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The Role of Self-Labeling

This brings us to the psychologically dangerous decision to identify oneself as a different species of man: “I am a homosexual.” As if the essence of that existence were different from that of heterosexuals. It may give a sense of relief after a period of struggle and worry, but at the same time it is defeatist. The self-identified homosexual takes on the role of a definitive outsider. It is, in fact, a tragic role. Quite different from a sober and realistic self-appraisal: I have these fantasies and feelings, still I resist taking on the role and identity of “homosexual.”

That role brings certain rewards, to be sure. It makes one feel at home among fellow homosexuals. It temporarily takes away the tension of having to fight homosexual impulses, and yields the emotional gratifications of feeling unique and tragic — however unconscious that may be — and, of course, of having sexual adventures. Recalling her discovery of the lesbian subculture, an ex-lesbian writes about the “sense of belonging” it gave her: “As though I had come home. I had found my true peer group [recall the homosexual’s childhood drama of feeling the outsider]. Looking back now, I see how needy we all were — a group of misfits who had finally found a niche in life.” (Howard 1991, 117)

The coin has another side, however. Real happiness, let alone inner peace, is never found that way. Restlessness will increase, as will the feeling of an inner void. Conscience will send out its disqueiting and persistent signals. For it is a false “self” the unhappy person has identified with. The door to the homosexual “way of life” has opened. Initially, it is a seducing dream; in time it turns out to be a terrible illusion. “Being a homosexual” means leading an unreal life, even farther away from one’s real person.

“Self-labelling” is greatly stimulated by the propaganda that repeats that many people simply “are” homosexual. But homosexual interests are often, perhaps usually, not constant. There are highs and lows; periods when the person has more or less heterosexual feelings may alternate with fits of homosexuality. Certainly, many youngsters and young adults who did not cultivate the self-image of “being homosexual” have thereby prevented themselves from developing a full-fledged homosexual orientation. Self-labeling, on the other hand, reinforces the homosexual side, especially when it is only in its beginnings, and starves the heterosexual component. It is important to recognize that about half of homosexual men can be regarded as bisexuals and the proportion among women is even larger.

 

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

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