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Changing Patterns of Thought and Behavior III

Mending the Sex Role

Becoming a mature man or woman also implies feeling at home in one’s natural, inborn sex role. Not infrequently does a homosexual person cherish the wish, “If only I weren’t obliged to be a grown-up!” The injunction “Behave like a man (like a lady)” sounds like a curse to them. They have difficulty imagining themselves as grown-ups because of their infantile complaint about gender inferiority. Besides, they often have an exaggerated, unrealistic view of manhood and womanhood. They feel more relaxed in the child role: “the nice, sweet, charming boy”, “the helpless boy”, “the girlish boy”, or “the tomboyish girl”, “the aggressive manly girl”, “the fragile, abandoned little girl”… They don’t like to admit that these are false “selves”, false identities. In them they seek comfort, a niche in social life. At the same time this role-playing may provide some (again, not all) with the narcissistic pleasure of feeling dramatic and “special”.

The homosexual man may seek masculinity in his idolized partners, while at the same time he himself (or, rather, his “child” ego) can paradoxically be disdainful of masculinity, because he feels “more sensitive”, superior to this “vulgar” manliness. This makes for the near-proverbial arrogance of some. The lesbian may despise femininty as an inferior quality — a sour-grapes attitude. So it is imperative to do away with false imagining of this “special being”, namely, this unmanly or unwomanly self. That is sobering indeed, for then one will recognize that one is no different from ordinary men and women; the halo of superiority vanishes, and one understands that all this has boiled down to infantile inferiority complaints.

Homosexual men often have a childish attitude toward physical pain, i.e., they “cannot stand” even relatively small physical hardships. Here we touch on the theme of courage, which is akin to assertiveness. The “inner child” is too fearful of both physical fighting and other forms of confrontation. His aggression therefore is often indirect, not open, and he may resort to intrigues and lying. To identify himself better with his masculinity, he must therefore fight his fear of confrontations, verbal and, if necessary, physical. He must speak his mind, honestly and frankly, defend himself if required by circumstances, and risk the aggression or ridicule of others. Further, he must exert authority if he is in the position of authority and not sidestep possible “attacks” or criticism by subordinates or colleagues. In trying to be normally assertive, he will come across his “poor me” child, and will have plenty of opportunity to hyperdramatize feelings of fear and of being a loser. Assertiveness is a good thing when our intelligence shows us that it is justified, even necessary, in certain situations. It can, however, be childish if its purpose is to demonstrate one’s toughness and importance. Normal assertive behavior is quiet, rather than conspicuous, and effective.

One’s body: the “unmanly boy” and “unfeminine girl” often have a rejective attitude, stemming from feelings of inferiority, toward the maleness and femaleness of their bodies. Try to accept fully and value positively your bodily maleness or femaleness. Look, for instance, at your naked self in the mirror and decide to be content with your manly or womanly body. Don’t try compulsively to change some aspects of it by makeup or clothing, so that you no longer look the bodily type you are. If a woman has small breasts or is somewhat muscular, bony, and so forth, let her accept it, improve her appearance with reasonable limits, and, for the rest, stop complaining (this may be a repetitive exercise). The man should be glad and content with his physical type, with his penis, musculature, body hair, and so forth, and stop complaining about them or fantasizing about a different, so-called “ideal”, physique. It is obvious that such dissatisfactions are infantile complaints!

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

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