Where You At?
The following was E-mailed to me from another site. At first, thought it rather dry, but it is pretty accurate and clear cut (for my own path anyway.) Do you see yourself and others you know somewhere? Have you managed to get to the last stage yet? ...Quite interesting.
One of the foundational theories of gay and lesbian identity
development was developed in 1979 by Vivian Cass. Cass described a
process of six stages of gay and lesbian identity development. (There
are not yet theories that describe the identity development of
bisexual or transgender students.) The stages help explain students' thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and therefore help us know how to support students. While these stages are sequential, some people might
revisit stages at different points in their life. Following are brief descriptions of the six stages.
Identity Confusion: "Could I be gay?" This stage begins with the
person's first awareness of gay or lesbian thoughts, feelings, and
attractions. The person typically feels confused and experiences
Task: Who am I? – Accept, Deny, Reject.
Possible Responses: Will avoid information about lesbians and gays;
inhibit behavior; deny homosexuality ("experimenting," "an accident,"
"just drunk"). Males: May keep emotional involvement separate from
sexual contact; Females: May have deep relationships that are
non-sexual, though strongly emotional.
Possible Needs: May explore internal positive and negative judgments.
Will be permitted to be uncertain regarding sexual identity. May find
support in knowing that sexual behavior occurs along a spectrum. May
receive permission and encouragement to explore sexual identity as a
normal experience (like career identity, and social identity).
Identity Comparison: "Maybe this does apply to me." In this stage,
the person accepts the possibility of being gay or lesbian and examines
the wider implications of that tentative commitment. Self-alienation becomes isolation.
Task: Deal with social alienation.
Possible Responses: May begin to grieve for losses and the things she
or he will give up by embracing their sexual orientation. May
compartmentalize their own sexuality. Accepts lesbian, gay definition
of behavior but maintains "heterosexual" identity of self. Tells
oneself, "It's only temporary"; I'm just in love with this particular
Possible Needs: Will be very important that the person develops own
definitions. Will need information about sexual identity, lesbian, gay
community resources, encouragement to talk about loss of heterosexual
life expectations. May be permitted to keep some "heterosexual"
identity (it is not an all or none issue).
Identity Tolerance: "I'm not the only one." The person acknowledges
that he or she is likely gay or lesbian and seeks out other gay and
lesbian people to combat feelings of isolation. Increased commitment to being lesbian or gay.
Task: Decrease social alienation by seeking out lesbians and gays.
Possible Responses: Beginning to have language to talk and think about
the issue. Recognition that being lesbian or gay does not preclude
other options. Accentuates difference between self and heterosexuals.
Seeks out lesbian and gay culture (positive contact leads to more
positive sense of self, negative contact leads to devaluation of the
culture, stops growth). May try out variety of stereotypical roles.
Possible Needs: Be supported in exploring own shame feelings derived
from heterosexism, as well as external heterosexism. Receive support in
finding positive lesbian, gay community connections. It is
particularly important for the person to know community resources.
Identity Acceptance: "I will be okay." The person attaches a positive
connotation to his or her gay or lesbian identity and accepts rather
than tolerates it. There is continuing and increased contact with the
gay and lesbian culture.
Task: Deal with inner tension of no longer subscribing to society's
norm, attempt to bring congruence between private and public view of self.
Possible Responses: Accepts gay or lesbian self-identification. May
compartmentalize "gay life." Maintains less and less contact with
heterosexual community. Attempts to "fit in" and "not make waves"
within the gay and lesbian community. Begins some selective disclosures
of sexual identity. More social coming out; more comfortable being seen
with groups of men or women that are identified as "gay." More
realistic evaluation of situation.
Possible Needs: Continue exploring grief and loss of heterosexual life
expectation. Continue exploring internalized "homophobia" (learned
shame for heterosexist society.) Find support in making decisions
about where, when, and to whom he or she self discloses.
Identity Pride: "I've got to let people know who I am!" The person
divides the world into heterosexuals and homosexuals, and is immersed
in gay and lesbian culture while minimizing contact with heterosexuals.
Us-them quality to political/social viewpoint.
Task: Deal with incongruent views of heterosexuals.
Possible Responses: Splits world into "gay" (good) and "straight"
(bad). Experiences disclosure crises with heterosexuals as he or she is
less willing to "blend in." Identifies gay culture as sole source of
support; all gay friends, business connections, social connections.
Possible Needs: Receive support for exploring anger issues. Find
support for exploring issues of heterosexism. Develop skills for
coping with reactions and responses to disclosure to sexual identity. Resist
Identity Synthesis: The person integrates his or her sexual identity
with all other aspects of self, and sexual orientation becomes only
one aspect of self rather than the entire identity.
Task: Integrate gay and lesbian identity so that instead of being the
identity, it is an aspect of self.
Possible Responses: Continues to be angry at heterosexism, but with
decreased intensity. Allows trust of others to increase and build.
Gay and lesbian identity is integrated with all aspects of "self." Feels
all right to move out into the community and not simply define space
according to sexual orientation.
Cass, V. C. (1979). Homosexual identity formation: A theoretical
Journal of Homosexuality, 4, 219-235.
Adopted by UNC Safe Zone, Spring 2001