A few words on identity development

Water. Shelter. Food. Survival concerns, the base of the well-known pyramidal hierarchy of needs. Self-actualization is considered the peak, the top of the structure.

However, I don’t think the hierarchy, the pyramid, is as stratified as all that. I think that it’s more like a geodesic structure where all the elements push and pull against each other, and that sort of dynamic tension is more true to our queer lives.

Consider identity development. Interrupted identity development leaves a person stuck in a non-integrated state. There are many different models of identity development for minority populations (and a few for the majority as well). Bi/multiracial development models differ significantly from standard racial minority models, because the challenges are different. What do I call myself, how do I fit in the multiple communities and roles that I belong in, how do I carve out a life where I can be authentic, be all of me, even if people who I identify partially with reject parts or all of me?

Because that’s a piece of bisexual identity development, too. When Straighty McStraighterson calls you a fag, he’s rejecting all of you on the terms that only what he sees as your homosexuality is salient to his view of your identity. When your high school or college GSA says you’re not welcome because you are not queer enough or if they immediately brand you as a straight ally and therefore deny your queer experiences and attractions, it is only important to them that you ain’t no Gold Star.

When part of you is rejected, all of you is rejected. If someone says to me, “You can be here as long as you don’t act like a fruit”, they aren’t welcoming part of me. It is with my whole self I’ll tell them to [redacted] themselves with a [redacted] until their [redacted] is [redacted].* If someone tells me that I can come to the queer event but no PDA with my wife because “we don’t need to see straight people kissing in our space”, then see above – because any kiss that I am a part of is by definition a queer kiss.

The research suggests, and people’s lived experiences bear out, the power of community. (Before someone starts screaming that ‘anecdote is not the singular of data’ please let me point out that there is such a thing as qualitative data, and I’m not claiming this is universal, just that it’s common enough to be instantly recognizable.) The stronger and more welcoming and supportive the community is, the more able an individual is to fully develop into themselves.

This is not nearly all I have to say on the subject, of course. Consider this a taste, and a promise of more.

* – one of the redacted words may or may not be “pineapple”. Maybe. Not going to say for sure.

About fliponymous

Bisexual activist, thinker, writer, husband, father, Licensed Professional Counselor.
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4 Responses to A few words on identity development

  1. kdaddy23 says:

    It’s not so much that, say, a bisexual can be rejected because they’re bisexual but what the rejected bisexual does about it, oh, like not associate with people who seem to go out of their way to reject them. One of the keys to identity development, even in sexuality, is to first establish your identity and then, if and when possible, associate with others who are either like you or, really, don’t have a problem with you being bisexual. It’s not easy, there’s no real “school” that teaches you how to do this and even if there was, we learn by doing – trial and error – and while this can be emotionally painful, it will weed out of the suckers, those people who have issues with your bisexual identity. So you either pursue this with dogged determination and not let the rejection mess with your head… or you let it mess with you and then go curl up in a ball in some dark corner and piss and moan about how nobody likes or understand you.

    Which is the preferable thing to do? Still, if you’ve developed your identity and have integrated your sexuality with the other parts of your life, something like rejection isn’t going to affect you a whole lot because you’re determined not to let someone’s petty views affect you – it defeats the purpose of being the best person you can be and you always have to live and be true to yourself and not always depend on the acceptance of others to “validate” your existence; if you do, you’re gonna be miserable. Call me a fag (and I’m not) and I will probably respond, “Really? Your mother didn’t say that last night…” Tell me that I can’t attend your LGBT function because I’m not queer enough and I might ask, “And how would you know?” and then suggest an orifice or two where they can stick their opinion.

    I’ve been bisexual long enough that I’ve seen a lot of rejection because I’m bisexual. It doesn’t feel good but I’ve learned not to let rejection get in the way of my goals of being the best person I can be. I know I can be rejected because of this but I also know it ain’t the end of the world when it happens because I’m as integrated as I can be (at least I think I am) and I have it in my head that if/when I get rejected, they’re the one with the problem – and they have a bigger one than I do by being rejected by them. And I have a recommendation for those folks that includes long-handled brooms, rusty nails, and razor blades…

  2. Mat says:

    I think this is really the most important point about being bisexual and creating bisexual/queer community and spaces. As you mentioned in one of your blogs the CASS identity model for gays and lesbians uses bisexuality as a phase that one goes through. And I have met many gay men and lesbians who have had positive sexual experiences with the opposite gender and consider their sexuality fluid. But the CASS meme endemic in gay and lesbian culture continually has them reject this aspect of themselves.

    For me my bisexual identity was not merely a calling to come out and live my life freely and loving whom I want but primarily to not reject aspects of myself ever. But this does not double my chances of date on Saturday night.

    When people reject aspects of themselves they inevitable project negativity onto others who posses that aspect, they create a shadow. This is one of the primary reasons why I am more and more dedicated to the bisexual movement. I want to see the day when all people who have any degree of bisexual feeling say:

    I am bisexual but I really mostly attracted to men and so I date only men.

    I am bisexual and I want to date only women, I want to get married and have children.

    I am bisexual and I date whomever I have crush on.

    I am bisexual and I want my lover/partner to be my artistic collaborator.

    I am bisexual and I want to marry my best friend regardless of gender.

    Etc. etc. etc. Instead there is a great deal of hatred and stigma on a group of people who are open loving and self aware.

  3. Pingback: Gay, Lesbian, ________ and Transgender | Eponymous Fliponymous

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