chapter  8
28 Pages

Developmental Narratives of Gay M en

W h a t are little boys made of? To date, the ways in which men’s sexual identities can vary are not yet fully understood, nor have the developmental paths that lead to individual differences been well demarcated. Although the mechanisms that lead to these outcomes still remain unclear, one usually finds, in the normal process of acculturation, that a boy’s sense of his male gender may come to be linked first with expectations of heterosexuality, and then later integrated with his emerging sexual attractions. When a young boy announces that he plans to grow up and marry his mother, he will probably have the facts of life, or rather of kinship, explained to him. He is likely to be told that he cannot marry his mother, although he may be encouraged to wait until he grows up so he can marry a woman like her. Psychoanalysts refer to this as the positive resolution of the oedipal complex and regard it to be the sine qua non of a male, heterosexual identity. W hether that is so may be debatable, but the oedipal narrative, as it emerges in the child’s fancies about himself and his future, is but one of many ritualized and sanctioned ways in which linkages between anatomical gender and heterosexuality are supported and encouraged by cultural forces.