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Remaining a Teenager: Infantilism

The homosexual’s personality is in part that of a child (or an adolescent). This phenomenon is known as the “inner complaining child”. Some have emotionally remained teenagers in nearly all areas of behavior; in most, the “child” alternates with the adult in them, depending on place and circumstances.

The ways of thinking, feeling and behaving typical of an adolescent who feels inferior are observable in the adult homosexual. He remains — in part — the defenseless poor loner he was in puberty; the shy, nervous, clinging, “abandoned”, socially “difficult” boy who feels rejected by his father and peers because of his ugliness (squint-eyed, hare lipped, or small, for example, he sees himself as the opposite of manly beauty); the pampered, self-admiring boy; the effeminate, arrogant, vainglorious boy; or the obtrusive, demanding, yet cowardly boy; and so on. The total boyhood (or girlhood) personality is preserved. This explains behavioral traits like the childish talkativeness of some homosexual men, their habits of weakness, the naivete, the narcissistic way they take care of their bodies, their way of speaking, and so on. The lesbian may remain the easily hurt, rebellious girl; the tomboy; the bossy girl driven by imitated masculine self-assertion habits; or the eternally wronged, sulking girl whose mother “had no interest in her”; and so on. The adolescent explains the adult. And everything is still there: views of oneself, one’s parents, and others.

As noted earlier, an especially common view of self is that of the wronged, rejected, “poor me”. Homosexuals therefore are easily insulted; they “collect injustice”, as psychiatrist Bergler has so well put it, and are liable to see themselves as victims. This explains the overt self-dramatization of the militants, who adroitly exploit their neurosis to gain public support. Attached to self-pity, they are inner (or manifest) complainers, often chronic complainers. Self-pity and protest are not far apart. A certain inner (or overt) rebelliousness and hostility to others who do them wrong and to “society” and a determinate cynicism, are typical of many homosexuals.

This bears directly on the homosexual’s difficulty in loving. His complex directs his attention to himself; he seeks attention and love, recognition and admiration for himself, like a child. His self-centeredness thwarts his capacity to love, to be really interested in others, to take responsibility for others, to give and to serve (some kinds of serving, in fact, are means of getting attention and approval). But “how… is it possible for the child to grow up if the child is not loved?” homosexual author Baldwin wonders (Siering 1988, 16). Yet stating the problem that way only confuses the issue. For while a boy who longed for his father’s love might indeed have been healed had he encountered an affectionate father-substitute, his remaining immature, however, is the consequence of the self-comforting reactions to a perceived lack of love, not the consequence of a lack of love in itself. An adolescent who succeeded in accepting his sufferings, forgiving those who did him wrong — for the most part without being aware of it — would suffer without becoming attached to self-centered self-pity and protest, and, in that case, his sufferings would make him mature. As human nature is ego-centered, such an emotional development is not likely to take place spontaneously, but there are exceptions, notably when an emotionally troubled adolescent meets a parent-substitute who encourages him in this direction. The way Baldwin presents the impossibility for the unloved child to grow up — he seems, in fact, to describe his own case — is too fatalistic and overlooks the fact that even a child (and certainly a young adult) possesses a degree of freedom and can learn to loveMany neurotics cling to this self-dramatizing attitude of “never having been loved” and incessantly demand love and compensation from others — from their marriage partners, friends, children, from society. The situation of many neurotic criminals is analogous. They may have, in fact, suffered from a lack of love at home, even from abandonment, injury; yet their impulses to revenge themselves, from their lack of mercy on the world that has been hard on them are egotistical reactions to a lack of love. Being ego-centered, a young person is in danger of becoming a seemingly incorrigible self-seeker — and sometimes one who hates others — when he is the prey of his self-pity. Baldwin was correct only insofar his homosexual feelings were concerned, for they did not amount to real loving, but narcissistic longing for warmth, and envy.

The “inner child” views not only members of his own sex through the glasses of his gender inferiority complex, but also the opposite sex. “Half of mankind — the female half — did not exist for me, until recently”, a homosexual client once said. He had viewed women as caring mother figures, as married homosexuals sometimes do, or as rivals in his hunt for male affection. Being too close to a woman his age can be threatening to a male homosexual, because he feels like a little boy who is not up to the male role in relation to adult women. This is true apart from the sexual element in the male-female relationship. Lesbian women may view men as their rivals too: they may want a world without men; men make them feel insecure and take their prospective woman friends from them. Homosexuals often view marriage and the male-female relationship without understanding, with envy and sometimes even hatred, because the “role” of manliness or womanliness itself annoys them; this is, in short, the view of an outsider who feels inferior.

In social respects, homosexuals (especially male) are sometimes addicted to collecting sympathy. Some make a veritable cult of their many, shallow friendships and have developed a skill for charming other people. They appear “extroverted”. They want to be the most adored, the most loved boy of the group: an overcompensatory habitThey seldom feel on an equal footing with others, however: either inferior or superior (overcompensation). Overcompensatory self-affirmation bears the mark of childish thinking and childish emotionality.

To summarize: ego-centered thinking and feeling — the chief characteristics of the psyche of the child and the adolescent — childishness and sometimes downright egotism pervade the child/adolescent personality of the adult with a homosexual complex. His unconscious pity for himself, his viewing and treating himself as pitiable, as well as his “compensative” drives of attention-seeking, craving erotic contacts, and other ways of comforting and pampering himself are clearly infantile, i.e., ego centered. Incidentally, “the child” is often intuitively perceived by others, who may take on a protective attitude toward a homosexual family member, friend or colleague, treating him in fact as a “special”, vulnerable child.

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

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