seeking a healthy self-understanding.
Many of you will probably have received the impression from the media that the current pope, Pope Francis, is gay-affirming and that some kind of sea change has happened with Catholics in this papacy, making the Catholic community a welcoming and loving place for you to come to a healthy understanding of yourself as queer.
This is simply not the case. Even at so-called "liberal" Catholic blog sites, when you log into discussions of LGBTQ issues and LGBTQ lives, you'd encounter large numbers of people speaking on behalf of the Catholic faith who don't even know you, but who will inform you that you're sick.
Or that your God-given sexual orientation is not "real," that it's an illusion of which you need to be healed.
Or that God makes no one queer, that God has nothing to do with who you've been made to be if you're queer.
Many of these people speaking on behalf of the Catholic faith will tell you that they love you so much they have an obligation to hurt you — through what they call "the Truth" — and that they are acting out of love in seeking to harm you with their "Truth."
Don't believe them. People like this are best avoided when you're struggling with issues of sexual identity.
Despite what they say, their real motivation is, in fact, to harm you and to claim that they are acting in Christ's name as they inflict injury on you.
As this happens, the potential for harm at many Catholic blog sites will be much more serious, because many so-called "liberal" Catholics who claim to care about you and who run these blog sites will sit by in total silence as fellow Catholics attack you in the name of Christ.
Those misusing the Catholic faith to mount ugly attacks on you as a queer person will not be told to stop abusing a Catholic discussion place to harm other human beings. They'll be given free rein to do so, while people pushing back against them will often find themselves censored in these same discussion spaces.
As all this happens, you'll look long and hard at these same "liberal" Catholic blog or journal sites for openly queer people speaking out of their experience as queer people — even as the lives and humanity of you and other queer folks are dissected at these same blog or journal sites. For the most part at Catholic blog and journal sites, queer people are totally invisible even as their lives are discussed and dissected at these sites.
I issue this warning statement out of concern for the many young people who are struggling with issues of gender and sexual orientation — especially ones raised in conservative religious contexts — and who will be especially vulnerable and frightened following the events in Orlando. I'm concerned about such young people who may turn to online sites for guidance, community, and help.
None of these things is to be found at most Catholic blog or journal sites online — not for queer people. And worse than that, the discussions that occur at many of these sites, when LGBTQ people are being dissected, are actively toxic, actively harmful, and are best avoided by younger people seeking a healthy self-understanding as queer human beings.