Different Gender Orientations are about Belonging

We are not born homosexual, heterosexual, transsexual, etc; no, we are born sexual. In the same way we are not born carnivores, vegans, vegetarians; no, we are born with an appetite. Sexuality not only ensures the survival of the human species, it also is the most powerful way to attract a member of the same or opposite gender. Whilst both heterosexuality and homosexuality involve sexual pleasuring between two males or two females or a male and female, its presence is principally about finding a total relationship with the same or opposite gender person. We all know in heterosexual relationships (can we please drop the word ‘straight’) that whilst sexual attraction is what can initiate the relationship, it is love, friendship, companionship, shared ideas, creativity, interest in each other’s lives that determines the endurance of the relationship. Ultimately, what is most likely to determine the longevity of a relationship – of whatever adult nature – (can we also please resist using the denigrating term LGBT – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual) – is the degree that each party to the relationship comes into consciousness of his or her own wholeness and that of his or her partner.

In my clinical and life experience in working with individuals who form attachments, it is clear to me that there is a wisdom and creativity to the relationships formed or attractions felt – be that a male towards a male, a male towards a female, a female towards a male, a female towards a female and a male or female who feels drawn to both genders. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ relationship. There are many different kinds of relationships and each relationship has a deep purpose and that is to love and to be loved. Sex is never the primary issue; the need to belong is.

Think of a boy whose mother absolutely molly-coddled him, but whose father treated him as an embarrassment to him, a ‘mummy’s little boy’, ‘a weakling that he has no time for’. In this context, the child may rebel against his father’s rejection by continuing to be over-attached to his mother. Later on, unless that over-attachment is resolved, he’ll manage to attract a woman like his mother or, indeed, he may never leave the side of his mother. Conversely, because the boy lacks ‘iron’, the strong masculine qualities of determination, independence, confidence, sureness, the boy, as a young man, may find himself being attracted to a male who has these qualities, something, of course, he has to keep hidden from his mother.

The father may blame the mother ‘you ruined him’ but if truth be told – and it’s only when truth is told – that progress in any relationship can occur. In the case of the father, the untold truth is that father didn’t assert his own truth about his worries and fears about how his son was being reared. This serious omission begs the question:  what is it in the history of the father’s relationship with his mother and other women that makes him fearful of being authentic? The same is true for mother – what in the history of her earlier relationships led to such a profound absence of consciousness that any child is his own person and not there for her to be living her life through? When adults don’t reflect or are not unconditionally challenged to examine the nature of their relationship behaviour, everybody suffers!

I do believe that when we see relationships in a total rather than a fragmented – a sexual way – we can best understand what may be happening for individuals. I say ‘may’ because only the young or older person himself or herself can fully know and invite me into their physical, emotional, sexual, intellectual, behavioural, social, creative and spiritual interior world. How many of us truly sit with a son or daughter or student or employee, stay quiet and actively listen. Advice-giving, preaching, remonstrating, cajoling, bribing, threatening, halt any possibility of progress between the individuals in conflict, but the adult who is employing the defences described above has a lot of soul-searching to do.

Certainly, those who have been bullied because of their gender preference deserve all the love, support and championing that individuals across all walks of life can provide. It is heartening that people in influential places – Barack Obama, Kevin Bacon, other leading actors – are openly and globally supportive of people with same gender attractions.

Nobody doubts that there is a social context to the bullying of peers who are seen as ‘queer’, ‘different’, ‘bent.’ Introducing programmes that celebrate difference in person – the nature of each human being is unique – and behaviour – all behaviour makes sense – will ease the threats to young people who are terrified of ‘being outed.’ What is interesting is that much of verbal sexual taunting is not specific to peers with a different gender attraction, but it is specific to each boy or girl who attempts to demean another. It is in this area that I feel policies and strategies on bullying – whatever its nature – have missed an essential intervention possibility.

I would be very interested to know how many of the major bullies that young people encountered are still alive or deeply troubled or have not thrived educationally or are already in broken-down relationships.

When any word comes from another person’s lips (inverse: slip), it is a creative slip of the tongue, because a person’s sexual bullying is one hundred per cent about him or her and provides the opportunity when there is a mature adult about the place – school yard, classroom, staffroom, school bus, sports clubs and gymnasium – to compassionately challenge the person who is bullying. I was very struck by the figure of 80 per cent of teachers who actually witnessed what they termed ‘homophobic bullying.’ That is progress! What I would love to know is what did they do? How we approach a young male or female who is bullying is vital; if we give any hint of rejection, judgement, disappointment, then the young person will close up all the more. School principals and teachers require help and support to understand and examine the sources of the bullying behaviour perpetrated. Whether you are young or old – male or female – no matter what role or status you have – your behaviour belongs to you and is for you. Now we can relate.

Dr. Tony Humphreys is a Clinical Psychologist/Author, National and International Speaker.  His recent book with co-author Helen Ruddle, Relationship, Relationship, Relationship: The Heart of a Mature Society is relevant to today’s topic.