I’m a Catholic man in my early twenties, I pray daily, and my cross in this life is gender confusion.

What is gender confusion?

Gender confusion means different things for different people, but for me, it means I don’t have a grasp or even basic understanding of my own sexuality. Some days, I’m interested in dating a girl. Some days, I wish I had a boyfriend. Some days, I think I should be a girl. And some days I’m pretty certain I’m asexual.

My story with gender confusion is too long to put into a single article, but let me put it this way for you: if you’ve ever almost drowned, you know the fear of not being able to pull yourself up, of just barely getting enough breath to live. You may even have experienced the terror of not knowing which way is up and which way is down. That’s what it feels like on an emotional level. Some days, I feel like I have a good handle on it, and I may not even be thinking about it at all. Some days, I lose myself completely in my hurt and anxiety and wonder how I can live with this, or if I even want to live anymore.

I’m not writing this article for me, though. I’m writing this article because there are so many young people in the church today who struggle with gender confusion, whether it surfaces in same-sex attraction, the desire to be a member of the opposite gender, or so many other ways. Gender confusion manifests itself in dozens of ways, and it’s a new problem for the world and for the church.

If you don’t have gender confusion, the goal of this article is to tell you that this is a real and dangerous reality. We can’t pretend it’s not happening, and we have to handle it with sensitivity. Sexuality is the most fragile thing I’ve ever known.

If you do experience gender confusion, I’d like to pass on a few thoughts, because in the last year or so, God has taught me a lot about myself and how to live in the day-to-day suffering that is same-sex attraction, transgenderism, confusion, anxiety, and despair.

How do we live with this? Three thoughts:

1) Tell someone you trust completely. A priest, your parents, someone, but I highly recommend an authority figure in your life, someone you know will react with love and encouragement. Telling people felt like lifting a huge burden from my shoulders, but also know that you don’t have to tell everyone. I have a lot of close friends who have no idea I suffer with this. I’m going to be honest: my name isn’t Sam Stark. It’s a pseudonym I use because there are a lot of people in my life who aren’t ready to know my cross yet, and that’s okay with me. Tell someone, but don’t tell everyone.

2) Pray, every day. Consecrate yourself to our Blessed Mother. Mary is the Undoer of Knots, and ever since I consecrated myself to Jesus through her, things have begun to unravel and make sense. Not complete sense, but I am understanding more about myself and how to live and love through it.

3) Know that you were made intentionally. God gave you a masculine body and put a masculine soul in it, or He gave you a feminine body and put a feminine soul in it. No matter the suffering, no matter the pain or confusion—and believe me I understand all of those—hold on to this truth. He is good, always, and He has a plan, always.

This is only the beginning of gender confusion.

Like I said, this isn’t something I can sum up in an article or an easy conversation. But the truth is, God always wins. And I’ve come to realize that maybe the reason I’ve been allowed to suffer from this is so that I can reach out to my brothers and sisters who suffer in silence and point them to the light.

Have a question?

Suffer from same-sex attraction or sexual disorder and want to talk about it? Check out my email at the end of the article and reach out! I’d love to hear from you.

If you are a co-sufferer, know that I pray for you, every day. You may have a strong inclination towards shame, but know that this is a cross like any other: God loves you and wants you healed. And He can do it.

This article originally appeared on chastity.com.

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