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Beyond LGBQ Enlarging Our Understanding of Sexual-Minority Persons Richard Reams, PhD TUCCCC February 5, 2015.

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Presentation on theme: "Beyond LGBQ Enlarging Our Understanding of Sexual-Minority Persons Richard Reams, PhD TUCCCC February 5, 2015."— Presentation transcript:

1 Beyond LGBQ Enlarging Our Understanding of Sexual-Minority Persons Richard Reams, PhD TUCCCC February 5, 2015

2 A Bit about Me  With Trinity’s Counseling Services since 1994  Have taught an annual class “exploring the complexity sexual orientation and identity” since 2004  Provide continuing 2-6 hour continuing education workshops for pre-doctoral internship programs and local psychological associations  Published website “‘Am I Gay?’ A Guide for People Who Question their Sexual Orientation” last year (www.YourSexualOrientation.info)

3 A Bit about You How would you estimate your current cultural competence to offer affirmative therapy to sexual-minority clients, including those who self-identify as LGBQ?  Basic level Very basic knowledge, very limited clinical experience  Intermediate level More than basic knowledge, significant clinical experience  Advanced level Extensive, up-to-date knowledge; extensive clinical experience

4 Who is a ‘Sexual-Minority’?  Sexual Minority refers to anyone who is not exclusively heterosexual in identity, attractions, or behaviors By age 26, 10.7% of men and 24.5% of women reported being attracted to their own sex at some time (Dickson et al, 2003) At any point in time, 5-7% of men and 12-20% of women will report same-sex attractions (Diamond, 2014)

5 How Many Americans Self-Identify as LGBQ?  About 3.5% are willing to acknowledge an LGBQ identity on a survey or to an interviewer (Gates 2012, Ward et al 2014) Women are substantially more likely than men to identify as bisexual  Current survey methods underestimate self- reports of an LGB identity by 65% (Coffman et al 2013)  7% of Trinity University students self-report an LGBQ identity

6 Small Group Conversation #1 What have you discovered in working with sexual-minority clients that goes beyond or contradicts what you were taught in graduate school about working with LGBQ clients?

7 Learning Objective #1  … you will be able to identify 3 developments in our understanding of the diversity of sexual-minority persons I’m going to present 6 developments How many others came out of the discussions?!  These developments are related to the concepts of Sexual Orientation and Sexual Orientation Identity.

8  Sexual Orientation APA’s definition: “An enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes.”  Sexual Orientation Identity A [socially-recognized] label (e.g., gay, lesbian) for one’s sexual orientation that may or may not accurately reflect one’s sexual orientation or match previous or ongoing sexual contact.

9 I. Sexual Orientation: Recent Developments in Our Understanding  “An enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes.” 1. Sexual attractions & romantic attractions 2. Asexuality 3. The (ir)relevance of gender 4. Sexual fluidity

10 1. The Relationship between Sexual Desire & Romantic Love can be Complicated  “An enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes.”  Many definitions of SO include only the sexual dimension, e.g. SO is “the trait that predisposes us to experience sexual attraction to people of the same sex as ourselves, to persons of the other sex, or to both.” --Simon LeVay (2011), Gay, Straight and the Reason Why

11 1. The Relationship between Sexual Desire & Romantic Love can be Complicated Lisa Diamond (2003), What does sexual orientation orient: A biobehavioral model distinguishing romantic love from sexual desire? Psychological Review, 110,  Sexual Desire and Romantic Love are functionally independent SD evolved for sexual mating  reproduction  Probably genetically-driven to some extent RL evolved for pair-bonding  infant survival  Probably biologically-mediated via oxytocin  Thus, there is no biological requirement that romantic love and sexual desire be congruent

12 1. The Relationship between Sexual Desire & Romantic Love can be Complicated Implications of the independence of SD & RL  Romantic love can exist without sexual desire  Heterosexuals can experience same-sex infatuation (and vice versa)  Time, togetherness, and touch facilitate romantic love without sexual desire  A person can have a romantic orientation toward people of one sex and a sexual orientation toward people of another sex

13 2. Asexuality is Becoming Visible  “An enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes.”  Asexual Visibility and Education Network (www.aven.org)  Anthony Bogaert (2012), Understanding Asexuality

14 2. Asexuality has Become More Visible  Asexuality is the absence of sexual attraction and desire to engage in sexual behavior with another person About 1% of adults  Asexuality does not imply the absence of romantic attractions and desire to share an intimate romantic relationship with another person

15 2. Asexuality has Become More Visible  “Asexuals who are in relationships and have romantic attachments to their partners are an important test case of the theory that sexual and romantic attraction can potentially operate independently.” (Bogaert, 2012, p. 8)  AVEN’s proposed “Asexual Spectrum” (handout)

16 2. Asexuality has Become More Visible Asexuality generates some questions:  Should we — or will we eventually — shift to two concepts: Sexual orientation and Romantic orientation? And develop identify labels that reflect both?  Is asexuality a SO? “An enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, both sexes, or neither sex.”

17 3. Gender is Irrelevant to Some People’s Attractions  “An enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes.”  The very concept of SO is based on two gender- related assumptions Attraction is “to men, women, or both sexes” Each person’s gender identity fits within “the gender binary” of male and female

18 3. Gender is Irrelevant to Some People’s Attractions  Some people are “attracted to the person, not the gender”  Lisa Diamond (2008) Sexual Fluidity

19 3. Gender is Irrelevant to Some People’s Attractions  When most people find another person to be desirable, they are responding to a mix of gender-based and gender-neutral traits Gender-based traits include gender-specific physical attributes (e.g., women’s breasts, men’s chest hair) Gender neutral traits include sense of humor, self-confidence, playfulness, passion, intelligence

20 3. Gender is Irrelevant to Some People’s Attractions  For some people, perhaps more commonly among women than men, gender-based traits are largely or totally irrelevant  Some people “respond erotically to anyone with a desirable personality or with whom they have a strong connection, regardless of that person’s gender.” These individuals often describe themselves as being “attracted to the person, not the gender.” (Diamond, 2008)

21 3. Gender is Irrelevant to Some People’s Attractions  How might we rethink sexual orientation in light of person-based [nonexclusive] attractions? Diamond offers two possibilities.  “The capacity for person-based attractions might actually be an independent form of sexual orientation”... “a fourth category of individuals for whom gender is irrelevant.” (p.186)

22 3. Gender is Irrelevant to Some People’s Attractions  “Another possibility is that a capacity for person-based attractions is... an independent characteristic that all individuals possess, in greater or lesser degrees. To consider how this might work, consider sex drive as an analogy.” (p.188)

23 4. Sexual Orientation can be Fluid  “An enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes.”  Although the pattern is stable (enduring) for many people, it is not for many other people

24 4. Sexual Orientation can be Fluid  General patterns of attractions can narrow or widen Gradual narrowing of attractions: Many youth who ultimately come out as gay experienced both opposite-sex and same-sex attractions during childhood and adolescence. As time passed, the opposite-sex attractions faded or disappeared, and the same-sex attractions emerged as dominant or exclusive.

25 4. Sexual Orientation can be Fluid Gradual widening of attractions: Some adults who have historically experienced only same-sex attractions or other-sex attractions find themselves having one or more experiences that expands their sexuality as they grow older, e.g.,  A lesbian who falls in love with a man to the dismay and even anger of her lesbian friends  A heterosexual woman who falls in love with a female friend

26  Other developments in our understanding of sexual orientation?

27 II. Sexual Orientation Identities: Expanding Options  Sexual Orientation Identity: A [socially- recognized] label (e.g., gay, lesbian) for one’s sexual orientation that may or may not accurately reflect one’s sexual orientation or match previous or ongoing sexual contact.  The models of sexual orientation identity development assumed that identity development among gays and lesbians would lead to a stable, positive self-identification

28 5. The Increasing Rejection of Sexual Orientation Identity Labels  A major assertion of Ritch Savin-Williams in his book The New Gay Teenager (2005)

29 5. Rejecting Sexual Orientation Identity Labels among Some Sexual-Minority Youth  Ritch probably overstates the trend  Nonetheless, some youth do reject employing a label because No label describes their complex sexual orientation Labels can evoke stereotypes A SO label can obscure the multidimensionality of the individual in the eyes of others SO is not a major component of the person’s identity

30 6. New Identity Labels are Emerging Some trends among those sexual-minority people who are willing to label their sexual orientation  ‘Pansexual’ and ‘Fluid’ are becoming preferred to ‘bisexual’ Pansexuality: Sexual attraction, sexual desire, romantic love, or emotional attraction toward people of any sex or gender identity (Wikipedia) ‘Bisexual’ has undesirable connotations  That the person is equally attracted to men and women  That the person exemplifies the negative stereotypes

31 6. New Identity Labels are Emerging Identity labels that may emerge: (Thanks to the Internet, new labels can take root)  ‘Mostly Straight’ Recent discovery that more people will choose this label when it is offered than all other hon-heterosexual labels combined (i.e., bisexual, mostly gay, and gay)  ‘Biromantic Heterosexual’ etc. by combining romantic orientation and sexual orientation labels

32  Other developments in the evolution of sexual orientation identities?

33 Small Group Conversation #2 (Re: Learning Objective #2) What challenges might you encounter working affirmatively with clients whose experience of their sexual orientation or identity differs from your assumptions or personal experience?


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