Abstract:This four-part discussion describes the author's experiences as a homosexual male, beginning with the prelude to the paper.
Part one reflects on his development and evolution as a gay man. In this section, he introduces and describes his Five Step Affirmation Model, discussing an overview of the domains and connecting the steps with life experience case scenarios. He further discusses aspects of being a single parent.
Part two focuses on the gay and lesbian culture, illustrated in his Homosexual Community model. He discusses from a historical perspective, the homosexual ecology in western society.
Part three describes his philosophy and work as an educator and activist, leading to an introduction to, and discussion of, his vision which led to the development of the LAMBDA Organization.
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This section will lead to part two, which will focus on the gay and lesbian culture. To help you to understand the complex nature of our culture, I will begin with a discussion on the homosexual society, describe it's primary and sub groups, and give an overview of their cultures. I will introduce my Homosexual Community Model to illustrate the groups. I will discuss from a historical perspective, the homosexual ecology in western society. During this discussion, I will give an overview of some gender issues, speak to some similarities between the non-homosexual and homosexual communities, discuss briefly, fragmentation within the homosexual community, speak to hate, its influence on the gay and lesbian communities, and of other types of homophobic thinking today. Also, I will include discussion of the labels western non homosexual society and culture created to describe our characteristics, features, and behaviours. As well, within the homosexual community, the development of labels to describe physical and psychological features of homosexual persons and groups. Some labels are specific and focused, intended to create dissension and fuel intolerance among homosexuals. This has contributed to fragmentation in the gay and lesbian community. This idea raises additional questions about gender issues, and the development of subcultures within the homosexual community. This discussion will end with the introduction of the LAMBDA organization in part three.
In this section, I will begin with a short discussion on my philosophy as an educator and activist. Then, I will discuss briefly my vision of designing an educational consulting service, and how it became the LAMBDA organization. I will talk briefly to the organization's mission statement, philosophies and objectives. I will present a brief history of the LAMBDA Educational and Research Foundation and it's branch society, LAMBDA Institute of Gay and Lesbian Studies. Others share this vision, and together we, the LAMBDA team built a vehicle that is one answer to creating a greater public awareness of the social and cultural issues within the gay and lesbian communities. This section will lead to part four, which will be an open discussion. My aim is to create a learning opportunity from which a transition occurs for you and me in the development of knowledge and understanding.
I think that today's societal norms have contributed to the social alienation of the homosexual person from our communities. Western social ideology has stereotyped the homosexual community, collectively, as socially deviant, primarily because of our gender preferences and practices. As well, biases influence mainstream western society thinking based on traditional morals and values. This thinking contributes to alienating the homosexual person from mainstream society, and the dominoeffect is the homosexual person reversing course, and backing into the closet.
The repercussions are taking their toll within the homosexual community. Ideological traditional behaviours perpetuate within our communities' groups and subgroups. Fuelling this process is the labelling of theirs and ours characteristics, behaviours and lifestyles by members of non-homosexual and homosexual groups. This creates opportunity for discriminatory practices by people in positions of power and control. The greater North American community has identified the homosexual community and its members as social deviants. As well, the gay and lesbian communities emulate the greater communities thinking. The result of which, the efforts and influences by people in positions of power and control who do not accept the homosexual person as a viable member of humankind, nor do they consider our lifestyle as of a traditional nature, take precedent in the philosophy of our constitutions and laws. (Mozil, 1987).
The right to choose is constitutional. Is social ideology violating that right by discriminating against the gay and lesbian person? In a sense, is society pressuring them to make a choice of which group they should associate with, or which lifestyle they should adopt to be accepted? Where does this leave me as a homosexual male? Why should sexual orientation make a difference?
Recently, my fourteen year old daughter asked me, "Dad, who in our family is the mom? Who is the dad?" My son of sixteen years, responded immediately, while I was collecting myself. He said, "What does it matter? We have three dads."
My partner recently identified us as a family. He speaks often of us as his immediate family. In our discussions pertaining to family business, and when we are together with my children, he includes all the members of our family in the discussion.
Our family recently grew with the addition of two felines, brother and sister tabby cats. They too, are often the centre of attention when we are together.
A scenario unfolded about three weeks ago, when my father and I were talking on the phone. My parents live in eastern Canada, as do my partner's family. We were discussing the latest political issues, especially those concerning same sex rights. My father is an activist at heart, and at times, I think I inherited this characteristic from him. He is proactive in terms of human rights, especially when it comes to homosexual rights. He said he was a guest speaker at a Knights of Columbus convention recently, and spoke about this issue. He said, "Imagine me, son, speaking to 1,000 people, raised in mostly conservative Catholic families about the rights of homosexual people. And while speaking, I was thinking about my gay son and his partner." I asked my father, "What did you title your speech?" He said, "What Difference Does It Make?" Imagine the feeling I experienced at that moment. You know the warm sensation you experience when you've had a revelation. Well, this was one of those times. After a moment of silence, I said, "Dad, I wrote an article on the topic of sexual orientation and the Lambda organization. It was published in a magazine out of Saskatoon in 1994. The title of my paper was "What Difference Should It Make?"
Much of what I am today, I attribute to my willingness to pursue what I believe to be a universal right to be treated as an equal. As well, I would be remiss if I did not mention my continuous effort to be proactive, and not part of the status quo. Let me explain.
During my childhood, I did most things that children of my age did (e.g., play ball, get into trouble, raid the cookie jar, and played practical pranks and jokes on the neighbours). Much of my time was spent with my male cohorts building forts, playing Superman and Batman, watching our favourite Saturday cartoon shows, and filling ourselves with candies and goodies. In this recollection of past childhood memories, I remember a time when I became curious about what an older male looks like without any clothes on. I and my friends would talk about this subject during our play time. This is considered normal for the age group according to studies by noted psychologists and psychiatrists (e.g., Sigmund Freud). My childhood sped by, not without its trials and tribulations. Curiosity grew about who am I, where did I come from, how did I get here, what am I going to grow up to be, when am I going to feel like a man, and why am I on earth and not on another planet in another solar system. Questions, and more questions. I bombarded my parents with questions about everything. I was not satisfied until I received an answer.
When I reached my early teens, things around my sexuality changed. I experienced the usual changes associated with puberty. I remember one day while at choir practice, my voice cracked. My instructor stopped the practice on a sour chord, frowned, smiled, and said, "Well, I guess we will have to find a replacement for Rick's voice." I remember standing in front of the bathroom mirror, wondering when all those ugly growths on my face were going to disappear. A significant change was my attraction to the opposite sex. I and my friends would tell stories about our dates, for the most part, I knew they were made up to impress our male friends. Yet, another peculiarity happened to me when I turned thirteen. I began developing an attraction for an adult male who was a friend of mine. The feelings were peculiar, unsettling, and a quite new to me. I did not know anything about labelling feelings at that time. What I did know was, how I felt physically whenever I was around this man. My heart would palpitate, I would experience head rushes, and I had wild fantasies about him and me. Playing, I don't think so!
When I turned fourteen, I had my first sexual experience with a seventeen year old male. Between fourteen and sixteen, my head turned in both directions to the male and female genders. I did not know who I was more attracted to, girls or boys. I continued to date girls, and struck up a few wonderful short term relationships. There were a few disasters, too! I remember discussing this experience with my brother who is five years older than me. We were sitting on his bed talking, when I asked him, "Is it normal to have sexual relationships with boys?" He said, "No, it is not. You should be concentrating on school and girls. Look at me. I've had more experience in this area. Trust me. Do not get involved sexually with the same sex. It is wrong, and immoral. Mom and Dad would flip their toque if they found out that you were engaged in sexual activities with other boys." I then asked him, "Have you ever had a sexual experience with another man?" He did not answer. I knew then if I spoke further about this subject with him, he would tell Dad. Then I would be in for it.
Our family was raised in traditional Catholicism. The doctrines of the Catholic church are imbedded in our genes since the dawn of our family. I thought to myself after my brother and I finished our conversation, I must be different. I knew at that time I was developing stronger feelings toward males than females. Yet, I continued dating, going to school dances, and generally enjoying myself. Since that conversation, another change occurred. My brother began to treat me differently. He seemed to be more aggressive, more macho with his behaviour toward me. He would constantly want to engage me in wrestling, playing contact sports, and learning the techniques of street fighting. My interests were of a different nature. I pursued competitive swimming, the arts, fly fishing, hiking, music, writing, reading, and enjoying the outdoors. My father seemingly sensed that my nature was different from my brother. I remember him saying, "Son, I know I am going to have to treat you different than I treat your brother." What did that mean?
Time moved on, and so did my interest in the same sex. I gravitated to the male social scenes, and involved myself in activities that were male centred (e.g., cadets, non contact sports). All this time, I felt I was pulling further away from the traditional male behaviours, towards non-traditional behaviours, thinking and activities. Yet, hanging onto some traditional thinking and patterns (e.g., thinking about going to university, getting married, having a family). So here I was, entering and exiting the heterosexual lifestyle to keep up the image that I was normal, and in my fantasies, entering and staying in what I came to know as the homosexual life. The very word homosexual raised my fear level each time it was spoken among my peers at school and work. The despicable things that are done to gay people by other people who discover them. Out of fear for my safety, this thinking suppressed my feelings even further. All the time knowing, that I was not feeling fulfilled as a male, and yet, not wanting to be even remotely discovered for having thoughts that some would interpret as erotic, about the male gender. Times got tough for me as more expectations were laid on me by my parents, school, and my part time employer. During my secondary school years, I had little time to get out with the boys. Time was at a premium, and the pressures at times, became intolerable. I was feeling pulled in every direction accept the one that I wanted to go in. My feelings about my sexual orientation were being drowned and replaced with stereotypical thinking and traditional standards.
What I just described is the first step of the Five Step Affirmation Model, the Inquiry phase. This is the first step of three steps in establishing your sexual orientation. During this phase, I entered and exited at will, but for the most part, my decision was influenced by my culture, religion and family. During this stage, the person questions their sexual orientation, associated behaviours and choice of life style. There are no conditions attached to this phase. The only barriers to full inquiry are the ones created by the person exploring their orientation. The limitation to this stage is the person's inability and unwillingness to question their behaviours, thinking, philosophy, beliefs, and cultural bias about their sexuality. Age is not a restriction. In my professional experience, I have worked with people who began questioning their sexual orientation as late as 65 years of age, or as early as nine years of age. There are no parameters for this phase. But there are cultural, societal and religious influences at this stage. The limitation to this phase is the barrier of inhibition on the part of the person entering this step, their exiting too soon, and not reentering.
At sixteen, I graduated, adjusted my sights, and moved away from home. This was my break, and the beginning of my exploration into the world of homosexuality. Putting aside the influences, societal norms, bias, I became radical. I wanted answers to my questions. A way of satisfying my hunger for knowledge was to experience the homosexual or gay lifestyle. What was this lifestyle about? How can I enter it? Why should I experience it? What is in it for me? In retrospect, I had truly not left the inquiry phase. I moved to the second step, the exploration phase. I took with me my repertoire of questions and my knowledge based on research and limited sexual experience. In my zest and eagerness for answers, I moved quickly to establish a network with people of a similar nature difference between the inquiry and exploration phase is you have increased your freedom of choice in terms of entry and exit, and the freedom of movement within the social safety nets [the safe time] you created. But more significantly is the increased guards you build around yourself while you are in this phase. People may return to the inquiry phase, after the realization that they have no safe time. Some people choose to exit this stage, out of fear or disillusionment, and don't return. They revert back to basic heterosexual behaviours and the lifestyle, all the while, suppressing their true sexual orientation and identity. I am an example of this type of person.
I exited this step at eighteen years of age. I eventually married. Together we brought two beautiful children into the world. Meantime, my yearnings for homosexual male companions weren't totally suppressed. Though my marriage was reasonably intact, my career off the ground, and university underway, there was something missing. What was that missing component? It was the network. As our lives changed, so did our living arrangements, locations, and lifestyle. I found myself secretly exploring and fantasizing about possibilities outside of my heterosexual relationship and marriage. Yes, I fulfilled my parents' expectations of getting married and expanding our family tree. Eventually I came to realize that my need to explore my sexual orientation was stronger than my need to maintain a heterosexual relationship and marriage. If I reentered the exploration phase, would I have safe time?
Before I discuss the third step, acceptance, let's do a recap. I entered into the inquiry phase at a very early age. During this time, I was influenced by society, culture, family and religious norms and standards. Yet, it was the beginning of understanding my sexual orientation, which eventually became my preferred lifestyle. As time went on, so did the evolution of my sexual orientation. At sixteen, I entered the exploration phase, and began developing my gay network. I further developed my safe time, all the while, putting aside the influences from the inquiry phase and becoming radical. At eighteen, I exited this step, with a gain in knowledge and experience, moved back into a heterosexual lifestyle, while suppressing my need to feel fulfilled and sexually gratified as a gay male. After eight years of marriage, and a divorce, I returned to the exploration phase.
Yes, I fulfilled my parents' wishes, and society's expectations, in terms of my contributions as a parent. Who was fulfilling my needs in terms of my sexual orientation? The answer did not come easily. After returning to the exploration phase, I quickly built another network. I attempted to rekindle old and expired relationships with other homosexual people. For the most part, I was unsuccessful. They had moved on with their lives. It became clearly evident to me that if I wanted to pursue my sexual orientation, I needed to rebuild my network. Eventually, I met a man who introduced me to the gay club scene. My life began to move faster, as I moved in and around this phase. I was exposed to and experienced various facets of the gay life. The more time I spent in this step, perhaps the longest time out of the five steps, the more I began to understand myself and my sexual orientation. The whirlwind of activities began to absorb me. Though for the most part this time was fun, and expensive, I was not remiss on my responsibilities as a parent.
Like the story of the Tale of Two Cities, my life became the never-ending story of Rick's two worlds. I entered and exited the heterosexual world where my children existed, and after visits, reentered the homosexual world. Always keeping them apart and distinct. I began to discover that my comfort zones changed after each entry and exit into the two domains. At that time, I found myself feeling more comfortable in my world, the homosexual world, and less comfortable in the heterosexual world. What is the message here? Let's look at this more closely by referring to the model.
This life event indicates movement or transition, a step closer to the final step, affirmation. You will note the word lifestyle between steps two and three. Movement from the exploration to acceptance domains begins with acknowledgement of yourself as a homosexual person. In part, the lifestyle is built around acknowledgement of self, and others, which in turn, strengthens your network system, and aids you moving towards step three, acceptance.
The acceptance domain is the final step in the process of identifying your preferred sexual orientation and lifestyle. This area is measurable by the persons level of comfort with their choice. People can enter and exit this step at will. In my experience and research, most people who have entered this domain are fully accepting of their choice and others that made similar choices. They display quality characteristics attributed to the movement from step one to three. Some of the positive physiological and psychological changes for the person are: noticeable physical changes (e.g., less stressed, improved health), more focus on career, education, improved self-esteem, confidence, gratification, more open and less guarded, dating, and a willingness to pursue a life long relationship with a partner after a mate match. They strengthen their network by associating with people with similar interests and characteristics. They continue building their safety nets, and increasing their safe time. In terms of their social network, they seek out the company of and associate with groups that hold for them similar ideals, values and morals. Step three enhances the development of primary and sub groups. In this domain, the homosexual person moves towards groups of choice, enters, remains, or exits. Usually, the homosexual person has identified what groups best meet their needs, and maintains constant contact or participation in that particular groups activities. As the person engages the group, and the group engages them, acceptance is nurtured. Once the experience has been catalogued by the homosexual person, mentally speaking, their preferred lifestyle is identified and established. Let me explain further, by way of example.
I entered this domain ten years ago. By that time, I acknowledged myself and others acknowledged me as a homosexual male. To accentuate the acceptance phase, I sought, entered into, maintained, and exited relationships. I moved around in this step, seeking acceptance from groups which I identified as primary and sub groups. Within these groups, cultures and sub cultures existed. It was a matter of matching my culture to the one that would accept me. After I made the connection, the process of accepting me and my homosexual package began. This aspect is not that different, sociologically speaking from traditional group acceptance, nurturing, and development. What is different is the dynamics of the groups that I associated with. I discovered that each group had its own distinct set of values, beliefs, standards, and rules. Interestingly at the time, none of this stuff was written about. It was by experience, through the experiential learning process, that I discovered and learned about these groups and their cultures.
In this step, the homosexual person identifies with other people like themselves. They begin developing social networks, friendships, and relationships with partners. I think that until the person is accepting of their sexual orientation, as this is the last domain in the three steps in identifying, understanding and accepting your sexual orientation, they are unable to accept non-homosexual views and beliefs. This is a key component in this part of the model. Often you hear about activist groups seemingly advocating for the homosexual community. Their themes vary depending on the purpose and intention. The efforts of anti-establishment, political, left wing groups who have hidden agendas, has created rifts within the homosexual community. On the other hand, the work done by groups whose aim is to understand our community as a whole and society at large, has been beneficial from a holistic, humanistic perspective. Let me explain.
In order for acceptance of us by us, and of us by outside society, and of outside society by us to develop, understand the issues, beliefs, morals, and values of family and social systems on both sides of the coin. This was a process that I underwent before I could move to the next step in the model, confirmation. The immediate groups that I needed to understand included my parents, siblings, children, extended family, partner, peers, colleagues, professional associates, professors, and politicians. I also needed them to understand me. Enter, my philosophy about education, a tool that can make a difference. To ask questions was one way to nurture this process. I wondered why should my sexual orientation make a difference? Why is that a person's sexual orientation becomes the focus for discussion groups by non-homosexuals, once the homosexual person is discovered? Why is it that provincial and federal human rights, and the Charter of Rights legislation, such that it is, is designed to purposefully exclude the homosexual person? My willingness to make the transition to the next step in the model did not come easily for me. Yet, I was inspired by life events such as the ones that I am about to describe, that aided me to move to the next phase in the model, confirmation. Yes, I recognize there have been developments in the entrenchment of rights of minority groups including homosexuals in provincial human rights acts. But, we are living in a province that does not, nor is willing to recognize the right of the homosexual person. Our federal government distances itself from redefining the term family to recognize same sex partners and their dependents as a bona fide family unit. The federal and provincial income tax acts do not recognize the homosexual relationship as a status (e.g., single, married, divorced, common law). There are relationships whereby a partner who support their partner financially, is not permitted to claim their partner as a dependent. Yet, we homosexual persons, are expected by provincial and federal law, to contribute to the financial coffers of the government through the income tax system, and to support the well being of Canadian society. Are we not part of Canadian society?
It is best to describe the fourth step, confirmation, by way of a scenario. My son, partner, and I were hiking in the mountains one late summer day, three and half years ago. We stopped by a shoreline of a mountain lake, sat ourselves down, rested, and ate our lunch. My son who was near fourteen at the time, seemed restless. He did not sit himself next to me, nor my partner. He sat off a short distance from us. During a quiet moment, he burst out in tears. His face reddened, and he appeared angry. He stomped over towards me, yelled saying, "Why did you lie to me? I have known for a long time that you are gay. And, that you are living with another gay man. Why in the hell did you not tell me? Why did I have to find out . . ." This for me was the beginning of the confirmation process. My son, although rightfully angry, stated in his own words, that he confirmed my homosexuality. He further confirmed that he recognized my partner, and our relationship as being a homosexual one.
Since the divorce, my children and I developed a new relationship. I became their father who was not living with them, the father at a distance, physically speaking. This was one transition. We moved together, building a new relationship with one exception, they lacked awareness of the other side of their dad. So, I thought! As I said earlier, I kept the two worlds distinctly apart. Why did I do this? My son and I went for a walk. Together we explored my rationale for not telling him about my homosexuality. I explained to him that I needed to protect him and his sister against all the possibilities associated with ridicule and discrimination that are associated with the behaviours of people that don't understand. He agreed. And, I fully expected he would approach me about my preferred sexual orientation when he was ready. He did. We discussed his feelings about my preferences, and my choice of lifestyle. Most importantly, we connected, and developed a new bond. Together, we identified ourselves as a family unit. When we returned to the place where we had left my partner, my son approached him and welcomed him to our family. I think this was a significant event, and a crucial turning point in the evolution of our new family unit. Since then, we have moved forward developing our family.
Collectively, we made the transition to the final step in the five step model, affirmation. In this phase, we continue to support, and uphold our traditions, beliefs, morals and values. Our loyalties to the family unit have been strengthened by our connectiveness and bonding with the other. This process includes also the affirmation we have received from our families [e.g., parents], members of our extended families, and friends. It is interesting to note that in our experience as a family unit, our extended family has grown. This group now includes some close friends. Their love, care, and loyalness has nurtured the overall development of our new family group.
Once you have made the transition to this domain, it is not the end of the trail. I personally have moved in and out of this phase several times since that time my son confronted me about my sexual orientation. The basic unit of measurement is your level of comfort with events that occur in your life as a homosexual person (e.g., in my professional life, I have experienced movement from this phase back to step two, exploration, because of events beyond my control that created a risk problem for me). Movement between steps four and five can be continuous once you get there. Or movement from step five back to step one, inquiry can happen. In my professional experience, I have worked with people that were affirmed as homosexual people. Incidents in their life and the stigmas attached to them (e.g., AIDS and HIV), caused the person to move back to the inquiry stage. Even though they had a choice to remain where they were they decided to turn around, and move back to the questioning phase because of the influences of society's thinking, norms, and labelling.
I have explored with you a facet of my life. I connected each segment in my evolution as a homosexual male with the elements of the model. Further, I discussed in some detail, the five steps sometimes referred to as domains, the three phases to establishing sexual orientation, the realization that movement within the domains and between the phases depends on choice. I introduced you to new phrases (e.g., safe time, mate match, non homosexual, preferred lifestyle). You have received information, and begun to develop the tools from which understanding will occur.
The lesbianism groups have similar roles to that of the homophilia group. Within this group, there are distinct identifiable sub groups with similar characteristics to the homophilia sub groups. Also, each sub group has its own distinct behaviour characteristics, ranging from feminine, feminine/masculine, to masculine/feminine. They created their labels to describe the attributes distinct to each group, ordinary folks, professional groups, two spirited people [Native], leather womyn, S/M, dykes, diesel dykes, trendy groups, bisexuals, and youths. The correlation between the labels and the behaviour categories are the masculine traits which are less dominant in the lesbian characteristic, and more dominant in the masculine/feminine ultra masculine [diesel dyke] group.
In the transvestism group, certain men take on the social and sexual role of women. This primary group is the least identifiable of the three primary groups. The transvestism group includes the transvestite, transsexual, drag queen, and the cross-dresser sub groups. Within the drag queen community, there are the high drag and tough drag groups. A sub group to the transvestite group is the transvestite leather group. The behaviour range within the transvestism group is from ultra feminine to feminine/masculine, to feminine/masculine.
Homosexuality is the principal variation in the norm of heterosexuality. In most western and some eastern societies, homosexuality is taboo, forcing the homosexual person to keep their lifestyle private and apart from mainstream ideological thinking. Homophilia, involving adult males without any gender-role changes is a behaviour form that is found exclusively in the industrialized world. Particularly, in emerging post industrial North American societies, where evidence of a distinct homosexual sub-culture is tolerated, but not encouraged in, for example, large urban centres.
Cross-culturally, the evidence of lesbianism is fragmentary. The reason may be that women in our society have less freedom to experiment and deviate sexually than men. It may also be the case that lesbian behaviour is typically more discreet than homophilia behaviour. Generally, lesbian behaviours don't appear to arouse strong reactions from mainstream society, compared to male homosexual behaviours (e.g., the women's display of affection towards another women may be interpreted as just a sign of affection). This form of behaviour is tolerated and gone unnoticed in most western and eastern societies. "The classic example of this phenomenon was a nineteenth century British law that forbade male homosexuality, but ignored lesbianism, because Queen Victoria refused to believe that women did such things!"
Socially acceptable forms of behaviour and practices are established by the greater population. An example of a socially acceptable behaviour is a man holding hands with a women. An example of socially acceptable sexual preference and practice, is the act of procreation. An example of social behaviours deemed unacceptable in western mainstream society, is the male gender walking together, holding hands. A friend of my son commented on this very fact while at the university for a career planning day session, he saw two men walking hand in hand at the Hub mall. He didn't seem bothered by this display of behaviour, and said, "People should accept them for who they are."
The standards established by mainstream society determine what is socially acceptable or unacceptable. These develop from current day ideological thinking which is reinforced by societal norms and values.. The two men holding hands were labelled gay by my son's friend. This example is typical of the stereotypical thinking of most members of western society.
Western attitudes towards homosexuality are mostly negative. Their negativity lies within their morals and traditions that tolerate for example, sexual acts of a heterosexual nature, that occur in a marriage, and are for the purposes of procreation. Homosexual sexual acts are viewed as being non-reproductive, and partners engage in such acts purely for pursuing non-marital love or pleasure. At some point during the maturing homosexual life experience, they realize that their preferred lifestyle is despised by mainstream society, and to express them outwardly would sometimes be considered a crime against the state. Some homosexuals react to this deprivation by accepting society's attitude towards homosexuality, and falling into self-hatred [back to the inquiry phase of the transition model]. Some homosexuals spend a lifetime denying their homosexuality to others and themselves. Some however, find ways to resolve this conflict within the gay and lesbian community. Within these groups, the can be recognized [acceptance, step three of the model] and resocialized by learning new roles, and adapting to new norms and values.
"The new climate helps to neutralize earlier concepts of homosexuality as perverted or sinful, and enables gays and lesbians to build positive self-concepts." (Warrens, 1974; Altman, 1972, 1982; Wolf, 1979).For centuries, western society generally viewed homosexuality as a moral matter, a sin that evoked divine retribution. Around the nineteenth century, many western cultures redefined homosexuality as a crime, punishable by imprisonment. By the middle of the twentieth century, public opinions encouraged by psychiatry, once again shifted and homosexuality was viewed in medical terms. Homosexuals were considered "sick," and psychiatrists tried to change their sexual orientation in hopes of curing them. By the 1960s, an emerging gay liberation movement insisted that homosexuality be defined as a lifestyle. The American Psychiatric Association adopted this view in 1974, and reclassified homosexuality from a disease to a lifestyle.
Another factor in our ecology is that western mainstream society insists on conformity toward the norm of heterosexuality, or sexual collaboration with the opposite gender. The reason for conformity is procreation, for a society that couldn't reproduce would be faced with extinction. About a third of the world societies totally forbid homosexuality or the practice of homosexuality. In these societies, if the homosexual person broke the sanction, the consequence would range rom ridicule to execution.
"Until the global population explosion of the present century, widespread exclusive homosexuality would have been highly dysfunctional, for a society that did not encourage high birth rates might risk extinction. In a world faced with a crisis of overpopulation, however, homosexuality (and contraception, masturbation, oral-genital sex, and other non-reproductive forms of heterosexual activity) are no longer dysfunctional in this respect, and so receive more acceptance than in the past". (Robertson, 1987).
Since the 1960s, homosexual persons have taken on activist roles. Other than for a few discreet meeting places in big cities such as Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, there were no gay activist organizations. Discovery usually meant the loss of employment and usually social disaster. Any homosexual act was considered an offense and was punishable usually by imprisonment of up to fourteen years.
In 1969, the Criminal Code of Canada was amended to make homosexual acts between two consenting adults of the same gender no longer a crime, permitted they practised their lifestyle in private. It was now possible for homosexuals to "come out of the closet" and admit or proclaim their sexual preferences. At that time, Quebec was the only province that protected the civil rights of homosexuals in employment and housing. In the late 1960s, the Ontario Human Rights Commission made an attempt to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in their provincial Human Rights Act, and failed in their attempts.
"An admitted homosexual who chose to work as a truck driver or a stevedore, could probably expect some abuse from his macho workmates; life might be easier for him as a writer or artist, where he would be judged more by what he created than by how he lived." (Anonymous, 1980).These historical events are but some of the influences [refer to the inquiry phase, step one of the Five Step model] that affected me during my establishing my sexual orientation. Yes, I knew I had choices, but I believe these choices were limited by the very nature of the ideological thinking of the day.
Homosexuals, and their behaviours were given derogatory labels by mainstream society (e.g., faggot, pansy, dyke, queer, lesi). These labels were readily accepted by the homosexual community and adapted to the labels that defined the characteristics of the primary and sub-groups. This type of acceptance in our western culture, was a verbal expression of societal prejudices. These unfortunate events emulate within the homosexual community, which perpetuate hatred amongst its members. In 1993, I worked with a male, who experienced the negative effect of being labelled a "homo,." by his homosexual and heterosexual peers, friends, family members and strangers. During our discussion, I suggested to him that he write about his experience. I received a paper from him that speaks clearly to the fallout from the labelling events. The following is the unedited version of this person's experience with being labelled "homo", entitled "Labelling, Is It Right?
"Have you ever called someone a "homo?" Labelling goes on every day and some people get hurt. I feel that nobody should label another because of the way they look or act. I will be focusing on homosexual labelling. There are many reasons why people should not label others and there are still people who do it.
First of all, if you are labelling someone who really isn't a homosexual, many things can happen. When someone seriously labels another as being a homosexual, he usually has to have something to go on. How does he know for sure that the other is a homosexual? You should not label someone because you can't be sure that you are right. Often someone is labelled a "homo" because of one of their characteristics, when in reality they are pseudo sexual, which means they are wrongly labelled. Another reason for labelling is people trying to get a reaction out of someone, or just wanting to fit in a "cool" category. Labelling is wrong because it is done for the wrong reasons. When you don't know for sure that a person is homosexual you should not really label that person.
Another reason it is wrong is because it affects the person labelled. When he or she falsely accuses someone that person could get scarred by this comment or label. He could also feel very uncomfortable. It can also influence that person's reputation. That person might not take that sort of comment in a positive manner, resulting in anger from this offensive comment.
The label of "homo" is inappropriately used to begin with. Everyone is in the "homo" category. This means that we are all human. We are all homo sapiens. Why should one homo sapien put down another? You are still human, if you are homosexual. You should be treated as humans and not trash. Another; inappropriate label for homosexuals is "fag" which in medieval times in Britain, meant that homosexuals were used as fuel to burn witches. Homosexuals are not fuel.
On the other side of the coin, some argue that labelling is right. Let's take a look at some reasons people label. One of the reasons is some people like to have everything organized according to a description of their roles, like in a story. But, everything does not need a set role in life, and everything does not need a label. Another reason for labelling is that people feel insecure within themselves and need to feel superior. They name call to vocalize their superiority. Nevertheless there are more appropriate ways to display superiority with someone, instead of against them. This will build self-confidence and security within themselves. This will eliminate the need to label that person.
Therefore, if you label someone you must be sure of your accusations and include all their characteristics. Labelling traumatically affects the person who is labelled. There are no real arguments why labelling is right except to build one's ego. No one should label another because of the way they look or act, especially with homosexuals."
All homosexuals have not accepted the decision by mainstream society that they should remain segregated. There are many homosexual people who pass for being normal, but this does not disrupt the segregative mechanisms - it actually supports them. Some homosexuals have chosen to become members of a militant opposition, which often must take collective form. This movement has supported the inception of formal action organizations, which have been giving homosexuals hope of influencing the overall course of events to their advantage. This movement is called the "homophile movement," comprised of formal organizations that seek to create better understanding of the homosexual and their preferred lifestyle. They are working towards legal reform, to aid homosexuals in conflict with the law, and to help homosexuals help themselves (support groups, group discussions and publications), to come to grip with their own problems. These organizations exist in many countries and network with the other, all of which are contributing to a "world-wide" social movement. Such an organization is the LAMBDA group.
The core of my methodology is based on three ideas: learning opportunity, learning partnership and learning environment. These concepts develop in the learner what I call the growth factor.
With each leaning opportunity, a new experience develops only if the people involved work together in what I call a learning partnership. Experiences involve change, and change includes one or more significant events or learning opportunities that contribute to the overall experience of the teacher and student, the facilitator and participant. Another factor that deserves consideration in their development is what I call the learning environment. The combination of the three ideas: learning opportunity, learning partnership, and learning environment, contribute to the growth factor in the adult educator and participant.
I believe in learning and that education provides opportunities to make viable choices for oneself. I can summarize this as: when we create a learning opportunity in a positive learning environment, in the spirit of a leaning partnership, we exchange information, we form tools, and we develop new skills, ending with a new learning for the adult that begins the process again when passed on to adults seeking self-improvement and life enhancement. (Mozil, 1994).
This evolutionary pattern of learning is what I call the learning circle. For me, without this base philosophy to work from, my working philosophy, my teaching style, I would not have acted on my vision.
During my evolution as a homosexual person, as an educator, and activist, one question continually surfaced "What difference should it make?" Sexual orientation should not make any difference! I thought: what way could I foster non discrimination, nurture inquiry, exploration, acceptance, confirmation of non standard sexual orientation, attractions, and lifestyles, and refute traditionally popular myths, stereotypes, beliefs and misconceptions regarding gay and lesbian people? At 3:00 A.M. one cold winter morning in January 1993, my question was answered. I envisioned a physical centre, an organization who's fundamental ideology is to advocate for social acceptance by seeking social change through the educational and research process. In February 1993, armed with this ideal, my working philosophies, educational tools and life experiences, I approached other people about my vision. They shared similar ideas and values with me. In April 1993, together, with these ideals in mind, we began formulating a plan of action. This resulted in the developing of a not for profit organization which would be based in Edmonton, and called LAMBDA Educational Research Foundation.
Over many cups of coffee during late nights brainstorming sessions, ideas were tossed around, discussing the mission, the philosophy and the focus of the Foundation. My coffee mates and I, further brainstormed the organization's purpose, objectives and ethics. After much discussion, we drafted the mission statement. With our research notes in hand and the first draft of the mission statement, we began what became a long and strenuous search for people with similar ideals. We began contacting people who were part of our personal and professional network. Our efforts were not in vain, as we were successful in finding and attracting people with varied sexual orientations, life experiences, professional and non-professional backgrounds.
LAMBDA was developed on the principle that sexual orientation does not matter. Our group was successful at gaining a broad representation of members no matter their sexual preference. Needless to say, the focus of the discussions was on personal views/bias on gay and lesbian lifestyles and social issues, research and education. (Mozil, E. D., 1994).
On January 10, 1994, LAMBDA EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH FOUNDATION was incorporated as a not for profit society. Our mission statement reads "The Foundation promotes research into Gay and Lesbian issues and lifestyles for the purpose of pubic education." On January 19, 1995, we expanded our organization and formalized the development of LAMBDA Institute of Gay and Lesbian Studies, a branch society. The development of an educational consulting service began in 1994 while I was drafting a plan to restructure the services of the Foundation. The general purpose of the plan was to clarify the specific purposes of the two bodies [the Foundation and Institute], and redistribute the roles and responsibilities internally. I drafted a Discussion Paper which I presented to our Board. I have taken excerpts from that paper and included them here.
The organizational structure is made up of a policy-making Board and five standing committees: Standards and Ethics; Membership; Education, Research and Resources; Marketing and Public Relations; Policy and Administration Review.
This phase in our development has been coined the birthing stage. During the natal development of our organization, we designed our Brochure, drafted our Statement of Activities which includes the services that we offer, Code of Ethics, and Membership Policy. We are working on our Business and Marketing plans, and Public Relations policies. We have filed with Revenue Canada for income tax registration as a Canadian charity.
My aim was to create a learning opportunity from which I hope a transition occurred for you in the development of knowledge and understanding of our community. You now have information to develop tools and skills to help create a greater public awareness about gay and lesbian social issues. At this time, I have done my part, now the rest is up to you!
To contact us, please send E-mail or mail to PO Box 52068, Garneau Postal Outlet, Edmonton AB T6G 2T5.