Monday, April 12, 2010

Why is Homosexuality NOT Abnormal?

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Public Affairs head Bishop Deogracias Iniguez expressed disappointment over the recent decision of the Supreme Court (SC) allowing LGBTI rights group Ang Ladlad to participate in the party-list elections this May. He said,
“We recognize them, respect them, but their situation is an abnormality. Allowing them to have a chance to take a seat in Congress is approving and encouraging an abnormality which is unnatural.
I do not understand what he means by abnormality. After all, abnormality depends on what normal means. But as a psychologist— a scientist who studies normal and/or abnormal human behavior and mental processes, HOMOSEXUALITY IS NOT ABNORMAL.

But what constitutes something as psychologically abnormal or not? How do psychologists distinguish abnormal behavior from normal behavior?

The concept of abnormality is very imprecise and difficult to define. Criteria have been set, but, what at first sight may seem quite reasonable definitions, it turns out to be quite problematic.

Deviation from the Average
The assumption is that, whatever occurs most frequently in the population is seen as normal and abnormality is seen as those that occur least frequently.

Mosher, Chandra, and Jones (2005) in a US study found that 90% of men aged 18-44 considered themselves to be heterosexual, 2.3% as homosexual, 1.8% as bisexual, and 3.9% as something else. Among women aged 18-44 in the same survey, 90% said they were heterosexual, 1.3% homosexual, 2.8% bisexual, and 3.8% as something else. CNN exit polls during the US 2008 presidential election showed 4% of the voting population self-identified as gay, lesbian, and bisexual.

The Young Adult Fertility Survey (YAFS) conducted in the Philippines reported that 17% of Filipino youths aged 15-25 admitted to having been attracted to the same sex in 1994, whereas 7% admitted to having a crush on someone of the same sex in 2002.

Indeed, homosexuality is statistically rare, however, there is an obvious flaw. If we use this criterion, ethnic and racial minorities would then be deemed “abnormal”. There are about 60 ethnic minority groups in the Philippines that continue to exist and practice their traditional customs. We recognize the aetas, we respect the aetas, but, because they are less frequent in the population, do we say they are abnormal?

Deviation from Ideal Mental Health
The assumption here is that anyone who does not possess the qualities to function normally in society is in one way or another abnormal.

Homosexuality was once thought to be a mental illness because mental health professionals and society had biased information. In the past, the studies of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people involved only those in therapy, thus, biasing the resulting conclusions.

But when researchers examined data of people who were not in therapy, the idea that homosexuality was a mental illness was quickly found to be untrue. Evelyn Hooker (1957) illustrated this by comparing heterosexual and homosexual men who were functioning normally in the society. She concluded that the two groups did not differ significantly in terms of their psychological adjustment.

Almost more than 35 years ago, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 1980), a decision that has been strongly supported by the American Psychological Association or APA (2004).

Homosexuality is NOT a mental illness and is NOT an abnormal aspect of human sexuality. There have been no reliable researches on homosexual orientation impairing cognitive abilities (Tuttle & Pillard, 1991), psychological well-being and self-esteem (Coyle, 1993; Herek, 1990; Savin-Williams, 1990), and overall psychological functioning (Gonsiorek, 1991 ; Pillard, 1988; Rothblum, 1994).

I quote APA’s stand on lesbians, gays, and bisexual people:
Research has found no inherent association between any of these sexual orientations and psychopathology. Both heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality. Both have been documented in many different cultures and historical eras. Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual relationships are normal forms of human bonding. Therefore, these mainstream organizations long ago abandoned classifications of homosexuality as a mental disorder. (APA, 2008)
Subjective Discomfort
The assumption here is if a person's thoughts or behaviors are causing them personal discomfort or unhappiness, then they will be considered abnormal.

This is very ironic. In my professional and personal encounters with LGBT clients and friends, I have observed that one feels distressed when one is still confused and has not fully accepted his or her sexual orientation. They also report fears of being rejected by family, friends, co-workers, and religious institutions because of their sexual orientation. These counseling experiences are supported by empirical researches. Studies have shown that exposure to prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation may cause a homosexual person acute distress (Mays & Cochran, 2001; Meyer, 2003).

Coming out—the process of being aware and acknowledging of one’s sexual orientation, is difficult for other LGBTs, but, not for some. When coming out is successful, one reports a sense of happiness. A perfect example is the recent coming out story of the pop singer and actor Ricky Martin. He shared his struggles in the closet and his sense of happiness as he proudly announced he is a homosexual man.
“… the book was the tool that was going to help me free myself from things I was carrying within me for a long time. Things that were too heavy for me to keep inside…

These years in silence and reflection made me stronger and reminded me that acceptance has to come from within and that this kind of truth gives me the power to conquer emotions I didn't even know existed.

What will happen from now on? It doesn't matter. I can only focus on what's happening to me in this moment. The word "happiness" takes on a new meaning for me as of today. It has been a very intense process. Every word that I write in this letter is born out of love, acceptance, detachment and real contentment. Writing this is a solid step towards my inner peace and vital part of my evolution.

I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am.”
Maladaptive to One Self and to the Society.
The assumption here is that the abnormal behavior is counter-productive to the individual and disrupts and hurts the lives of others.

Is being lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender self damaging? Look around you, we are everywhere and we are NOT maladaptive! We are honor students, inspiring teachers, talented designers, successful engineers, artistic directors, exceptional performers, loving parents, passionate lovers, and best friends. Our sexual orientation was never a hindrance to reach our goals in life.

Did it disrupt and hurt the lives of others? Maybe occasionally, our loudness irritated some pikon homophobic men and women, but, also consider how much stress an LGBT person had to endure like chronic daily hassles (e.g. hearing anti-gay jokes, always being on guard to a closeted individuals) and negative gay relevant life events (e.g., rejection by family, friends, and co-workers, anti-gay violence, and discrimination due to sexual orientation). Western researches have shown that LGBTs are at risk for mental health problems (Meyer, 1995) and emotional distress (Ross, 1990) as a direct result of discrimination and negative experiences in society.

So my dear, Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, careful with what you wish for, because it could be your heterosexism thinking that could potentially disrupt and hurt the lives of others.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why Ang Ladlad?

Nasa balota na, mga pangalan
ng party list pagpipilian

Last Thursday, April 8, 2010, the 15-member Philippine Supreme Court unanimously decided that Ang Ladlad - a network of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersexual Filipinos, and their heterosexual supporters, can run for party-list elections for Congress on May 10, 2010.

This is historical for pro-LGBTI movement here in the Philippines because if Ang Ladlad will get the 2% threshold of the total votes casts, they can be represented in Congress up to a maximum of three seats. Ang Ladlad has five nominees: Bemz Benedito (MA Sociology, Ateneo de Manila University, Lecturer-Researcher), Germaine Leonin (Lawyer, UP College of Law), Cris Lopera (NGO leader and officer from Mindanao), Naomi Fontanos (MA Education, UP Diliman, Lecturer, Open University), Dexter Macaldo (Media Officer)

One would ask, “Why will I vote for Ang Ladlad?”

You don’t have to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersexual to vote for Ang Ladlad. If you believe and support the following reasons, itiman, i-shade ang loob ng bilog na hugis itlog.

1. If you support the Anti-Discrimination Bill that gives LGBTI Filipinos equal opportunities in employment and equal treatment in schools, hospitals, restaurants, hotels, entertainment centers, and government offices and support for the Anti-Discrimination Bill, then vote for #89—Ang Ladlad Party List.

2. If you think setting up of micro-finance and livelihood projects can help poor and handicapped LGBTI Filipinos, then vote for #89—Ang Ladlad Party List.

3. If you believe in re-filing a law, the Anti-Vagrancy Law, that has been used by unscrupulous policemen to extort bribes from gay men without ID cards, then vote for #89—Ang Ladlad Party List.

4. If you believe that there should be centers that offer legal aid and counseling, as well as information about LGBTI issues, HIV-AIDS, and reproductive health and homes for old and abandoned LGBTIs, as well as young ones driven out of their homes, in the key cities/metropolitan areas of the Philippines -- Baguio, National Capital Region, Cebu and Davao, then vote for #89—Ang Ladlad Party List.

I am gay and I am one of the few lucky and fortunate Filipinos who have a loving family, accepting friends, and supportive co-workers irregardless of my sexual orientation. But there are thousands of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, and intersexuals who are fighters and survivors of homophobia and discrimination.

For the future of your LGBTI brothers or sisters, sons or daughters, ang bilog, ang bilog, sa tapat ng #89—Ang Ladlad Party List, ‘yan ang dapat nating markahan.

For the future of your LGBTI nephews, nieces, cousins, and relatives, ang bilog, ang bilog, sa tapat ng #89—Ang Ladlad Party List, ‘yan ang dapat nating markahan.

For the future of your LGBTI friends, frenemies, BFFs, lovers, exes, almost lovers, ang bilog, ang bilog, sa tapat ng #89—Ang Ladlad Party List, ‘yan ang dapat nating markahan.

For me, ang bilog, ang bilog, sa tapat ng #89—Ang Ladlad Party List, ‘yan ang dapat nating markahan.

Gets mo ba? Gets ko na!
Gets na gets na talaga!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sexual Orientation & Sexual Identity: A Response

Ayan, a 16 year old college student, wrote to Migs, Migs posted Ayan’s letter last December 27 titled: “Straight ako when I was in high school, but now…”

Migs asked me to give my opinion as a counseling psychologist. My response was published in the same website on March 29, 2010 titled: Counseling Psychologists Responds to Ayan. I asked Migs if I can repost it in my blog. He said yes. So here it is. Read on. =)

* * * *

Hi Migs!

I am fond of reading your blog.

I am Ayan. Straight ako when I was in high school, I’m sure of that. Marami akong naging girlfriend nun. Until one time, I need to have a tutorial in Math because of my low grades. So, I went to my tutor’s apartment at around 6pm. He is one of the best math teachers in my school by that time, but he didn’t handle our class. I am well-known in our school, that’s why he offered me his help.

Malakas ung ulan nung gabing nun, I didn’t bring my umbrella so I got wet. When I entered his apartment, he told me to take off my clothes— baka daw sipunin ako. Hinubad ko naman kasi ok lang naman siguro un parehas naman kaming lalake, walang malisya un.

Instead of reviewing, nagkwentuhan lang kami.Nakaupo kami sa kama niya then he asked me to turn off the lights, nagtaka ako kung bakit. I didn’t turn it off. Sabi nia sa kin wala daw mangyayari kung hindi ko papatayin ung ilaw. Nagtaka na talaga ako and I decided to go home pero sabi niya wag muna daw, malakas pa ung ulan. So, I stayed.

Nagjoke siya tapos tawa kami ng tawa, then he started to bite my ears tapos ung lips niya umabot na sa neck ko and he kissed it. I begin to feel uncomfortable, dinaganan niya ko tapos hinalikan niya ko on my face, then lips, pababa until he lick and suck my cock. I don’t know what to do. I tried to stop him, pero nakadagan siya sa kin. Gusto ko sumigaw pero iniisip ko na nakakahiya sa mga tao if they knew why I am shouting…

I dont have any idea about gay sex that time. Hindi ko un nagustuhan. I was the only one naked, kaya I immediately took my shirt and pants. I told him that I will go home. pagkauwi ko, nagshower ako agad. Parang nandidiri ako. I keep it as a secret, kasi nahihiya ako sa outcome kapag nagsumbong ako baka kumalat. I noticed na maraming kiss mark ung leeg ko. Kinabukasan, napansin un lahat ng classmates ko. Sabi ko allergy. pero sabi nila chikinini daw. This happened 3 years ago.

Nasalubong ko si sir sa corridor, then nagsorry siya sa kin. Nabigla lang daw siya. I accepted his apology. From then on, hindi ko na siya kinausap o kaya pinansin. kung dati nalilibugan ako sa babae, ngayon parang sa lalake na. Naging habit ko na ung panunuod ng gay porn. Pinigilan ko ung sarili ko but I cant control it.

Hindi ko alam kung ano na ko ngayon, there is confusion. I am now 16 years old, a 1st year college student in a prominent university. Parang nagbago ung buhay ko, hindi na ko lumalabas ng nakahubad or nakasando.naiilang na rin ako sa mga lalakeng nakahubad. siguro na-trauma ako sa mga nangyari. Even my closest friends don’t know about this experience. Nakikipagchat ako ngayon with the same sex…flirt. I don’t know if I’m into relationship, malay natin…

Thanks Migz for letting me share my story. God bless you.
- Ayan

* * * *

Hi Ayan.

I am Niel and I am a friend of Migs. Migs forwarded your letter to me so that your concerns will be properly addressed. I am a counseling psychologist by profession and I hope you do not mind if I answer some of your questions.

Ayan, having the courage to share your story is very commendable. Stories of sexual abuse are often kept in silence with more men than women keeping it a secret.

Story-telling has psychological benefits for the storyteller and the listener (or reader). For the story-teller, it allows one to organize and integrate thoughts and feelings, and in turn, facilitates a sense of predictability and control over one’s life and a temporary emotional resolution. For the reader, it gives us a sense of connection and understanding of the experience. Most importantly for those readers who are hiding in the closet with the same secret, it gives one a sense of “kadamay” since sexual abuse is one of many painful and potentially traumatic experiences that a human being may suffer in childhood.

While I was reading your letter, I felt the discomfort, the “hiya”, the “diri”, and the shame when your classmates teased you of the kiss marks you had. Although you ended the letter with a sense of temporary relief by disclosing your story, I sensed the confusion and questions about your sexual identity.

So you questioned if the abuse was the reason for your homosexual desires?

The answer is not that simple. Sexual abuse has negative effects but it depends on a variety of factors. But international clinical case studies have shown that long term effects of sexual abuse are related to confusion and distress about their sexuality and to the development of sexual identity.

In these studies, survivors reported being confused about their sexual orientation (Nasjleti, 1980; Dimock, 1988; Lew, 1988; Myers, 1989; Gilgun & Reiser, 1990), reported fear that the sexual abuse has caused or will cause them to become homosexual (Nasjleti, 1980; Finkelhor, 1984; Dimock, 1988; Gilgun & Reiser, 1990; Lew, 1988; Myers, 1989), and expressed homophobia – having negative attitudes and feelings towards homosexuality and to people who identified or perceived to be homosexual.

Personally though, I hypothesize that child sexual abuse interferes (nakakadiskaril) with sexual identity development but, on the other hand, I also believe that it does NOT doom people to live in unconventional sexual lives and identities.

Maybe at this point, it is good to define, clarify, and differentiate sexuality terms like sexual orientation and sexual identity.

Sexual orientation refers to a pattern of romantic attraction (who do you fall in love with?), sexual attraction (who do you have erotic desires and sexual contact with?), and commitment to monogamous romantic and sexual relationship (who do you have relationships with?). Usually, sexual orientation has three categories: heterosexual (to the opposite sex), homosexual (to same sex), and bisexual (to both sexes) with these orientations existing along a continuum that ranges from exclusive heterosexual to exclusive homosexual, including various forms of bisexuality in-between (American Psychological Association).

So I would like for you to imagine a scale from 1 to 7: 1 means exclusively to the opposite sex, 4 means equal amount of in both sexes, and 7 means exclusively to the same sex.

In your letter, you described that you are experiencing sexual attractions with the same sex “Kung dati nalilibugan ako sa babae, ngayon parang sa lalake na. Naging habit ko na ung panunuod ng gay porn… naiilang na rin ako sa mga lalakeng nakahubad”

So if you are to rate yourself from 1 to 7 in terms of sexual attraction, what will be your answer? I guess it will be a 5 or 6.

Now, also think about your rating on the other two components. You did not mention about who you will fall in love with but you are open to experiences of possible same sex love “Nakikipagchat ako ngayon with the same sex… flirt” and relationships “I don’t know if I’m into relationship, malay natin…”

See, knowing one’s sexual orientation is not just simple categorization!

This confusion is actually developmentally appropriate for an adolescent boy like you. And as you grow older and in the next few years
(or even months!), you will learn who you will fall in love with and who you will commit to. The American Psychological Association added, “some people believe that sexual orientation is innate and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across a person’s lifetime”.

On the other hand, sexual identity is really a comprehensive process of subjective self definition as heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, gay, lesbian, queer, undecided, bi-curious, or asexual! It involves one’s biological sex, sexual orientation, gender identity (the innermost sense of being a male or female), gender roles (the socially acceptable behaviors assigned to males, like being masculine, and females, like being feminine), and other factors like defining one’s sexual needs, values, and preferences for sexual activities. Sometimes, one’s sexual identity may or may not match one’s sexual orientation! Closeted individuals are sometimes referred to people who have a homosexual sexual orientation but may define themselves as heterosexuals.

Although, personally, I believe that there is an inherent biological component in sexual orientation but it is also your future experiences, preferences, and choices that will shape your sexual identity.

Ayan, although we are sexual beings, we are more than our sexual identities. You are 16 years old and one major developmental task you need to accomplish is to establish a sense of self in which your past (including the abuse), present (being a student in a prominent university), and future (the goals you have for yourself) are integrated.

If you need to talk about what happened and if you need someone to help you make sense of your sexual identity and your self-concept in general, do not hesitate to ask Migs for my contact information. I believe what Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, said, “All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.”

God bless you too.