The Chimes

Seeking community while struggling against same-sex attraction

Richard Padilla shares his story of dealing with same-sex attraction and his heart for honesty regarding this issue on campus.

Returning+student+Richard+Padilla+has+been+open+with+his+friends+about+his+struggle+against+same-sex+attraction.+Friendship+has+been+critical+in+his+search+to+come+to+grips+with+this+facet+of+his+identity.+%7C+Emily+Arnold%2FTHE+CHIMES
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Seeking community while struggling against same-sex attraction

Returning student Richard Padilla has been open with his friends about his struggle against same-sex attraction. Friendship has been critical in his search to come to grips with this facet of his identity. | Emily Arnold/THE CHIMES

Returning student Richard Padilla has been open with his friends about his struggle against same-sex attraction. Friendship has been critical in his search to come to grips with this facet of his identity. | Emily Arnold/THE CHIMES

Returning student Richard Padilla has been open with his friends about his struggle against same-sex attraction. Friendship has been critical in his search to come to grips with this facet of his identity. | Emily Arnold/THE CHIMES

Returning student Richard Padilla has been open with his friends about his struggle against same-sex attraction. Friendship has been critical in his search to come to grips with this facet of his identity. | Emily Arnold/THE CHIMES

Elizabeth Sallie, Writer

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Returning student Richard Padilla has been open with his friends about his struggle against same-sex attraction. Friendship has been critical in his search to come to grips with this facet of his identity. | Emily Arnold/THE CHIMES

 

Touch. Time. Transparency. All of these are critical for any typical friendship. Richard Padilla, a former Biola student, is vocal about his desires for these in his friendships with other men.

Padilla deals with same-sex attraction, identifying as Side B. Side B refers to people who believe that same-sex behavior and relationships are not morally permissible, according to chapel speaker Mark Yarhouse during his visit in December 2012. This stands in contrast to Side A — people with same-sex attraction who believe that behavior is morally permissible.

A STRUGGLE SINCE CHILDHOOD

Padilla, 24, is working at Starbucks and as a valet, earning money for his return to Biola next fall as a social sciences major.

His struggle against same-sex attraction dates back to childhood. At 5 years old, he was sexually abused by a male neighbor. Over the next eight years, he was abused by the neighbor and an older cousin, which Padilla believes contributed to his attraction to other men.

When Padilla explains his attraction, his words are peppered with self-awareness and technical jargon. He’ll drop names of books every few sentences that he’s read and found helpful.
Josh Hansen, a Biola alumnus who is friends with Padilla, praised Padilla’s character.

“He’s very smart, very intellectual, very strong-willed and opinionated. But he’s also one of the most compassionate and loving people that I’ve ever met,” Hansen said, noting that Padilla loves to bring others into his life.

Padilla has learned to identify key moments tied to his attraction.

“A lot has to do with that abuse. And on top of that, I didn’t have a lot of guy friends growing up as a kid, so I always looked for [them]. … I had this want for guys,” he explained.

FALLOUTS WITH MALE FRIENDS

Though the abuse stopped when Padilla was 13, it was another four years before he told anyone else. During a day of confession at his Christian high school, he told a male friend about it, prompted, unsurprisingly, by a book. That discussion formed a strong attachment with his friend, who was attending Biola at the time.

Padilla was attracted to the friend, and things escalated over the next three years. Eventually the friend began dating a girl — taking up time that had previously been Padilla’s.

“Because I didn’t know what was going on, I crossed a boundary,” Padilla explained. “He said we couldn’t be friends anymore.”

The fallout of that friendship hurt Padilla deeply.

“It just sucks because I know it was my fault. At the same time, I wish I just didn’t have the struggle. I just want normal guy friends and it’s hard for me to have that,” he said.

A slightly similar situation has happened once since, as Padilla continues to deal with his attraction to men. The second friendship was healthier, Padilla said. A lot of good came from the relationship as he learned more about having his needs met. But the level of attachment eventually was too much to handle, resulting in the friend walking away.

The loss of that friendship sent Padilla into a battle with depression for the next year and a half, from which he is just now emerging. He describes feeling caught in the in-between.

CAUGHT IN BETWEEN COMMUNITIES

“I don’t feel a part of anything. I’m not part of the gay community, and I feel like I got kicked out of the Christian community,” he said.

Padilla exudes joy, with a broad smile even when describing painful hurt. His energy and cheer drive his conversations.

He craves being a part of male community, which he first found in dorm life at Biola. Kolby Atchison, a senior philosophy major, lived on the same floor in Hart Hall when he was a freshman and Padilla was a junior. They roomed together later, remaining friends throughout Padilla’s second tricky friendship.

Atchison compared Padilla’s desire to get closer to these men to a heterosexual romantic relationship where there is desire to get to know the other person increasingly. He expressed empathy for both parties, and acknowledged the difficulty of the situation.

Those friends gave so much to Padilla, Atchison said. Helping care for Padilla as he deals with the struggle requires intentionality and time. The lost friendships eventually led to a point where people had to decide what level of sacrifice they were willing to make.

“So then you ask the question ‘When do you die to yourself for the sake of helping … a guy who struggles with same-sex attraction?’” Atchison asked.

Atchison holds out hope for the Christian community to engage the issue of homosexuality well.

Since those situations, Padilla has built friendships, but he can’t let go of the fear that they might end like the others.

“I need to go to [the friends I have now] when I’m in a needy place, but I’m afraid to go to them because I’m afraid if I get close to them, they might walk away,” he said.

Friends describe Padilla as incredibly intentional about friendship. He openly explains his desire for time and touch to his friends, because he knows that’s how they can help him best. The need for touch — whether hugs or wrestling — tie into feeling welcomed into masculine community.

“I feel like since I was in such an intense state, I haven’t been able to build natural friendships. … I can’t let something naturally happen,” he said.

PADILLA'S DESIRE FOR HONESTY AND CONFESSION

Padilla is not only honest in sharing his needs — he is a person marked by honesty. Though he may be discussing typically uncomfortable topics, he conveys the desire to help others understand him better.

When he first told Hansen, Hansen was simply surprised by the transparency.

“You just don’t really see that very much with anybody about anything. He’s just so open about everything,” Hansen said.

Constantly seeking the truth, Padilla values confession. He wants to see more honesty and confession regarding all sexual sin across campus. In particular, he’d like to see other Side B students have a safe place to talk about their struggles.

“That’s part of being a follower of Jesus, is to stand up for what’s true … To help [students] understand the truth on an intellectual level, and then on a practical level,” he said.

Weaving confession with his love of friendship, he envisions group members bringing a straight friend as an accountability partner. This sort of group would likely help eliminate stigma surrounding same-sex attraction, he said.

Though he is saddened by the lack of formal programming at Biola, Padilla calls his experience at the school “what saved my life.” He has devoured the resources available — including the Counseling Center, the Library and life in the dorms.

Seeking these resources has never felt unsafe. Other students may feel unsafe, he said, because of the cultural tension surrounding the issue.

“I think the very first step in healing is actually saying, ‘I need help. I am struggling with this,’” he said.

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