Gay Population Growth Essay Research Paper Theunprecedented

Gay Population Growth Essay, Research Paper ?The unprecedented growth of the gay community in recent history has transformed our culture and consciousness, creating radically new possibilities for people to

Gay Population Growth Essay, Research Paper


unprecedented growth of the gay community in recent history has transformed our

culture and consciousness, creating radically new possibilities for people to

?come out? and live more openly as homosexuals? (Herdt 2). Before the

1969?s Stonewall riot in New York, homosexuality was a taboo subject. Research

concerning homosexuality emphasized the etiology, treatment, and psychological

adjustment of homosexuals. Times have changed since 1969. Homosexuals have

gained great attention in arts, entertainment, media, and politics.

Yesterday?s research on homosexuality has expanded to include trying to

understand the different experiences and situations of homosexuals (Ben-Ari

89-90). Despite the transition, little consideration has been given to

understanding the growing population of gay adolescents. 25% of American

families are likely to have a gay child (Hidalgo 24); In the United States,

three million adolescents are estimated to be homosexual. Yet, American society

still ignores gay adolescents. Majority of children are raised in heterosexual

families, taught in heterosexual establishments, and put in heterosexual peer

groups. Gay adolescents often feel forced by parents to pass as

?heterosexually normal? (Herdt 2). As a result, homosexual teens hide their

sexual orientation and feelings, especially from their parents. Limited research

conducted on gay young adults on disclosure to parents generally suggests that

disclosure is a time of familial crisis and emotional distress. Very few

researchers argue that disclosure to parents results in happiness, bringing

parents and children closer (Ben-Ari 90). The debate over homosexuality as

nature or nurture dominates most topics about homosexuality. People often

confuse the nature/nurture issue with the development of gay identity. In fact,

the nature/nurture argument plays a small, insignificant role concerning gay

youths (Walling 11). Homosexual identity is the view of the self as homosexual

in association with romantic and sexual situations (Troiden 46) Many researchers

have either discussed or created several models or theories concerning the

development of homosexual identity. However, the most prominent is Troiden?s

sociological four-stage model of homosexual identity formation. Dr. Richard R.

Troiden describes the development of homosexual identity in four stages:

sensitization, identity confusing, identity assumption, and commitment. During

the stages of homosexual identity development, many gay adolescents encounter

many preconceptions and assumptions regarding homosexuality. These assumptions

are presumption of heterosexuality, presumption of inversion, and recognition of

stigma (Herdt 4-5). Using Troiden?s model as a guide, the present paper

examines the four stages of homosexual identity development as it affects both

gay children and parents. Section one concentrates on the first two stages of

homosexual identity formation and the ordeals gay adolescents and parents before

disclosure. Section two explains the third and fourth stages of homosexual

identity development. Finally, section three discusses parents? reactions to

the disclosure, and the relationship with their child thereafter. The

Pre-Disclosure Period The first stage of homosexual identity development,

sensitization, occurs before puberty. In the sensitization stage, gay

adolescents experience feelings of being ?different? and marginal from same

gender peers (Troiden 50). Comments such as the following illustrate what boys

feel during this stage: I had a keener interest in the arts; I never learned to

fight; I just didn?t feel I was like other boys. I was very fond of pretty

things like ribbons and flowers and music; I was indifferent to boy?s games,

like cops and robbers. I was more interested in watching insects and reflecting

on certain things. (Durby 5) However, during this time, children do not

associate feelings as being homosexual or heterosexual; these categories have no

significance to pre-teens (Troiden 52). Gay youngsters and their parents

encounter the presumption of heterosexuality. The heterosexual assumption starts

during the sensitization stage; however, the effects can be longterm. The

presumption of heterosexuals is the belief that being heterosexual is superior,

?heterosexual ethnocentricity? Everyone is heterosexual; to be

?different? is to be inferior (Herdt 5). American society has strict defined

male and female roles. Conformity is highly valued. Going against conformity

especially gender abnormality is viewed with derision and usually awarded with

disgrace and contempt (Isay 30). What is important is the masculine/feminine

dichotomy underlines heterosexual/homosexual dichotomy. Parents force gender

conformity in elementary children and even pre-school children when children

display nonconformist gender roles. Many parents fear that if their son is

exposed to homosexuality or even the negative beliefs of homosexuality then

their child might be recruited or seduced into the gay lifestyle (Taylor 41).

The sensitization stage can be a very difficult time for gay youngsters.

Children who display nonconformist gender behavior are more likely to be

pressure by parents and peers to change their behavior (Mallon, Helping 83).

Feeling ?different? and becoming self-alienated have been related to the

heterosexual assumption. Among the most powerful causes are early homosexual and

sexual encounters and disinterest in many of several gender conformist sorts,

such as indifferent to the opposite sex or to sports. Gays tend to have their

first sexual contact at an earlier age than heterosexuals do, although no

evidence indicates prehomosexual boys develop earlier than heterosexual boys do.

Researchers argue that unusual disinterest in girls or sports reinforce the

social alienation of gays, because team sports and dating are key components of

peer groupings (Herdt 6). One of the primary responses in feeling

?different? is the decline of self-esteem because of the damaging isolation.

Another response is to displace self-interest from sports and dating to

intellectual or artistic feats. A third response is to engage in secret same-sex

romantic relations (7). Once the feeling of being ?different? occurs,

another perception emerges, the presumption of inversion. In this perception,

gay individuals have gender conflict because of their reversal of gender

behavior. This conflict arises from the stereotype that if one is not

heterosexual then you must be abnormal: the ?invert? (Herdt 7). Gay

adolescents lack ?gay knowledge,? that is, there is an absence of a real

positive knowledge of homosexuality identity. The inversion assumption is

misrepresentation, which can cause serious damage to gay teens? well being.

Feeling abnormal, gay young males think that they must display characteristics

of females in order to ?fit in?, causing hyperfemininity in males (8).

Identity confusion is the second stage of homosexual identity formation. Gay

males start to become aware that these feelings and behavior might be connected

to homosexuality (Troiden 52). Gay teenagers experience inner confusion and

ambiguity. Their identity is ?stuck in the middle?: they no longer consider

themselves as heterosexuals, yet they have not yet viewed themselves as gay. The

early phase of identity confusion is described as: You are not sure who you are.

You are confused about what sort of person you are and where your life is going.

You ask yourself the questions ?Who am I?,? ?Am I a homosexual?,? ?Am

I really heterosexual?? (Cass 53) By middle to late adolescence, gay teens

start to begin perceives themselves as gay. Many homosexual describe this phase

like the following: You feel that you probably are homosexual, although you?re

not definitely sure. You feel distant or cut off [other people]. You are

beginning think that it might help to meet other homosexuals but you?re not

sure whether you really want to or not. You prefer to put on a front of being

completely heterosexual. (Cass 53) Gay males respond to identity confusion by

taking on one or more of the following tactics: (a) denial; (b) repair; (c)

avoidance; (d) redefinition; and, (e) acceptance (Troiden 56). In denial, gay

adolescents deny their homosexual feelings. Repair involves efforts to eliminate

homosexual emotions. Homosexual tend to steer away from homosexuality in

avoidance (57). The redefinition strategy is temporary; teens see their

homosexual feeling as a phase that will pass. The final strategy is acceptance;

teenagers recognize that they might be homosexuals and search for information

about their sexual feelings (58) The recognition of stigma faces gay teens

around the time of the second stage of homosexual identity development (Herdt

10). Living in a homophobic society hinders many adolescents from following

their homosexual identity (5). The reason why gay teens feel disgusted and

shamed about being homosexual is society?s bias and stereotypical view on

homosexuals. Some gay males report the first word they associate their sexual

feelings with is not homosexual, but ?cocksucker? (Troiden 58). The five

tactics of dealing with identity confusion are really stigma-management

strategies. All one has to do is turn the television to Jerry Springer and see

the stereotypical super-effeminate homosexual parading on the stage; watch a

movie about with homosexual, but dealing with homosexuals with AIDS; or, hear

heated debates on the moral perversion of homosexuals from TV Christian

evangelist. Gay adolescents have no positive gay role models. They are reluctant

to consider themselves homosexual because that might mean being

?super-effeminate-stricken-with-AIDS-doomed-to-hell faggot.? Gay adolescents

are not the only ones to notice that they might be homosexual; their parents are

just as perceptive. Many gay youths suggest that their mothers seem to be aware

of their identity confusion (Mallon, Wagon 40). One mother recollects on

knowing: I noticed Joshua was different ? ?He?s artistic,? I told

myself, uneasy with the other word that was running through my head:

?effeminate?? Like many parents, I fell prey to fears that my son?s

difference meant he would grow up to be one of them, a homosexual. (Mallon,

Wagon 40) Gay men describe their fathers as distant during childhood; they

lacked any bond to them (Isay 32). A father may become unreceptive or detached

when sensing his son may be homosexual. The father?s removal may be the reason

why gay young males have poor self-esteem. The Disclosure Period The third stage

of Troiden?s model is identity assumption. ?In this stage, the homosexual

identity becomes both a self-identity and a presented identity, at least to

other homosexuals? (Troiden 59). Self-recognition and disclosure to others of

their sexual preference first occurs here; signs of coming out. Along with

self-recognition and disclosure, the characteristics of this developmental stage

are: better self-acceptance of being homosexual, sexual activities, involvement

in gay subcultures, exploration of different types of friendships and other

relationships. While there is self-identification and better self-acceptance,

full acceptance of being homosexual does not occur; it is tolerated (60). Cass

describes people at this stage as follows: You feel sure you?re a homosexual

and you put up with, or tolerate this. You see yourself as a homosexual for now

but are not sure about how you will be in the future. You usually take care to

put across a heterosexual image. You sometimes mix socially with homosexuals, or

would like to do this. You feel a need to meet others like yourself. (156)

Contact with other homosexuals is crucial at this stage. Negative initial

contact with other homosexuals can be disastrous, resulting the novice

homosexual to return to the experiences of stage two. However, positive initial

contact with other homosexuals furthers the development and maturation of the

novice homosexual. Positive contact helps reduce the feelings of being alienated

or abnormal (Troiden 61). The final stage in development of a homosexual

identity in Troiden?s model is that of commitment. In the commitment stage,

homosexuals adopt homosexuality as a lifestyle and feel comfortable. The gay

youth enjoys satisfaction of being gay (Troiden 63). Within commitment are two

elements, internal and external. In the internal dimension, sexuality and

emotionality integrate, positive alteration in the conceptualization of gay

identity occurs, and an increase of satisfaction and happiness emerges (64). The

external characteristics are the effects of the internal dimension. Same-sex

romantic relationships start, demonstrating the integration of emotionality and

sexuality. The positive shift of the conceptualization of gay identity makes

disclosure easier (65). Cass expresses this stage a positive and open stage: You

are prepared to tell [almost] anyone that you are s homosexual. You are happy

about the way you are but feel that being homosexual is not the most important

part of you. You mix socially with homosexuals and heterosexuals [with whom] you

are open about your homosexuality. (156) The Post Disclosure Period Some parents

adjust effectively to their child?s homosexuality; however, other parents are

unsuspecting and reacting erratically, negative manner (Mallon, Wagon 36). The

reason for such negative parental reaction to their child?s disclosure is the

first thing most parents do is apply their negative and often mistaken

conception of homosexuality to their own child (42). Living in a homophobic

society can create family problems, because a homophobic society triggers

negative reactions (36). Parents try and deal with ?with guilt, anger,

concerns for a child?s happiness in the years to come, religious issues, and

any of the myriad of myths that are part of the parent?s own homophobic

socialization? (Hidalgo 21). The beginning reactions of parents to a child?s

coming out relate to gay adolescents? experiences in the second stage of

homosexuality identity development, identity confusion. Parents go through

stages of: (1) denial; (2) avoidance; (3) repair; (4) guilt; and, (5) rejection

(1 42). Many parents constantly tell their child, ?It?s just a phase.? The

denial stage for parents is the redefinition period that gay adolescents undergo

in identity confusion. Many parents tend to avoid the subject all together;

parents want to talk about anything but it. However, homosexuals feel that they

cannot communicate with their parents (Mallon, Wagon 44). Most parents send

their gay child to therapy in hopes for a ?cure.? (45). The notion of trying

to cure their child is ?a reflection of their wishes than on his needs?

(Hidalgo 24-25). Besides, most efforts of a ?cure? fail (Mallon, Wagon 45).

Parents have been given wrong information about their role modeling, behavior,

and parenting style that determined their child?s sexual orientation.

Therefore, parents react negatively; they feel guilty (Mallon, Helping 83). They

start to believe they were parents, asking themselves, ?What did I do

wrong?? (Mallon, Wagon 49). Parents should realize that there is no evidence

that parents are responsible for their child?s sexual orientation (Hidalgo

24). In many cases, the parents reject their child. Many homosexuals recount

feeling like this when their parents rejected them: When I realized that my own

family couldn?t accept me, my own flesh and blood, I thought, why should I

expect the rest of society to cut me any slack? I felt hopeless, disillusioned

and worthless. My own family ? how could they do this to me, be so cold, so

uncaring. It was as if they were saying they didn?t care if I died. I don?t

think I?ll ever get over that. (Mallon, Helping 84). Rejection can be very

brutal. Parents become emotional, verbal, and physical abusive to their child.

The abuse can be so severe that juvenile court must step in (Abinati 161). Being

kicked out from the home is another consequence of rejection by parents (Mallon,

Wagon 83). Urban and rural Associate researchers discovered that many young male

prostitutes are homosexual, and they are products of their families? inability

to accept their son?s homosexuality (Coleman 136). It would be wrong to say

that only negative outcomes occur when a child tells his parents he is gay. Many

children feel that in order to establish an honest relationship with their

parents then they must ?come clean? to them. Ben-Ari?s research points out

those adolescents who want to be open and honest with their parents receive that

after disclosure. Parents are usually accepting after time their child?s

sexual preference (107) Conclusion This paper has effort to generally show

youths growing up gay. A number of issues have been presented involving gay

identity formation, parental interaction, and disclosure. Homosexuality is a

very controversial subject. By no mean does this paper try to say that it is

?totally correct.? However, the paper does examine logical theoretical ideas

of what gay adolescents endure, using and combining research and reports of

other gay studies.

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