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Atypical Cases

While poor relationships with parents of the same sex, often accompanied by unhealthy attachment bonds with parents of the opposite sex (especially for male homosexuals), are a common childhood experience for homosexual persons, they are by no means a universal phenomenon. Some male homosexuals had good relationships with their fathers, felt loved and esteemed by them; and some lesbians had good mother relationships (Howard 1991, 83). But even such largely positive relationships can play a role in the development of homosexuality.

For example, a young homosexual, slightly feminine in behavior, had been chiefly reared by his affectionate and appreciating father. He remembered that as a child he wanted to go home as soon as possible after school, where he felt uneasy and could not cope with his peers (the decisive factor!). “Home” for him did not mean, as one would expect, being with his mother, but with his father, whose favorite he was and by whom he felt protected. Nor was his father the familiar weak type, with whom he would not have been able to “identify” — on the contrary. It was his mother who was the weak and timid personality and who did not play a significant role in his childhood. His father was a manly, aggressive type whom he admired. The important point seems to have been that his father imposed on him the role of a girl, and of a weakling, as if he had no strength to defend himself in this world. His father dominated him in a friendly way, so he was really close to him. His father’s attitude created, or helped to create, in him the view of himself as defenseless and helpless, not manly and “strong”. As an adult, this man kept clinging to fatherly friends for support. His erotic interest, however, focused on young men, not on older, fatherly types.

Likewise, a seemingly manly homosexual man of about forty-five could not detect the slightest problem in his childhood relationship with his father. His father had been his friend, his coach in sports, and a good masculine model in his work and social relationships. Why then did he not “identify” with his father’s masculinity? The problem lay with his mother. She was proud and dissatisfied with his father’s social achievements. More intelligent and from a higher social level than her husband, who was a working man, she often humiliated him with her sharp criticisms and contemptuous wit. The son had always felt sorry for him. He did identify with his father, but not with his manly behavior, because he had been taught by his mother to see himself as different from his father. As his mother’s favorite, he was to be the one who would compensate her for her disappointment in her husband. Manly qualities had never been stimulated in him; except for the quality of achieving socially, these were regarded as inferior. He had to be sophisticated and brilliant. Despite his healthy bond with his father, he had ever felt ashamed for his own masculinity. I think his mother’s scorn and her disrespect for the role of the father and for his authority had primarily been responsible for the son’s difficulty in feeling manly pride.

This type of motherly attitude has been seen as “castrative” to a boy’s manliness, and we can agree with that, assuming it is not meant in the literal Freudian sense of a mother who wants to cut off her husband’s or son’s penis. Likewise, a husband who humiliates his wife in front of his children damages their respect for women in general. His daughter may refer his lack of esteem for the other sex to herself. Fathers, by a negative attitude toward the feminine sex, may therefore inspire in a daughter a negative and rejecting attitude toward her own feminity. Mothers, by a negative attitude toward the masculine role of their husband, or sometimes toward masculinity in general, may facilitate a son’s negative view of his own masculinity.

There are homosexually oriented men who felt their fathers’ affection, but missed their fatherly protection. One father who felt unable to cope with life leaned on his son in times of trouble, a practice the son felt as too heavy a burden, for he wanted support from a strong father himself. The roles of parent and child seem reversed in those cases, as with those women with lesbian inclinations who as girls felt they had to play the mother role with respect to their own mothers. A girl in such a relationship would then feel that she could not get her mother’s necessary understanding for her own normal problems, and would miss her mother’s encouragement of her feminine self-confidence, which is of such importance during puberty.

 

GERARD J.M. VAN DEN AARDWEG, PH.D.
The Battle for Normality (1997) Ignatius Press: San Francisco

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