Psychotherapy Issue Vol. 2: Shame and sexual orientation

…[Internalised homophobia] does not allow people to come out to friends and family let alone make healthy relationships.

The issue presented here is based on my work and study of the psychotherapeutic process of mostly gay men and what the main issues that they face are which need our attention in the therapeutic relationship.

Global and local cultures are mostly homophobic historically so when LGBTQI+ people are teenagers and are growing up, they usually tend to internalise homophobia in a way that does not allow them to come out to friends and family let alone make healthy relationships. When they initially do come out in therapy, they have successfully faced their first internal conflicting issues between desires and upbringing. They are able to become aware at this stage of any depressive elements or anger issues that can be directed towards various directions (society at large, past employers, friends, family and almost always towards themselves) all of which cannot be forgiven for oppressing their expression. In many occasions their own internalised mechanism of oppressing themselves needs to be explored.

In several occasions, people tend to numb feelings and sexual desires due to the great shame they may feel for being gay. Sexuality may be explored well into the therapeutic process once trust in the relationship has been established. In the beginning, innuendos and lack of clarity may be apparent but with patience and further trust in oneself and in the therapeutic relationship, clients tend to become more clear and state the previously “unimaginable” out loud bringing a good deal of liberation. People might still be feeling like “failures” for not having fulfilled “society’s expectations” and depending on the age different issues come up (i.e. how might life have passed by without actually living it).

Sometimes therapy groups of LGBTQI+ people might be able to further help people to make progress towards self-acceptance and being more clear about their own self-worth and buried emotions. Steps might at times appear small yet they are always significant. As in any other therapy, past resentments need to be left behind in order to move forward with one’s life and learning how to protect oneself is important. Action towards a more whole life where sexuality is acknowledged and accepted for what it is, is the gift one can usually find by going through a therapeutic process. Change is unpredictable in therapy as everywhere else so other gifts are welcomed as well.