Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation - whether one is attracted to members of one's own or the opposite sex - is a matter which concerns many people but which is very often wondered about in strict privacy. The issue of same-sex orientation arouses very strong disapproval from some, which means that many people who wonder about their sexual orientation do not feel free to talk about this with others. People are left alone to struggle with their questions about what to do about the discovery of this most personal attribute. The loneliness, stemming largely from the fear of what others would think or do if they knew about this struggle, contributes to depression and feelings of hopelessness which can result in harmful or suicidal behavior. The fears are not unrealistic - others routinely make jokes about "queers" and demonstrate contempt without being aware that gay people or their relatives are present in any gathering.

There is a common, although mistaken, association of homosexuality with child abuse: I suspect that this association is set up through the fact that when boys are sexually abused, most often the perpetrator is male. Since healthy, wholesome and respectable models of homosexual partnerships are often not very visible, the experience of sexual abuse provides what seems to be the only data about homosexuality. It is a crime, however, to approach children for sex, and peple who do so are representative of sexual abusers, not of homosexuals or heterosexuals as such. Bear in mind that girls are more often abused by males, as well.

It is important to realize that popular disapproval of same-sex orientation results in the vast majority of people with this attribute keeping hidden, and only the very strongest, or those with the least to lose, risk safety, reputation and sometimes their lives to be open about this personal attribute. This causes a ridiculous paradox, where the fact that there are few "ordinary" gay people to point to allows people to conclude that there are none, or that all gay people are either very politically active and extroverted, or very odd and peculiar; this conclusion is then used to justify oppression of those with this attribute. Oppression, in turn, encourages many gays to keep a very low profile, and so on.

It is important to remember the substantial numbers of profoundly ordinary, tax-paying, church-going, lawn-mowing, same-sex oriented citizens who are basically invisible, who live their lives with the same concerns as everyone else. There is absolutely nothing about homosexuality per se that leads to immorality; people from both sexual orientations struggle with issues of fidelity, of just treatment of others, and of how to manage passions. What gay people lack is the ability to talk with others, freely and often, about these dilemmas - opportunities which heterosexual young people have considerable support for.

If you are struggling with whether you may be same-sex oriented, please consider talking to someone. You don't have to struggle alone, you don't have to drink away the pain, you don't have to furiously date members of the opposite sex. You can sit down and take a quiet look at your options, at the choices ahead of you, at what you will need in order to make decisions that are best for you. Call for an appointment at Counseling Services (#4460); you needn't give your reason in order to make an appointment. Your confidence will be carefully respected. Also, consider attending a meeting of the Bridge, Colby's organization for gay, lesbian and bisexual people and their supporters. See the Events list on the Colby website for dates and times of meetings, and look up the Bridge web page under Activities/Student Organizations. If going to a meeting is too hard for you, try contacting someone from the "Out on Campus" list, also on the Bridge page.

Jan Munroe, PhD Counseling Services