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Phases in the development of the homosexual identity

Abstract: Phases in the development of the homosexual identity

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Phases in the development of the homosexual identity

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Written by: Wendy Moelker, psychologist in charge of Emergis, Goes, the Netherlands.
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 24 Aug 2008.

What problems can a homosexual meet?


How homosexuals in a mainly heterosexual society discover their feelings and learn how to deal with them is summarized in the term "coming out". "Coming out" is to reveal their homosexuality to their surroundings. The term "coming in" is used for this integration in the homosexual culture. The development of the homosexual identity is of course individual but can shortly be summarized as follows:

Phase 1: Sensitization: the person becomes aware of their attraction to people with the same sex, this often happens before puberty.

Phase 2: Identity confusion: the person begins to realize that their feelings or behavior can be called homosexual. This may lead to confusion, feelings of insecurity, embarrassment, guilt and isolation, but when the person realizes that there are others with the same feelings the negative feelings and the idea of isolation may be reduced or disappear.

Phase 3: Acceptance of their identity: this phase often happens during late adolescence. In this phase their homosexuality is tolerated, but not yet accepted. They begin to see them self as homosexuals and present them self to others as such. This makes it possible to meet other homosexuals and discover the homosexual culture. The experiences that they have at this stage are important for dealing with homosexuality later. Contact with other homosexuals is important for discovering the positive sides of homosexuality and learning how to deal with the opinions of non-homosexuals. The third phase ends when they inform others generally of their homosexual feelings.

Phase 4: Commitment: in this phase homosexuality is experienced as a more self-evident part of the personal identity. They accept their homosexual feelings and are at ease with this identity and role.

Negative feelings that have been taught and partly familiarized with don't always disappear. Depression, alcohol abuse, attempts to commit suicide and other psychological problems may be consequences of not dealing effectively with their identity.

For parents it is not always easy to deal with homosexual children. Expectations should be adjusted and accepted. It is important to have an open attitude towards them. Indicate that it is hard to talk about this problem, but as parents you want to accept their feelings and support them as much as possible.

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