chapter  9
36 Pages

The C loset

S o m e gay men compare themselves to members of stigmatized minority groups. They feel they share with other minority group members the experiences of being outnumbered, feared, denigrated, or hated. Such experiences play a significant role in the developmental narratives that lead to a gay identity, just as racism or antisemitism play a role in shaping the developmental narratives of racial or religious minorities. A stigmatized group member can either reject the m ajority’s perspective or assimilate its values. Among racial or religious minorities,

it is the family and its community that teaches its members how to cope with the m ajority’s disparagement. Gay men, unsurprisingly, rarely get their families’ support in learning how to deal with the majority’s prejudices. On the contrary, many gay men find themselves subject to antihomosexual attitudes from their own families and communities:

I was isolated, not by iron bars or guards in uniforms, but by fear. I was surrounded by my loving family and close friends, but there was no way to explain to them my desperate, lonely feelings even when we were together. I wasn’t tortured by leather straps or cattle prods, but my guilt and fear kept me in constant torment. I wasn’t deprived of the basic necessities, in fact 1 lived a life of plenty, but I was starving for the kind of human intimacy that would satisfy my longing, end my loneliness, and at least calm if not fulfill my unrequited passion [White» 1994, p. 123].