Internalized Homoprejudice are internalized messages that exist in society. Many of us are told to live a “normal life, meet a man/woman, get married, and have children.” The traditional societal values and belief systems cause someone who is gay or lesbian to hide their sexuality. In doing this they lose their true sense of self. They begin to question what they feel and who they are causing confusion, sadness, and isolation. Sexual orientation cannot be “turned off” like a switch and when one tries to do that, it causes disruption in their identity development.
Overcoming this is essential to the development of a healthy self concept.
The process of coming out to self and loved ones can be traumatic if met with oppression, judgment and criticism. When one begins to acknowledge that they are gay/lesbian, they are confronted with challenging their ingrained values and beliefs which is often painful and scary.
LGBT counseling can help with:
When we don't have a safe, supportive environment in which to explore these feelings surrounding orientation and identity, these feelings remain dormant. According to the Cass Model, all Gay/lesbian individuals go through identity development stages.
The stages of identity development (coming out) include:
- Identity Confusion-To question one's sexuality
- Identity Comparsion-To address one's sense of social isolation
- Identity Tolerance-To decrease loneliness by increasing gay and lesbain contacts
- Identity Acceptance-To process conflict between one's self perception and society's perceptions and views
- Identity Pride-To deal with the incongruence between one's belief that homosexuality is acceptable and society's condemnation and disapproval of gay and lesbians.
- Identity Synthesis-To integrate one's homosexual identity into one's overall identity so that it may be one aspect of the self rather than the whole self.
How LGBT counseling can help: People can become "stuck" in a particular stage, counseling can help overcome the challenges of each stage so that one can move forward. I know first hand how painful and confusing the coming out process can be. I have come to know the oppression one faces when acknowledging that you are gay to yourself and others. Counseling can help gay/lesbian people cope with homophobia in the family of origin and the larger society.
Whether you just recently started the coming out process or have long ago come out and gone through the process, it can help to have a compassionate, caring person to assist you and provide hope in your transition. As a counselor, I provide support, education, and a respectful, caring presence in the sessions. I believe the counseling process is to assist gay and lesbians through the stages of identity development and to assist in developing adequate social support.
Because the effects of being gay/lesbian extends to our loved ones in that they need to know how to cope with someone they love being gay/lesbian and confront their own belief systems, I offer individual, couple/marital and family counseling.