Valuing a Gay or Lesbian Self-Identity
Help Yourself is created by Counseling Services
© 1991,1997 Kansas State University
We at the Counseling Services affirm the value and importance of gay and lesbian people in our community, neighborhood, campus, and world. This self-help brochure provides a starting point for information to develop and establish a positive view of gay or lesbian self-identity.
Affirmation and Value: information to affirm the value of a gay or lesbian self-identity
Myths and Facts: information to help separate myth from fact
Counseling as a Source of Support: how counseling may help
Resources: University, Community, and National resources for further exploration and information.
Books: some suggestions
References: what was used to write this brochure
We Are Everywhere...
in every culture, occupation, religion, state, socioeconomic class, country, marital status, and race. Virtually anyplace you go, you will find men and women who are gay or lesbian. Amazing isn't it?
Willa Sibert Cather (1876-1947), one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century, received the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for One of Ours. A graduate of the University of Nebraska in 1895, Cather is probably best known for her masterpiece, Death Comes to the Archbishop. Cather lived with her partner, Edith Lewis, for 40 years.
Charles Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921), French composer, was a child prodigy who made his debut as a pianist at age 10. He attended the Paris Conservatory and was organist at the Madeleine for 20 years. Saint-Saens was a prolific composer and wrote in nearly every form. He is best known for his biblical opera, Samson et Dalila. Other works include Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Danse Macabre, and the Piano Concertos in G minor and C minor.
May Sarton (1912-1995), born in Belgium, is an American poet and novelist. She is known for her wit and avoidance of dogmatism in her poetry. Her novels often involve the analysis of intense though civilized relationships. Some of her well-known works include Faithful Are The Wounds, Kinds of Love, Journal of a Solitude, and The Magnificent Spinster.
Thomas Edward Lawrence (1888-1935), British solder, adventurer, and writer, was also known as Lawrence of Arabia. Educated at Oxford, T. E. Lawrence became interested in the Middle East and spent much of his life in the military, studying and working in the area. He served as a delegate to the Paris Peace Conference following World War I and avidly sought Arab independence. Written works of an autobiographical nature include Revolt in the Desert and The Mint.
Dag Hammarskjold (1905-1961) was a Swedish statesman and Secretary General of the United Nations from 1953 to 1961. Because of his tireless work to promote peace worldwide, Hammarskjold was posthumously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961.
Martina Navratilova (1956- ), contemporary world-class tennis champion, defected to the United States from Czechoslovakia in 1975. With more than 1,000 career match victories, she is also a many-time winner of the prestigious Wimbeldon. Recently, Navratilova wrote (with George Vecsey) an autobiography entitled Martina.
We Are Contributors...
in the arts, economics, politics, literature, academia, business, psychology, agriculture, medicine, architecture, athletics, mathematics, history, philosophy, religion, engineering, anthropology , and education. Amazing isn't it?
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was a Russian composer and one of the most popular composers in history. Some of his most popular works include Romeo and Juliet, Francesca da Rimini, The Manfred Symphony, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker. In 1891 Tchaikovsky conducted his Marche Solennelle at the opening concert of Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Dr. Sonya Kovalevsky (1850-1891) was a Russian mathematician who is best remembered today for the Caucy-Kovalevsky theorem of differential equations. Though refused admission to classes because she was a woman, Kovalevsky did receive her doctorate in absentia from the University of Gottingen in 1874. Additionally, the French Academy of Sciences awarded Dr. Kovalevsky the Prix Bordin in 1888 for her work on the rotation of a solid body around a fixed point.
Mary Woolley (1863-1947) was an American educator and outspoken advocate of world peace. In 1894 she received a B.A. degree from Brown University, the first woman to do so. From 1901 to 1937 she served as president of Mount Holyoke College and was named one of the 12 greatest living American women in 1930. As an advocate of world peace, Woolley was the only female member of the 1932 Geneva Arms Conference.
Edward Morgan Forster (1879-1970) is considered to be one of the most important English novelists of the 20th century. Forster was an honorary fellow of King's College, Cambridge, and received the Order of Merit. His work includes novels such as Where Angels Fear to Tread, A Room With a View, and Passage to India. In 1971 Maurice was published posthumously. Forster had refrained from publishing this work because of its sensitive and sympathetic treatment of homosexuality.
We Influence History...
in early times as conquerors, medicine men and women, philosophers, and authors, as well as in more contemporary times and places. Amazing isn't it?
Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.), King of Macedonia and one of the greatest leaders of all time, conquered most of the contemporary Middle East and parts of Asia. His empire included Macedonia, Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, Media, and Mesopotamia. He founded the great city of Alexandria, Egypt, perhaps the greatest monument in his name. His military genius and powerful personality influenced and changed the course of history.
Susan Brownell Anthony (1820-1906), an American reformer, was the founder of the National Women's Suffrage Association. She was one of the organizers of the Women's Loyal League, which supported Abraham Lincoln's emancipation policy and governance. Her importance to the shaping of American policy and history regarding the women's movement and voting rights for all United States citizens has been commemorated by the issuance of both a coin and a stamp in her likeness.
Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was a noted English statesman, philosopher, and essayist. He was knighted in 1603 by James I and served as attorney general, lord chancellor, Baron Verulam, and Viscount St. Albans in the English court. Bacon is remembered for his contribution to philosophy for his application of the inductive method of modern science.
Dr. Mary Edwards Walker (1832-1919), a physician, joined the Union Army during the Civil War but was not allowed to serve as a physician. Instead, she served as a nurse for the first three years. In 1864 she was commissioned as assistant surgeon in the Union Army, the first woman to receive this rank. In 1866 President Andrew Johnson awarded Dr. Walker the Congressional Medal of Honor for her work during the war. Her contribution to American history has been commemorated through the issuance of a stamp in her honor.
Buonarroti Michelangelo (1475-1564) stands as one of the most noted and influential of the great painters and sculptors. Probably one of his most well-known works is the decoration of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which stands as one of the great masterpieces of the world.
We Are Important...
as human beings with hearts, souls, dreams, aspirations, loves, feelings, talents, skills, families, children, parents, joys, goodness, and worth. Amazing isn't it?
Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) encouraged and aided many artists and writers both through her writing and her patronage of the arts. Her influence extended to writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Stein's most famous book, Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, is really her autobiography, though it is presented as that of her partner of 39 years, Alice B. Toklas.
William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) was an English author, noted for his fictional technique and storytelling ability. He wrote with wit, irony, and an often cynical view of life. His masterpiece, Of Human Bondage, is partly autobiographical. Other works include Cakes and Ale, The Razor's Edge, and The Moon and Sixpence. Maugham's later work was primarily limited to essays such as The Art of Fiction: An Introduction to Ten Novels and Their Authors.
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950), an American poet, was one of the most popular poets of her era. In 1922 she was the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for The Ballad of the Harp Weaver. The freshness and vitality of her work was praised and admired by her contemporaries as well as commemorated by a stamp issued in her likeness.
Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) is considered to be one of the most significant British composers of this century. Most of his major works were written for vocal music. Examples of his work include the operas Peter Grimes, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Billy Budd, and Death in Venice. Britten is thought to have written many of his solos for his partner of 40 years, Peter Pears, opera tenor.
Walt Whitman (1819-1892) is considered by some to be the greatest of all American poets. His masterpiece, Leaves of Grass, a collection of his poems, may be the most influential volume of American poetry to date. Whitman reportedly viewed himself as the vibrant spokesman for a young democracy and as such reflected the American freedom of spirit in his verse.
Amazing Isn't It?
Yes, it is truly amazing that so valuable a group of individuals have difficulty remembering, believing and living with dignity and pride.
Yet we live in a society that propagates myths, fears, and irrational beliefs about homosexuality. It is no small wonder then, that among persons with a gay or lesbian sexual orientation, a common concern is a sense of rejection and isolation-- from friends, family, and society-at-large. Prejudicial and misinformed social attitudes often lead gays and lesbians to feel anxious, depressed, and guilty. Such feelings are often significant hurdles in the process of developing a positive sense of self-identity and esteem.
While these feelings are real and may feel overwhelming at times, they seem to be a response to myths and negative, self-defeating stereotypes. The American Psychological Association has taken the unequivocal position that
"homosexuality, per se, implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social or vocational capacities."
Stated differently, there is no evidence that gay or lesbian individuals differ from heterosexual individuals in their psychological, social, vocational, or emotional health.
Gay and lesbian individuals find two important barriers to developing an affirming or positive sense of self-identity. First of all, there is a lack of readily available information that clarifies and debunks the damaging and irrational social myths about homosexuality. Second, they feel uncertain about where to find an affirming, supportive, and valuing environment in which to receive help in dealing with concerns and feelings.
Myth: Gays and lesbians can be identified by certain mannerisms and physical characteristics.
Fact: Gays and lesbians come in as many different colors, sizes, and shapes as do heterosexuals. Actually, the only clear difference between heterosexuals and gays and lesbians is sexual orientation (Moses & Hawkins, 1982; Masters, Johnson, & Kolodny, 1985).
Myth: Only a few people are gay or lesbian.
Fact: Most reliable estimates of the current gay and lesbian population in America range from 10 to 20 percent of the American population (Bell & Weinberg, 1978; Darty & Potter, 1984).
Myth: Homosexuality is a sign of emotional disturbance.
Fact: For nearly two decades the American Psychiatric Association has not listed sexual orientation among its diagnostic criteria for mental disorders. However, many individuals continue to perpetuate the myth and to debate the issue. The fact is, there is no empirical evidence to suggest that being gay or lesbian is a sign of emotional or psychological maladjustment (Masters, Johnson, & Kolodny, 1985).
Myth: Most gays and lesbians consider themselves to be members of the opposite sex.
Fact: Gay men and lesbians develop gender identities that are consistent with their gender. In other words, gay men consider themselves to be male and lesbians consider themselves to be female. Gay men and lesbians do not want to change their sex (Moses & Hawkins, 1982).
Myth: Gays and lesbians do not truly "love" one another and could never be fit as parents.
Fact: There is little or no difference in the processes and stages of "love" or emotional bonding as experienced by same-sex couples or opposite-sex couples. Monogamy is rated as the preferred goal of a romantic relationship for gay or lesbian couples, just as for heterosexual couples (Bell & Weinberg, 1978). As for the parenting issue, there is simply no evidence to suggest that gay or lesbian couples provide any less effective or less caring family environments to children than do heterosexual couples. Further, the presence of gay or lesbian parents does not predict that the children will be gay or lesbian (Moses & Hawkins, 1982).
Myth: Most child molesters are gay.
Fact: Most child molesters are married male heterosexuals who victimize young girls (Masters, Johnson, & Kolodny, 1985).
Myth: People are either strictly heterosexual or homosexual.
Fact: The pioneering studies of Dr. Alfred Kinsey and his associates suggested that few people fit neatly into either strictly homosexual or heterosexual categories. Most people seem to be on a continuum between these two extreme ends of the scale, and thus have the capacity to experience affectional and sexual feelings toward members of both sexes (Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, 1948; Masters, Johnson, & Kolodny, 1985).
Myth: Only homosexuals can be infected with the AIDS virus.
Fact: Sexual orientation has nothing to do with being infected with the AIDS virus. While the male homosexual population did contract the AIDS virus at a disproportionately high rate during the early 1980s, increasing education and "safe sex" practices have largely led to a leveling of the rate of infection of gay men. AIDS is increasing far more rapidly in the heterosexual population of the United States. In fact, worldwide the spread of AIDS is predominately through heterosexual sex and medical procedures (Batchelor, 1988).
Counseling is a process in which a nonjudgmental, caring, and trained therapist helps a person arrive at effective solutions to problems or life tasks. While specific methods may vary, most counselors would support the notion that helping involves facilitating an individual's self-exploration, self-understanding, self-acceptance, and self-esteem. Helping a gay or lesbian individual come to value and esteem his or her sexual orientation certainly fits into this philosophy.
Counseling offers assistance in:
- Identifying and clarifying issues. Sometimes, people who seek counseling are not sure about what is wrong, but they know that they are not happy. Counselors are skilled at helping people understand themselves and their feelings. The process of recognizing and understanding a gay or lesbian sexual orientation often involves a confusing set of thoughts and feelings. Counselors can help an individual clarify and sort through some of the confusion.
- Identifying, clarifying, and expressing feelings. Often people have difficulty understanding, labeling and/or expressing feelings. This is particularly true when people are under stress. Feelings can be confusing and may often seem to be out of control. Most counselors are particularly good at helping people handle and understand their feelings.
- Deciding what to do. Feeling stuck and uncertain is common when people are having difficulty determining alternatives. Usually, there is more than one choice in how to behave. Counselors are adept at helping people uncover and discover options and alternatives.
- Developing and enhancing relationship skills. Building a support system and developing close interpersonal relationships is especially important to most people. Yet there are some individuals who seem to have difficulty getting what they want from a relationship -- whether it is from family, friend, or partner. Dealing with relationships may be a primary focus of counseling and counselors. It is also an essential part of developing a healthy sense of self.
For additional information on how counseling may be of help to you, contact one of the Resources offered. For students at K-State, you may contact Counseling Services at (785) 532-6927; the staff includes trained professionals who hold advanced degrees in counseling and clinical psychology and are committed to delivering supportive and affirming services.
From time to time, some gay and lesbian individuals may avoid seeking help because of the myth that counselors will try to change the sexual orientation of gay and lesbian people. There is no evidence that counseling can change the sexual orientation of adults, and further, most counselors would view such an attempt as psychologically damaging to the gay or lesbian individual.
Selecting a counselor who is sensitive and supportive of a gay or lesbian sexual orientation is an important first step in seeking help. Directly asking a counselor about his or her feelings and knowledge about gay and lesbian lifestyle, issues, and culture during the first meeting is probably the most expeditious way to determine "fit." However, there are other ways to determine the sensitivity and awareness of a counselor. For instance, other gay or lesbian individuals who have been in counseling can suggest the name of a particular counselor. Another possibility is to ask for referrals from organized gay or lesbian resource centers in the area. It is even possible at some counseling centers and agencies to call and ask specifically for a counselor who is sensitive to and has experience working with gay and lesbian clients. You may also want to take a look around the waiting area as well as the counselor's office. Are there books or other literature on display that affirm a gay or lesbian self-identity?
Counseling can be a source of help and support during times of stress and confusion. There are also other options. Here are some additional sources of assistance and information:
At Kansas State University:
Office of Student Life
102 Holton Hall, Kansas State University (785)532-6432
Book sections HQ 75.6 and HQ 76
232 English/Counseling Services Building,Kansas State University, (785)532-6927
Center for Advocacy, Response, and Education
Holton Hall, Kansas State University, (785)532-6444
In Manhattan, Kansas
Flint Hills Alliance
1221 Thurston, 2nd floor, Manhattan, KS 66502, (785)587-0016
Regional AIDS Project
serving the following counties in Northeast Kansas: Clay, Geary, Marshall, Pottawatomie, Riley, and Washington
Offices: 2601 Anderson Ave., Manhattan, KS 66505, (785) 587-1999
The Flinthills Observer
a web newsletter with helpful information and links to other sites
In Lawrence, Kansas
Queers & Allies (Q&A)
400 Kansas Union Box 13, Lawrence, KS 66045
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays have developed an excellent web-page with many fine links.
In Topeka, Kansas
Metropolitan Community Church
PO Box 4776,Topeka, KS 66604, (785)232-6196
Positive Connections, Inc. formerly Topeka AIDS Project
1001 SW Garfield Suite 4, Topeka, KS 66604, (785)232-3100
In Wichita, Kansas
Gay Information Line: (316) 269-0913
Metropolitan Community Church
156 S. Kansas, Wichita, KS, 316-267-1852
The Parachute, a Wichita-based monthly paper
PO Box 11347, Wichita, KS 67202, 316-651-0500
Parents, Family and Friends of Gays and Lesbians
PFLAG Hotline: (316)26-PFLAG
Kansas Equality Coalition
6505 E. Central PMB 219, Wichita, KS 67206
Box 811, Lansing, MI 48823
National AIDS Hotline
1-800-342-AIDS (English speaking)
1-80~344-7432 (Spanish speaking)
1-800-24~7889 (TDD line)
National Federation of Parents and Friends of Gays (NF/PFOG)
8020 Eastern Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20012, (202)726-3223
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF)
1734 14th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20009-4309, (202)332-6483
Parents, Family, and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PFLAG) national office
1101 14th Street NW,Suite 1030, Washington, D.C. 20005, (202)638-1200
Berzon, B. (Ed.). (1979). Positively gay: New approaches in gay and lesbian life. Los Angeles, CA: Mediamax. Collection of articles by several authors on dealing with the family, developing a positive sense of self, and improving the social life for gays.
Borchek, M. (1983). Coming out to parents: A two-way survival guide for lesbians and gay men and their parents. New York: Pilgrim Books. Written by the parent of a gay male who is a Christian activist.
Boswell, J. (1980). Christianity, social tolerance, and homosexuality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Boswell's book is both scholarly and readable, tracing the history of the relationship of the Christian church to gays and lesbians. Includes extensive analysis of Biblical texts about homosexuality.
Clark, D. (1977). Loving someone gay. New York: Signet Books. Written by a gay male psychologist. Offers helpful information to anyone--gay, straight, friend, lover, parent--who cares about someone who is gay. Very widely read book that many consider to be a "classic." Clark has a 1987 edition of this book entitled, The new "loving someone gay" published by Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA.
Darty, T., & Potter, S. (1984). Women-identified women. Palo Alto, CA: Mayfield. An anthology addressing lesbian identity, oppression, culture, and community. Also contains a selected list of lesbian periodicals.
Fairchild, B., & Hayward, N. (1979). Now that you know: What every parent should know about homosexuality. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Jovanovich. Written for parents of gays and lesbians. This book is also useful in understanding and anticipating possible reactions of parents to the discovery that a child is gay or lesbian.
Griffin, C., Wirth, M., & Wirth, A. (1986). Beyond acceptance: Parents of lesbians and gays talk about their experiences. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Written for and by parents of gays and lesbians, this book is useful in helping to understand parents' reactions to sons and daughters coming out.
Hall, M. (1985). The lavender couch: A consumer's guide to psychotherapy for lesbians and gay men. Boston: Alyson. This book gives some practical and readable information about choosing a therapist as well as what to expect from therapy. Resources may be dated, however.
Katz, J. (1976). Gay American History. New York: Cromwell. Provides historical data regarding homosexuality in America. Early colonial records up to the gay liberation movement are included. Very readable as well as historical.
Loulan, J. (1987). Lesbian passion: Loving ourselves and each other. San Francisco, CA: Spinsters/Aunt Lute. Written by a lesbian about lesbian relationships, problems, possibilities, and politics.
Vide, G. (Ed.). (1978). Our right to love: A lesbian resource book. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Collection of articles by lesbians that discuss various aspects of the lesbian lifestyle. Includes resources (though dated) that may prove helpful in making contact within the lesbian community.
Wolf, S. J., & Stanley, J. P. (Eds.) (1980). Coming out stories. Watertown, MA: Persephone Press. Forty-one autobiographical statements from lesbians of various ages and backgrounds portray the joy and struggles of self-identifying as lesbian.
Batchelor, W. F. (1988). AIDS 1988. American Psychologist, 4 (11), 853-858.
Bell, A. P., & Weinberg, M. S. (1978). Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Darty, T., & Potter, S. (1984). Preface. In T.E. Darty & S. Potter (Eds.), Women-ldentified Women (pp. xi-xiii). Palo Alto, CA: Mayfield.
Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., & Martin, C. E. (1948). Sexual behavior in the human male. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Masters, W. H., Johnson, V. E., & Kolodny, C. (1985). Human Sexuality (2nd Ed.). Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Co.
Moses, A. E., & Hawkins, R. O., Jr. (1982). Counseling lesbian women and gay men: A life-issues approach. St. Louis, MO: C. V. Mosby.
Richards, D. (1990). Lesbian lists: A look at lesbian culture, history and personalities. Boston: Alyson Publications, Inc.
Rutledge, L (1987). The gay book of lists. Boston: Alyson Publications, Inc.
Originally written and developed in 1991 by staff members at the Counseling Services, Kansas State University; modified and adapted for the Internet in 1997.