I am shocked by the amount of stories I hear about or read where people are treated for being gay, to cure them of their ‘disease’. The other day I received an e-mail from an acquaintance asking me if I believe that being gay is a disease. He is gay and has a boyfriend whom he lives with. He is out to all his friends and family, but still believes that something is wrong with him. Like me, he is also a psychotherapist. I believe that this line of work makes you look at yourself in a way that you perhaps have not before. I have learnt a lot about myself though this training, as it has made me focus on myself; who I am, what I feel, what I think and believe in. It is therefore not surprising that he is coming up with questions like this. He clearly feels challenged by his surroundings and more importantly- by himself.
We all find ourselves in this situation where we are challenged by who we are, what we feel and believe in. We live in a hetero-normative society where we feel that we have to either fit in and conform, or fight against in order to stay alive and be seen for who we really are. It all depends on what stage of our lives we are in and how comfortable we are in our own skin to be able to speak up or stay silent. It is sad of course that in this day and age, we find ourselves in these situations where we have to freeze, fight or flight These 3 responses are also used to describe situations and how we react to panic. When we panic and have to make a choice of how to deal with a situation, (when we feel pushed or threatened) it takes us to this place within ourselves that is reminiscent of when we were 5 years old and we react as if we were ‘rubberbanded’ back to that age. We have learned to respond in certain ways to certain scenarios, which stays with us for the rest of our lives. If we become aware of this, we can change it and consciously change our way of living and being able to influence our natural responses.
Acceptance is the next step. When we feel that we are being seen by others as gay; we want to be accepted for who we really are inside. We can, however, only be accepted by others, if we are able to accept ourselves for who we are deep down. Going through this phase is very challenging. We go through various periods of shame and anger, and it is believed that all gay men and lesbian women go through these periods at some point of their lives. It is therefore understandable that some people deal with this by taking drugs, binge drinking or having meaningless sex (where they put themselves at risk). They do this to hide or run away from the shame and anger they feel about being different. Some live their whole lives in this phase as they have no support system to help them through this.
I am currently reading ‘The Velvet Rage’ by Alan Downs who discusses this, gives a different perspective and offers some practical and inspiring strategies to stop the cycle of avoidance and self-defeating behaviour. Alan is an American psychotherapist and talks about his life, growing up as a gay man and talks about the gay clients that he sees throughout his career. He first married a woman as he supressed his sexuality, he ‘froze’ due to his shame and ‘fled’ from his true self when he married. He then dealt with his shame and anger/rage and wrote this wonderful book to help us, and will hopefully make us understand about this phase in our lives. I strongly recommend reading it.
This shame and rage can lead a lot of gay people to believe that they are not normal and that they shouldn’t be in this world; they find themselves at the beginning of the cycle again. They blame themselves, their parents or others in their lives as they don’t fit the norm and want to stop having ‘these’ feelings. Some try conversion therapy to become an ‘ex-gay’, others might harm themselves as they believe it’s a disease that they want out of their body.In the worst case scenario, some kill themselves.
For some people being gay and the shame that goes with it is too much to handle and they want to get rid of these feelings. They believe that they are wrong and don’t have a place in this world. They seek help in the form of conversion therapy.
Luckily, the majority of gay people find a way to come out at the other side of this phase; they are able to accept themselves for who they truly are and are ready to face the heteronormative world as they stand confidently in their own shoes. They are in a position to say that being gay is not a choice, and certainly not a disease; this is who they are.
We, as the Gaysi Family, hope to be here for as many people as we can; to give them support, love, reading material, something to think about and to make everybody realise and hopefully understand that they are normal human beings like everybody else, gay or straight.
Below are some links to websites where you can read more about how society is accepting, being more inclusive and opening up the way the heteronormative world is thinking.
The Pan American Health Organisation released a caution statement in 2012 against services that offer a ‘cure’ to clients with non-heterosexual orientations. This meant that therapists can no longer treat their clients for being gay as this is deemed to be unethical and is a serious threat to their health and well-being. They also noted that the global scientific and professional opinion is that homosexuality is a normal variation of human sexuality.
Stonewall’s website indicates what laws have been changed in the UK in the 2000’s where the government has acknowledged homosexuality as ‘normal’ and that discrimination is not allowed anywhere.
In 2009 the Delhi High Court in India decriminalised homosexual intercourse as per section 377. Also the Supreme Court ruled against some appeals in 2012. India is still waiting for the law to be changed accordingly.