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The Lived Experience of Being Gay. Gerard Rodgers. The Social Contexts of Being Gay by Gerard Rodgers Introduction The topic of homosexuality has received an inordinate amount of interest in terms of psychological research and resultant theorizing. A significant amount of psychotherapeutic theory has tended to foreground and treat the experience of being gay as linked to particular types of experiences.

The foregrounded themes that have received most attention are discrimination, prejudice, and self-stigma. This social milieu can often lead to internalised homophobia and the lowering of self-esteem. More recently, theorists suggest the above concepts are failing to capture the multi-dimensional nature of gay experience in the context of unprecedented changes in societal attitudes towards homosexuality Liddle, This paper offers a review of historical contexts and clinical research, with a predominate focus on gay males.

The historical context in Europe For many centuries in Europe, homosexuality has been principally perceived in terms of sexual acts Aldrich, , and at different times, and in different cultures, these perceptions and judgements have been the subject of change Crompton, The historical context in Ireland In Ireland, Senator David Norris, in a recently published autobiographical memoir, writes about his experience of growing up gay. From the moment of my arrival on this planet, my essential nature defined me as such.

There was simply nothing I could do about it, since homosexuality is a natural but minority variation of the sexual instinct. In , when asked by an interviewer if homosexuals were sick people, Norris , p. In the first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published in , homosexuality was officially classified as a mental illness American Psychiatric Association, In , British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell reports being forcibly ejected from a seminar given by Prof.

Hicks says in the latter half of the twentieth century and up to the present day, psychotherapy research and practice have tended to mirror societal attitudes toward homosexuality. Though, it can be argued that this mirroring of more tolerant societal attitudes towards gay persons was not very much in evidence in psychotherapeutic regulation and theory up to the very end of the last century.

For example, Le Vay, , p. In the case of the British Psychological Society an intense battle culminated in when its membership finally accepted a proposal for a separate section for the advancement of lesbian and gay research. Up to this point, three similar proposals in , and were turned down. Even when the proposal succeeded in , Clarke et al.

The Lies and Dangers of Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity

Within my own readings and clinical trainings, the foundational tenets of existentialism and humanism remained largely silent on the types of issues raised by gay male clients, with some notable exceptions Milton, ; ; Coyle and Kitzinger Systemic family theory through its embrace of social constructionism and feminist theory did seem to systematically account for the social construction of heterosexist bias and how it was reproduced through societal discourses and practices Anderson, ; Kitzinger, , even though systemic theory tends to neglect theorization of the unconscious.

The above cultural and clinical history, much of it troubling, may seem far removed from the practice of psychotherapy with gay persons today. Yet, science still moves slowly as it took until for the American Psychological Association to deem the controversial sexual conversion therapies for sexual minorities as both inappropriate and unethical practices APA, The cited research found that these therapists were members of accredited counselling organisations and were not formally working on a religious basis Bartlett, Smith, King, cited by UKCP, The efficacy of the affirmative approach is premised on the belief that affirmative therapy can help to reduce the impact of minority stress Herek and Garnets, ; Meyer, ; DiPlacido, , and self-stigma Herek, This theory essentially recognises that many gay persons may have had to go to great lengths to mask their sexual identity.

However, affirmative theory and therapy is not without its critics. Divergent viewpoints Sex and relationship therapists Nichols and Shernoff , p.

While gay mens lives are beginning to be represented in psychological research in more multidimensional ways, Le Vay, et al. Echoing this sentiment, Semp say gay males are often viewed in public mental health services as a homogenous group of people. The author reviews twenty-three studies, a composition of Irish and international research conducted between and The reviewer cites research pointing to homophobia, internalised homophobia and societal heterosexism as possible explanations to explain LGBT vulnerability McDermott et al.

Maycock et al. Many researchers diverge from the view taken above that gay lives are necessarily bound up with a deficit narrative. For example, among older gay men, there is a body of research emerging in Ireland that supports the diversity of experience. In Higgins et al. Savin-Williams p. Referring to these very same issues, Andrew Martin the youth editor of the Youth Edition of Gay Community News in Ireland, says such negative life trajectories can often define popular perceptions of gay persons.

In a remarkably short space of time in history, gay persons have gone from being an object of derision and ridicule toward recognition and legitimacy of their identities in public life. In fact, Norris , p. It is within the context of the above literature review that my proposed future research study will focus on gaining a better understanding of the lived experiences of gay men in Ireland today. While much has been written before, too often, research tends to report statistical numeric averages of particular aspects of experience, losing the personal flavour of what the experience of being gay is like in Ireland.

The research will use an unstructured method of in-depth interviewing that privileges how people describe and interpret their own experience, listening in and through their stories for what is both common and unique. The findings of this study will be used to inform psychotherapists about the contemporary contexts of being gay in Ireland which will help therapists to respond to the concerns of gay male clients who come to therapy.

Biography Gerard Rodgers completed his humanistic and integrative clinical training in at Turning Point, Dun Laoghaire. He started a psychotherapy doctorate in DCU in References: Aldrich, R. London: Thames and Hudson. Anderson, S. New York: Jossey-Bass. Washington DC: Author. Bartlett, A. Brody, A.

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Clarke, V. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Coyle, A. London: Wiley-Blackwell. Crompton, L. London: Belknap Harvard. Carl H. Jonas, who studied fifty-three white and seven black men at Camp Haan, California, "overt homosexuality occurs in a heterogeneous group of individuals.

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Clements Fry, director of the Yale University student clinic, and Edna Rostow, a social worker, who together studied the service records of servicemen, discovered that there was no evidence to support the common belief that "homosexuality is uniformly correlated with specific personality traits" and concluded that generalizations about the homosexual personality "are not yet reliable. Sometimes to their amazement, [researchers] described what they called the "well-adjusted homosexuals" who, in [William] Menninger's words, "concealed their homosexuality effectively and, at the same time, made creditable records for themselves in the service.

Today , a large body of published empirical research clearly refutes the notion that homosexuality per se is indicative of or correlated with psychopathology. One of the first and most famous published studies in this area was conducted by psychologist Evelyn Hooker. Hooker's study. Hooker's study was innovative in several important respects. First, rather than simply accepting the predominant view of homosexuality as pathology, she posed the question of whether homosexuals and heterosexuals differed in their psychological adjustment.

Second, rather than studying psychiatric patients, she recruited a sample of homosexual men who were functioning normally in society. Third, she employed a procedure that asked experts to rate the adjustment of men without prior knowledge of their sexual orientation. This method addressed an important source of bias that had vitiated so many previous studies of homosexuality. The two groups were matched for age, IQ, and education. None of the men were in therapy at the time of the study. Unaware of each subject's sexual orientation, two independent Rorschach experts evaluated the men's overall adjustment using a 5-point scale.

They classified two-thirds of the heterosexuals and two-thirds of the homosexuals in the three highest categories of adjustment. When asked to identify which Rorschach protocols were obtained from homosexuals, the experts could not distinguish respondents' sexual orientation at a level better than chance. As with the Rorschach responses, the adjustment ratings of the homosexuals and heterosexuals did not differ significantly.

Hooker concluded from her data that homosexuality is not a clinical entity and that homosexuality is not inherently associated with psychopathology. Hooker's findings have since been replicated by many other investigators using a variety of research methods.

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Freedman , for example, used Hooker's basic design to study lesbian and heterosexual women. Instead of projective tests, he administered objectively-scored personality tests to the women.

Sexual and Gender Diversity in Clinical Practice in Psychology

His conclusions were similar to those of Hooker. Although some investigations published since Hooker's study have claimed to support the view of homosexuality as pathological, they have been methodologically weak. Many used only clinical or incarcerated samples, for example, from which generalizations to the population at large are not possible. Some studies found differences between homosexual and heterosexual respondents, and then assumed that those differences indicated pathology in the homosexuals.

For example, heterosexual and homosexual respondents might report different kinds of childhood experiences or family relationships.

It would then be assumed that the patterns reported by the homosexuals indicated pathology, even though there were no differences in psychological functioning between the two groups.