Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Gay and Lesbian Identity Development Model

Next Monday for my presentation in my inter-cultural class a classmate of mine is going to counsel me in front of the entire class on my experiences of trying to change (not be gay) and how I feel about having seen a counselor who see's it as sin, and how that impacted my process through this identity development model below.

Basically ten years ago I was solidly in stage 1. And that is the point I went into counseling. The counselor I saw, although wonderful in many ways (because no counselor is all good or all bad - they are human) counseled me in a way that solidified or at least aligned with my attitudes that homosexuality was something to correct. I was talking with my professor about this and she said if I had come into counseling at stage III or IV having already worked through my confusion and having decided that I knew I was gay and accepted myself and wanted to live a celibate life this would be different. But to counsel someone in stage 1 who is confused and not at all accepting of oneself and sprinting from reality... The counselor may want to explain the identity development model and state up front that they are not neutral on the issue at the first sign the person is confused about their sexuality.

Another important reason for counseling someone in stage 1 in terms of this model is that the APA (from what I have heard) is voting on a statement of some sort that says any attempts to "change" gay people is unethical. I'm still googling for the official document. Anyway... here's the model. I would say in the last two years I've gone from stage II to V or VI. I can't express how radically this impacts what counselor I choose, what I talk about, and my ability to speak up for myself in therapy.

Gay and Lesbian Identity Development Model (Cass Identity Model)

Stage I: Identity Confusion
Having questions about whether one is gay
If same-sex attraction occurred, explaining it away
Internal conflict about whether one is gay
May have attitudes that being homosexual is incorrect and undesirable, correct but
undesirable, or correct and acceptable

Stage II: Identity Comparison
Accepting possibility that one may be gay
Significant decrease in confusion
Initial commitment to gay or lesbian self-image
May experience isolation and alienation from others
Developing identity as a gay or lesbian person rather than straight
Awareness of loss of heterosexual privileges
May still choose to pass as straight

Stage III: Identity Tolerance
Accepting that one is probably gay or lesbian
Greater tolerance of being gay or lesbian
Partial relief because now can acknowledge their emotional and relational needs
Seeking out gay and lesbian community and role-models
Getting more support from others
Greater self-esteem

Stage IV: Identity Acceptance
Greater contacts with other gay and lesbian people
Having more “normalizing” experiences of homosexuality
Seeing gay community in opposition to straight
Choosing to pass or selectively disclose

Stage V: Identity Pride

Accepting and preferring being gay or lesbian
Greater immersion into gay and lesbian subculture
“Them versus us”
Anger and frustration with homophobic and heterosexist attitudes
Disclosures are more common

Stage VI: Identity Synthesis
Dichotomy of “them vs. us” is let go
Selective contact with allies and supportive heterosexuals
Synthesize public and private aspects of self
Peace with oneself – free to attend to all other aspects of life

Reference: Vivian Cass (1979, 1984, 1990). In Ritter and Terndrup (2002)
Handbook of Affirmative Psychotherapy with Lesbians and Gay Men


Anonymous said...

I like the identity development model. Earlier this year, I was in stage IV, but now I'm in Stage V with some remnants of IV. Lately, it feels as though I'm at war with "them". I've been releasing A LOT of pent-up anger, rage, and some hostility (yea, its ugly) over the attitudes of society and the church. I'm can be quite prickly to around and my straight friends just love this, but they are tolerant. They might be glad to know this is a self-acceptance phase and will probably be relieved when I finally reach Stage VI. :)


just me - titration said...

ms26. I can SOOOOO relate to releasing a lot of pent up anger at the church etc. I am doing the same. I am also grateful for some very tolerant straight friends. :)

Hurray for growth for but of us.

Michael Tyas said...

I wonder what it would look like to digress back a stage. I wonder if I'm there.