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 Am I Gay? Am I a Lesbian?

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PostSubject: Am I Gay? Am I a Lesbian?   Am I Gay? Am I a Lesbian? Icon_minitimeFri Sep 02, 2011 11:37 am

It was 1979 and I was 13 when the beautiful new girl in school, with long brown hair and green eyes, approached the locker next to mine. Obviously struggling to satisfy the lock she was trying to open, she turned to me and said, “Hi.” She told me her name and said, “I’m new here.” Out of the blue, my entire body flooded with what felt like a million butterflies all trying to get out at once. It was at that moment that I knew there was something very, very different about me. Ironically, that same year psychologist Vivienne Cass unveiled a 6-stage model of sexual identity development for gays and lesbians which would prove to be very handy information for a budding young lesbian like myself.

Sadly, however, her research was not on my 8th grade reading list and I was left to figure out all of this by myself. This six stage model by Cass describes a progression of phases that gay men and women go through as they “come out.” This model is very useful in helping clarify where you are in terms of your “coming out” process. Because the model was created 30 years ago, there are also some cultural changes (greater acceptance and greater visibility of gays and lesbians) that I believe impact how a person navigates their identity.

Here are the stages, see what you think.

Stage 1: IDENTITY CONFUSION

“Am I gay?” This is where it all begins… with the wondering. Confusion and a general lack of clarity are the most common experiences during this stage. This is a pre-coming out stage and it’s unlikely that you share your feelings with anyone. You are faced with four options: deny, reject, accept, or do more research. If you choose to “accept,” please advance to stage 3. If you choose to “deny” this, skip your turn and stay here until you change your mind. If you choose to “reject,” head on back to heterosexuality. Those choosing “more research,” progress to stage 2!

Stage 2: IDENTITY COMPARISON

“Yes, it’s possible, I could be gay.” This is the “one of these is not like the others” stage (from Sesame Street). This can be a very lonely, scary place – to not relate to your heterosexual peers, and to not have a network of gays and lesbians in place to normalize what you are feeling. During this stage you’ll find yourself noticing what fits for you and what doesn’t as it relates to your sexual orientation. There is a lot of fear, denial, and hope that this is just a passing phase. Once you begin to connect with, or learn about, other gays and lesbians you slowly move into stage three.

Stage 3: IDENTITY TOLERANCE

“I’m pretty sure I’m gay.” The isolation of feeling different from your heterosexual peers tends to motivate you to get out (or get online) and meet other gays and lesbians. During this stage you are gaining clarity about your gay sexual orientation, but you are not too happy about it. You continue to censor and hide your feelings from most people, while seeking connections with “safe” (other gays and lesbians) people with whom you can relate.

Stage 4: IDENTITY ACCEPTANCE

“Yep, I’m gay alright!” As you begin to find your place among other gays and lesbians, you develop greater comfort in your skin and you find more comfort spending time around others like yourself. As a result, you start to distance yourself from a heterosexual identity, while often trying to maintain the appearance to those around you that everything is the same. This is a complicated place to be, and is often riddled with fear, sadness, and even depression because of the feeling of living in between two worlds. There is a lot of anxiety about what it would mean to step out fully into an openly gay identity. The stress of managing dual identities (passing as heterosexual in some environments, and not others) becomes stressful and overwhelming.

Stage 5: IDENTITY PRIDE

“I am gay and I’m proud of it.” Responses in this stage can range from feelings of anger toward your perceived oppressor (heterosexuals), to greater comfort with being out in all areas of your life, without apology. This stage brings greater confidence about who you are, and while you continue to prefer the company of your gay and lesbian peers, you put less energy into censoring your life from others. Stage 6: IDENTITY SYNTHESIS “Being gay is just one important aspect of who I am.” This final stage, for those who continue to take the necessary risks to be true to themselves, brings the gay or lesbian person full-circle. You can now function as if sexual orientation is not a central variable in life. Here you have integrated your sexual orientation with the rest of your life, you are able to make decisions, interact socially, and function in life without doing so through a filter of your sexual orientation. Your life is no longer about dealing with, concealing, censoring, or advocating for the right to be gay – it is about living, loving, and being with all of who you are.

My thoughts about this model are this.

I find parts of this model insufficient. It certainly is binary and I see that as a flaw too. It also does not seem to take into account the changing climate, and while not-there-yet, our society exhibits a much improved attitude over that found 30 years ago! I think more and more people are hitting stage one and heading straight for stage 4. I think a lot of people linger in stage 4 for a long time, if not forever. And I think PERCEIVED, and sometimes real, work fears (loss of employment) account for a lot of that, and fear of family losses account for a lot of the others who linger in stage 4. I also think there are a lot of activists that are not stuck in stage 4, rather their activism is a vocation, a passion – probably part of their life’s meaning.

I think there’s a need for an updated model. One thing I see much less of is the need to separate from heterosexual society which seems to be a strong emphasis in Cass’ model. Unlike Cass, I’ve also seen gay-identified men live for decades with other men and then fall in love with a woman (or vice-versa with lesbian-identified women marrying men after years of dating only women) which this model does not take into account. I’ve also seen people fly out of the closet – straight to stage 5 and then slowly back-track and start all over or change their minds completely.

Off the cuff, I’d say that what I see in my practice is something akin to this:

* curiosity (something feels different)
* exploration (info and/or experience gathering)
* non-identification as exclusively heterosexual
* clarification of how to understand (and in some cases label) self as a sexual person (gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, etc)
* internal peace-making (self-acceptance) with conclusions – may involve telling close friends, family, dating, or committing to new relationship(s)
* bridging new identity with rest of life (work, family, friends, etc)
* loss of sexuality filter (life is viewed as life without funneling first through a “gay” or “bisexual,” or “pansexual,” etc. lens)
* some experience intermittent assessment of sexual orientation and feelings over time

How would you edit this? Remember, it’s off the cuff.
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X-LAW SESH`FORUM-ADDICT
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X-LAW SESH`FORUM-ADDICT

Posts : 2543
Points : 5008
Reputation : 1287
Join date : 2011-05-23
Age : 26
Location : Lubao, Pampanga

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PostSubject: Keeping A Long-Distance Relationship Strong   Am I Gay? Am I a Lesbian? Icon_minitimeFri Sep 02, 2011 11:37 am

Long-distance relationship. The very words are sure to elicit strong opinions. Some will point to their own strong relationships as proof that they work. Others will relate horror stories about their past experience with them.

Without a doubt, long-distance relationships certainly have their share of challenges. However, they can also be very rewarding, and even offer some advantages over traditional relationships. For example, individuals wanting to proceed slowly and take their time, may find it to be much easier in a long-distance relationship. If you are currently in such a relationship, or thinking of entering one, what can you do to keep it strong?

• Communicate. Good communication is arguably one of the most important ingredients of a successful relationship. Good communication is all the more important when in a long-distance relationship. Fortunately, in this technical age, there are a variety of ways for a couple to maintain good communication. Telephone, instant messaging, email, texting and video conferencing are all excellent ways to keep the lines of communication open.

• Do something special. One way to keep the romance alive in any relationship is to look for ways to surprise your significant other. It could be a small gift, flowers, tickets to his favorite game, or an hour at that spa your partner keeps talking about. Just because you may not be in close proximity does not mean that these options are not available to you. In fact, most of them are just a phone call away.

• Go on a date. You do not have to physically be with someone to go on a date with them. For example, pick out a movie that interests both of you, go to it in your respective locations, and then talk about it later. Discuss what you liked and disliked, just as if you had seen it together.

• Say goodnight. Do your best to never let a day end without at least saying goodnight to each other. What you last think about before going to sleep can affect your dreams, and is often what you wake up thinking about. What better to occupy those thoughts than your loved one.

Long-distance relationships definitely have their share of challenges. However, by following a few common-sense tips, you can keep your long-distance relationship strong and healthy.
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