Sunday, November 16, 2008

Developmental Narratives Growing Up Gay - Overview - Fr. Marty Kurylowicz

Richard Isay, M.D. & Jack Drescher, M.D. address the early childhood psychological developmental years growing up gay, from extensive clinical psychotherapy sessions with gay clients, as they retrospectively look back into their early childhood years. There are several similar recurring themes that keep merging in the gay developmental narratives.

At 4 and 5 years of age, feeling “different,” not gay 

Richard Isay, M.D., in his book Becoming Gay, The Journey to Self-Acceptance, describes that gay male patients who recall as far back as being 4 and 5 years of age remember feeling and knowing in some way that they were different from everyone else, not that they were gay, only that they felt “different.” Dr. Isay’s findings did not follow the accepted theory about homosexuality, that it was a developmental failure. This failure is described as a setting where a boy grows up with a father who is distant or non-existent and a binding mother.

Heterosexual Boy -- Early Childhood Years

Jack Drescher, M.D. in his book Psychoanalytic Therapy & The Gay Man describes the complexities related to growing up gay; from his research of developmental narratives of gay adults retrospectively recalling their feelings being gay began in early childhood. These gay feelings had remained constant, and were resistant to being altered. Dr. Drescher explains the contrast of how social norms impact the psychology of the early childhood developmental years of a heterosexual boy and a homosexual boy.

For a heterosexual boy growing up in early childhood years, he will likely say that he wants to marry his mother. The adults hearing this boy will react with positive expressions of delight and love for the boy, thinking how really innocent and transparent is this boy’s love for his mother. With gentleness and fondness the boy will be told in a very positive way that he cannot marry his mother, but that when he grows up, he can marry someone just like his mother. What is of prime importance here is that it is conveyed to this boy, by his parents and other significant adult figures in his life at this time in his life, that it is permissible for him to entertain his wishes and his strivings to be one with another person like his mother in the future. This is a positive way that this child begins acquiring a heterosexual identity that is acceptable, encouraged and ritualized by social norms.

Abuse and Trauma in Early Childhood Years

What happens to most though not all boys in early childhood who grow up to be gay is neither positive nor embraced by social norms.

What happens to a child in the first 5 years of life is of significant importance that will resonate throughout his or her entire life. Maybe this why Jesus was so protective of children and gave the severest warning to anyone who would harm them. It is unfortunate that children between 1 and 5 years of age do not have lobbyists who will lobby for their best interests.

Henry Krystal, M.D., in his book Integration & Self-Healing, Affect, Trauma, Alexithymia, explains the effects of abuse and trauma caused to children in the early childhood development years beginning in infancy. Such as a child who suffers severe disappointments tends to have difficulty being able to tolerate any kind of hopeful expectation of being fed or loved. This child as an adult tends not to be able to express any feelings or emotions other than anger. When a child’s contacts with a parental caretaker while growing up were consistently disappointing, the child soon learns that any expectations of his hopes being gratified will only provoke thoughts in the child of being hurt and feeling helpless. If, in early childhood developmental years, a child is not helped to feel that it is permissible to entertain that his hopes and wishes for future gratification are, in fact, acceptable, then this child will be pushed into a direction of hopelessness.

Written by Martin S. Kurylowicz, M.Div., M.S.
Edited by Madeline Wright, Ph.D., M.S.

Cause of Homosexuality: Nature -- Nurture

The works of Jack Drescher, M.D., & Richard Isay, M.D., give a fuller description of the impact of antigay social norms on the early childhood psychological development of boys who grow up to be gay, related to their developmental narratives research.

The previously accepted theory about homosexuality was that it was considered a developmental failure. This failure was described as due to a boy growing up in an environment where the father is distant or non-existent and with a mother who is binding.

The extensive research from the developmental narratives of gay adult men provided a different explanation for the same observable family interactive behaviors that describes homosexuality as a developmental failure.

Jack Drescher, M.D. (video clip) is clear about the fact that the exact cause of homosexuality, as to the precise contributing factors of nature and nurture is still unknown. However, from these developmental narratives they clearly indicate that these childhood feelings associated with being gay, began very early in a child’s life and that are not “… easily amenable to change.”

These findings give significant cause for concern for how we treat particularly very young children regarding sexual orientation and how children are so often mistreated, at times severely, mostly unintentionally, but always through ignorance.

From a composite of these development narratives about boys who grows up to be gay, they remember feeling “different” at 4 and 5 years of age. “Different” here does not mean “gay” their feelings are related to how they felt at the time, because of how their interactions were received and treated by the adults, in their lives.

Homosexual Boy -- Early Childhood Years

The mother is not observed as binding, as much as this boy tends to identify with his mother. Similar to a boy who grows up to be heterosexual, at 4 and 5 years of age, who wants to marry his mother, a boy, who grows up to be gay, at the same age, will want to marry, instead his dad. However, this boy who expresses he wants to marry his dad will not be treated with the same positive regard, as the boy who wants to marry is his mother. This is quite different from the way the other boy was received and treated.

This is the “different” feeling; an unpleasant feeling, disturbing, because it runs counter to a child’s anticipation of the need for love. When any child, at a very young of 3, 4 or 5 years of age, out of innocence expresses such an expression of affection towards a parent of the same sex and then encounters an unexpected response of detachment, this can be quite traumatizing for any child. This boy child will be told that he cannot marry his dad, because boys do not marry boys.

This is the critical difference in the treatment between these two boys, because for this boy who grows up to be gay it is likely to be conveyed to him by his parents that it is not permissible for him to entertain his nature wishes and his strivings to be with another person like his dad in the future. Instead for this boy child he is being pushed into the direction of hopelessness. This child learns that there is no hope of being close to another human being, ever in the future.

Harm to the Homosexual Boy -- Early Childhood Years

A father may feel uncomfortable with his young son's affection for him. It is possible that the son’s affections for his father may stir up in the father the father’s own homophobic feelings. The father may start to distance himself from his son out of discomfort, fear of his own homophobic feelings, or concern for the future well-being of his son growing up in a world that is hostile towards people who are homosexuals. The same fathers may feel it necessary to toughen up their sons by using overly aggressive physical behavior. These boys, throughout their early childhood years, are likely to experience their fathers distancing themselves from them. The sons will experience the fathers' distancing behavior as abandonment.

A Son Learns to Fear the Feeling of Love for his Father

Children learn whether or not their overt emotional expressions will bring relief, help, and acceptance, or whether they will bring disapproval and punishment. When the emotional expressions meet with disapproval by parents, young children will feel guilt and shame, because they observe that their overt emotions are unacceptable. Children not only have the emotion from experiencing the original pain, but in addition when they see that their emotions do not match what the parents hope for, they feel guilt and shame about how they express their emotion. They want to identify with their parents' way of behaving but feel they have failed to live up to their idealization of their parents. In later life they become afraid to express certain emotions, because they were shamed for having displayed them in an uncontrollable manner in childhood.

Dr. Henry Krystal
, in his book Integration & Self-Healing, Affect, Trauma, Alexithymia, gives the example of a child who is frightened and begins to cry but instead of experiencing comfort is disciplined for crying. This causes the child to suffer additional mortification, a secondary reaction, because the child observes his or her behavior as “childish.” Besides the original pain that prompted the emotional display of a cry for help, the child begins to attack himself or herself for “childish” behavior. This secondary reaction causes the child to fear his or her own expression of emotions. What happens with a young son who shows affection to his father, but instead is shunned by his father, is that the boy feels shamed and humiliated. This secondary reaction causes the child to fear the feeling of love for the same-sex parent.

Written by Martin S. Kurylowicz, M.Div., M.S.
Edited by Madeline Wright, Ph.D., M.S.

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