Being Homosexual

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  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-05-05
  • Publisher: Vintage
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From a preeminent psychoanalyst--one of the first to challenge the homophobia of the psychoanalytic community--comes this updated version of the classic work in which Dr. Isay proves that homosexuality is an innate characteristic rather than learned pathology.

Author Biography

Dr. Richard Isay is a professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic and a faculty member of the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. He was instrumental in getting the American Psychoanalytic Association to adopt a non-discrimination policy for the training of candidates.


1 - What Is Homosexuality?

Those who are halves of a male whole pursue males, and being slices, so to speak, of the male, love men throughout their boyhood, and take pleasure in physical contact with men. Such boys and lads are the best of their generation, because they are the most manly.

—PLATO,The Symposium

Homosexual men have a predominant erotic attraction to others of the same sex. Their sexual fantasies are either entirely or almost entirely directed toward other men, and have been so since childhood. Because sexual behavior may be inhibited by societal pressure or by internal conflict, a man need not engage in sexual activity to be homosexual. Those who have homo- sexual contacts but, because of censorious social pressures, intrapsychic conflict, or both, are unable to accept that they are gay are also homosexual. There are others who may not even have conscious access to their homoerotic fantasies because they repress, suppress, or deny them. Their fantasies become more available to them during a properly conducted analysis or therapy, and I also consider them to be homosexual.

The seven-point scale (0–6) of Alfred Kinsey and his associates emphasizes the behavior and conscious sexual interest of their respondents.2 Fives and sixes on Kinsey’s scale indicate those with exclusive or nearly exclusive homoerotic behavior. I have found sexual fantasy to be a more clinically useful way of defining homosexuality than behavior. Just as a man would be considered heterosexual even if he was constrained from expressing or elected not to express his sexuality for reasons of age, circumstance, or vocation, I am taking into account that some gay men may not express their homoerotic impulses because of internal conflict, social bias, or personal choice.

Systematic investigations by psychologists over the years suggest that there is no greater psychopathology in gay men than in heterosexuals. The best known of these are Evelyn Hooker’s studies, designed to determine the usefulness of projective psychological tests in diagnosing overt homosexual behavior and to assess whether there are distinctive personality characteristics in exclusively homosexual men.3 No distinguishing psychopathology or greater degree of social or psychological maladjustment was found in homosexual men. A number of other investigators, using both projective tests to elicit unconscious conflict and objective psychological tests to draw out more conscious, recognized difficulties, have been unable to find greater pathology among homosexuals than among heterosexuals.

The distinguished studies by Kinsey and associates that verified a high incidence of homosexual behavior would tend to support the perspective that homosexuality is a nonpathological variant of human sexuality. They surveyed approximately five thousand white American males and found that 4 percent of the adult white male population are exclusively homosexual throughout their lives after adolescence, and that about 10 percent of the total male population are exclusively homosexual for at least three years sometime between the ages of sixteen and sixty-five. A number of European surveys report a com- parably high incidence of homosexuality and homosexual experiences.

Clellan Ford and Frank Beach in their cross-cultural investigations and studies of subhuman primates support the obser- vation that regarding homosexuality as pathological is an expression of cultural bias. In the majority of the seventy-six societies they studied, homosexual activities were considered either socially acceptable or normal:

Some homosexual behavior occurs in a great many human societies. It tends to be more common in adolescence than in adulthood and appears to be practiced more frequently by men than women. This is also true of the other animal species . . . and particularly so in the infrahuman primates. Even in societies which se

Excerpted from Being Homosexual: Gay Men and Their Development by Richard Isay
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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