Coming out the Catholic way

Hudson Byblow, 32, has questioned his sexuality since he was very young. For a time, he entertained lustful thoughts about women, but then lost interest and wondered if he was attracted to men. He kept this uncertainty private for much of his life until he “came out” (in a Catholic way) on the public stage at a Men of Valor conference sponsored by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph earlier this year. Byblow’s coming out was not a public identification with the “gay” identity or lifestyle, but instead a telling of his struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions and how he came to embrace Christ and the teachings of the Catholic Church.

The face of Christ

Byblow was born and reared in a Catholic home in Canada, but left the Church in his 20s and embraced New Age philosophies. At this time, he received a massage from another adult male and was “touched inappropriately in a deliberate and persistent way.” The experience frightened Byblow, and he was troubled by the physiological response it caused. He thought to himself, “Oh my God, I’m gay!”

In an effort to prove to himself that he was not, he became promiscuous with women.

“It was selfish and exploitive,” Byblow told Our Sunday Visitor. “A real man does not exploit others.”

Part of his recovery from the promiscuous lifestyle, in fact, was “putting the face of Christ on every person.

“I found it impossible to exploit people when I saw Christ in their eyes,” he said.

In an attempt to escape his thoughts about the massage experience, Byblow became a regular viewer of pornography, but his viewing preference shifted from women to men.

“I had made sex the center of my life,” he said.

Byblow reflects today that his life was a “continuous cycle of seek-and-not-find … I never found the love I knew I desired.”

When he was in college, gay rights groups pressed students such as Hudson to “come out,” to identify themselves as homosexual and to openly live the lifestyle.

At the time, Byblow accepted various statements that the activists were making, such as that people are born homosexual and that 10 percent of the population was homosexual. He had previously held back from “coming out” out of fear of hurting his family. But by 2007, he thought it was his only road to happiness.

The week he decided to “come out,” however, Byblow went to Mass and heard a homily by a “wise, humble” priest who challenged many of the statements put forth by gay activists.

Abandoning his initial plan, he instead decided to explore the priest’s viewpoint. He read voraciously and went to the priest for confession.

“He assured me that God loves me, which I really needed to hear, as I felt myself to be dirty and unlovable,” Byblow said. “He made me see the love of Christ as accessible to me.”

Not alone

Byblow discussed his situation with his diocesan bishop, who suggested he get involved with Courage, the Catholic Church’s apostolate for persons with same-sex attractions. It was not like other Christian ministries that try to “pray the gay away,” he said, but focused on helping the individual develop “a life-identity centered on Christ, the side effect of which is that one gradually disengages from a life-identity that is sexually-centered.”

In 2009, Byblow went to his first Courage conference in Philadelphia. The fellowship he found was of immeasurable benefit.

“For once I felt like I could fully share of myself — the struggles, the hurt, the darkness — but more so, the joy in pursuing Christ and experiencing his love,” he said. “It brought healing. Through that, I became open to trusting men again.

“Until that point, I had isolated myself from men and turned to pornography as a release from my frustration,” Byblow added. “The problem is, the more I exploited others, the more I hated myself. But I found out through Courage that despite my past, Jesus Christ still had room for me. I realized I was not alone. There were other people like me who wanted to live right with God. They wanted to live a life with God at the center, above their sexuality.”

Through Courage, he developed healthy friendships with other members who understood and accepted him. He found the fellowship to be “a little taste of heaven on Earth. 

“We’re brothers fighting for the same cause: to keep Christ at the center of our lives and our embraced identities,” Byblow said.

A gift from God

Today, you’ll often find Byblow at daily Mass or in line for confession. His same-sex attractions have diminished, but have not gone away. However, he does not base his life on those attractions or on his sexuality in general, he said.

Hudson Byblow
Hudson Byblow

“We are not merely sexual beings,” he said. “Sexuality is a gift from God, our loving Creator. I am a beloved child of God first, and I love God above my sexuality. Therefore, I cannot embrace an identity centered on my sexuality, regardless of the sexual attractions I experience.”

Today, he said he enjoys a peace like “none I have ever had before,” especially compared with the “hopelessness” that he felt previously.

Byblow had written and recorded voice-over videos about his struggle, but until the Men of Valor conference last January had not publicly addressed a large group.

Byblow decided to go public at the Men of Valor conference after speaking with Bill Scholl of the Archdiocese of Kansas City. Scholl oversees the archdiocesan Office for Social Justice and attended a Courage event to better understand how he could serve the needs of people with same-sex attractions.

“[Byblow] is an articulate young man with an inspiring story,” Scholl said. “He’s discovered he’s happier living a chaste life, and we want to get the message out that chastity brings peace. You don’t have to say ‘yes’ to every urge or feeling you have.”

The Men of Valor conference features a variety of speakers advocating a Catholic view of sexuality. Hudson addressed groups of both men and teens.

“There is a lot of confusion among Christians regarding people with same-sex attractions,” Scholl said. “The culture tells us that the compassionate response is to accept a person who indulges those feelings, but at the same time our Faith teaches us that this behavior is immoral. [Byblow’s] story puts a face on this struggle and helps us see that it is not compassionate to encourage someone to indulge in behavior that is opposed to the natural law and the teachings of the Gospel.”

A therapeutic experience

In preparation for publicly sharing his testimony, Byblow confided with some of his family members who had already seen multiple articles that he had written on the topic of homosexuality.

“They must have wondered why I was fixating on the topic,” he said. The family knew that Hudson had been promiscuous and gone through emotional turmoil for years. Hudson recalled, “As I told them about the existence of the same-sex attractions, I assured them it was not their fault.”

Family members he confided in listened to him with patience and acceptance. They were, Byblow said, “Christ-like.” The experience was also therapeutic: “I felt like a big weight was lifted off my shoulders.”

Byblow plans to continue writing and public speaking in an effort to help others who share his struggle. He also has a message for those who do not experience same-sex attractions.

“I hope people will come to understand their brothers and sisters in Christ who experience same-sex attractions, for they are truly in need of their love,” he said.

Byblow hopes that all people “will be open to responding to this invitation with an open heart, mind and spirit,” he said. “Being fully honest with ourselves is the key to experiencing the greatest degree of joy, which is something we can only achieve if we choose to reject that which is not true and instead embrace a greater degree of truth once we become aware of it. The real struggle is getting the truth of the love of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church out to the world, especially on this sensitive topic.

In looking ahead to his new chapter in his life, he said, “I’m a bit nervous, but I’m hoping I can do some good.” 

Jim Graves writes from California.