I thought I was over my Catholic guilt about being gay. Maybe I was wrong? | Antoun Issa

An adolescence of shame about being LGBTQ+ can have lingering effects on our behaviour that stretch well into adulthood

Guilt and shame can be addictive. In certain religious and traditional contexts, it can even be venerated, honoured – the requisite emotion that subdues human ego and maintains humility at the feet of a far higher power. But it can also leave an indelible stain on our character, our personality, and our mental health that endures for years, particularly for those brought up in such conservative environments where guilt and shame were measurements of our own self-worth.

“It’s good to cry when you pray. Tears wash away your sins,” an aunt – a devout Maronite Catholic – once remarked to me as a child. I took those words and held them close to my chest, and for many years in my adolescence, Good Friday was the moment of repentance, of a dive deep into my own being in search of guilt. I’d sit, in darkness, burrowing into the corners of my mind, scouring the memories of the previous year in search of acts or incidents that would render me guilty, that would strike the emotional cords, and activate the stress hormone that made tears well up in my eyes.

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