Creative Psyche and Homosexuality
by Herb Spiers
SECTION 1: A NEW ANALYSIS
After decades of neglect at best or the sickness/sinful approach at worst, the literature on homosexuality, now burgeoning at a staggering pace, is actually marked by several works of merit. For too long, of course, the subject of homosexuality has been regarded as belonging to the sole purview of the psychiatric profession. As Thomas Szasz has noted in his pioneering works, especially The Manufacture of Madness, homosexuals haven't fared too much better under the reign of the post-Freudian psychiatric profession than under the supremacy of the Church of Rome. Anyone active in the Gay Liberation Movement is all too aware of the work of such contemporary psychiatrists and psychoanalysts as Irving Bieber (Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuality), Frank S. Caprio, M.D. (Variations In Sexual Behaviour), Edmund Bergler (Homosexuality: Disease or Way of Life), Charles Socarides (The Overt Homosexual), Lionel Ovessey (Pseudohomosexuality), Lawrence J. Hatterer, M.D. (Changing Homosexuality In the Male), and many others, not to mention older practitioners such as Alfred Adler, Otto Fenichel, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, and that great benevolent pretender, defending homosexuality under the guise of Liberal tolerance, Albert Ellis.
Most of these authors have, in one way or another, departed from their Freudian ancestry by assuming, either explicitly or implicitly, that homosexuality is some form of neurosis, or in extreme cases, psychosis. Not even their intellectual progenitor, Freud himself, countenanced such a theory, as revealed in his already famous "Letter to An American Mother": "Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation, it can not be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of sexual functions produced by a certain arrest of sexual development." Today we wince at even these sentiments because -- despite Freud's goodwill -- there are too many theoretical and practical difficulties surrounding his theory of sexual development and, particularly, his understanding of homosexuality. Nevertheless, he did not begin with the prejudices and biases which underpin the works of the writers noted above. Yet, theirs is still the generally accepted view.
Systematic cracks began to appear in the monolithic wall of the sickness theory of homosexuality with the publication of Kinsey's statistical survey of sexuality in men and women. The high incidence of homosexual behaviour which he discovered in his male subjects sent shockwaves through both the psychiatric profession and the lay public at large. From 1948, the year of the publication of his first study (Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male), there began, ever so slightly, a questioning of the generally accepted psychiatric views regarding homosexuality. Donald Webster Cory, in 1951, published The Homosexual In America, which augured a more favourable approach to the validity of homosexual expression. He was followed by other works in the sociological field such as Ford and Beach's Patterns of Sexual Behaviour (1956), Evelyn Hooker's numerous essays and, in 1968, Martin Hoffman's The Gay World. Nonetheless, the psychiatric-psychologic-psychoanalytic professions still remained obstinate and clung to their various versions of the sickness theory. Only very recently have increasing numbers of the members of these professions taken a different tack.
One such 'professional deviate' was the late Wainwright Churchill, whose Homosexual Behaviour Among Males: A Cross-Cultural and Cross-Species Investigation is essential reading for anyone interested in either Gay Liberation or their own homosexuality; as is Dennis Altman's, Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation which was reviewed in the past issue of The Body Politic. Both Churchill and Altman, in their different approaches, arrive at an important conclusion: a new theory of sexuality (particularly regarding homosexuality) is needed. Altman has suggested that such a theory would "remove guilt from sex, disentangle it from utilitarian social ends, and dispense with negative attitudes towards sex not genital and homosexual." Churchill also recognized this dynamic when he noted that "homosexuality, like sin, does not originate in man's will to be destructive but in his will to be creative."
In his short, yet difficult essay [entitled Homosexuality: The Psychology of the Creative Process], Paul Rosenfels, M.D. (psychiatrist) has provided such a new beginning into the psychologically creative aspects of sexuality. Because he has understood that each homosexual is a creator -- to the extent that only he/she can determine the type of person they eventually will become -- Rosenfels' book is, to my mind, the most insightful and penetrating piece of writing on homosexuality, and perhaps even sexuality, to date. His analysis is psychologically constructive, even within the confines of a psychologically repressive social environment.
SECTION II: GROWTH -- IDENTITY
Rosenfels' initial assumption is that the goal of "civilized living is to reach a state of contentment and happiness." However, departing from Freud, this happiness is not to be found by "increasing the importance of the practical and adaptive aspects of living." Indeed, the individual must adapt and this requires psychic energies, but adaptation does not exhaust them; there is a "psychic surplus." This "psychic surplus" overflow can be channeled into the service of psychological growth which is, for Rosenfels, the foundation of happiness.
Psychological growth requires an "inner identity" on the part of each individual, and this identity involves two capacities: love and power. Since, for him, love is the ability to become attached to another and power is the capacity to control one's environment, two important points follow: the first, stemming from the nature of love, is that the "development of the capacity to make a romantic union lies at the heart of man's search for an inner identity;" the second, stemming from power, is the fact, which cannot be transferred to another, that "no animal save man has (the) obligation to provide for his own psychological health." Therefore, each person is a creative being; he is creative because only he can guide, direct, and struggle with his own psychological growth by understanding and developing his own inner identity. And, this identity basically results from each individual's capacity to become romantically involved with another human being.
But this creative psychological process is not automatic. A romantic union does not come from our genitals since masculinity and femininity, with their respective functions, are to be found in both men and women. While socially it may be the case that society assigns roles to be played and expects conformity to a heterosexual union, the real creative psychological growth of a person is not to be found in simply adapting to this norm. Through institutionalized pressures like marriage, society attempts to dictate a normal sexuality. However, this detaches sexuality from its psychological roots and makes it an external component subject to social rules and regulations. The strongest weapon which society possesses to undermine the creative identity of each individual is to assign gender roles. But, "living up to the social image of what a real man and a real woman are supposed to be in society has little or nothing to do with inner identity." Society's assigning gender roles interferes with psychological growth and health because women are not necessarily psychologically feminine nor are men necessarily psychologically masculine in their inner identity; and since mating is the psychological joining of masculinity and femininity, the union between two men or two women is normal.
SECTION III: CREATIVE SEXUALITY
Freud generally accepted the masculine and feminine gender roles which corresponded to those assigned by society. In terms of the nature of the other animal species, however, and in terms of supporting his view, Rosenfels has made the following observation:
"The need to idealize women, for example, has resulted in a great emphasis on the wearing of colorful and stylish clothes and the use of cosmetics, thus encouraging an exhibitionistic aspect which in nature belongs to the male. The devotional functions of men in accepting financial responsibilities for women, both within and without the structure of family life, is also a reversal of nature's mechanisms in which the female serves the power status of the male. When it becomes feminine to wear beautiful clothes, or masculine to pay the bills, society is showing its disregard for psychological mechanisms in favor of its own practical decisions about what masculinity and femininity should be. When men enter a growth process in which the finding of an inner identity is the primary goal, their increasing independence makes them intolerant of any aspect of identity which is not deeply rooted in their psychological natures."
Consequently, the account of homosexuality which Rosenfels offers, is placed within a context of psychological creativity, rather than one of mere adaptation, as suggested by Freud's theory of sexuality.
Thus, in regard to homosexuality, Rosenfels' framework asserts that a 'psychical hermaphroditism' exists in the human species. This Rosenfels calls a 'psychological polarity' which is biologically grounded and which serves the purpose of laying the basis for creative growth through an inner identity by investing 'feminine' and 'masculine' traits in everyone as a means of establishing sexuality through one's psychological needs. Homosexuality is therefore valid since there is no fixed sexual goal to be reached, namely heterosexuality, as in Freud's theory of sexuality. Instead, the creative psychological growth that is based upon an inner identity, is, especially in modern society, most clearly visible in homosexuality. Since homosexuality implies refusal to attain a heterosexual orientation as dictated by society, the homosexual lies closer to the real problems of human psychological development. Because the automatic adapting nature of heterosexuality sanctioned by society is absent in homosexuality, the social-psychological conformity of a heterosexual marriage does not apply to the homosexual psychological experience. The homosexual's psychic life is not adaptive to socially sanctioned roles, but by necessity is, within a homosexually repressive society, creative and, as such, revolutionary. The homosexual, then, must discover through love his/her own psychological truth unto himself and in relation to another; and through the use of his power to follow the right of that truth in gaining his/her identity.
"The essence of the creative process," Rosenfels points out, "lies in the ability of the individual to separate himself from his psychic investment in adaptive matters, utilizing his surplus capacities for the pursuit of truth and right for their own sake." Whereas Freud accepted a homosexual component in all persons but did not build upon its psychological importance, Rosenfels argues that the only way to understand the masculine and feminine polarity within everyone is through the exposure of each person's homosexual component. Since "homosexuality equips human beings to challenge the artificiality of conventional patterns of heterosexual feeling and behaviour," Rosenfels believes that "it is the homosexual above all others who is in a position to search for an inner identity in the civilized world. Since his partner is of the same gender, he is a living testimony to the fact that romantic capacity is not necessarily tied to the automatic heterosexual patterns which society cultivates and guides." Thus, he rejects the idea of a goal-oriented sexuality or of a healthy sexuality outside the operation of love and power conjoined in a romantic union. And it is important to remember that these two complements are not socially determined; they stem from each individual's psychological makeup. Rosenfels has therefore put the individual back at the centre of a theory of sexuality.
SECTION IV: RELATIONSHIPS
The existentialist psychiatrist, Rollo May, has observed:
"In the environment it is right to speak of adjustment and adaptation. I adapt to the cold weather; I adjust myself to the periodic needs of my body for sleep. The critical point is that the weather is not changed at all by my adjusting to it. But in the world of human beings, the inter-personal world, the categories of 'adjustment' and 'adaptation' are not accurate or even helpful: the term 'relationship' is the right category. One can never speak of sexual adjustment as such. I think if one sets out to find sexual adjustment -- adjustment in love -- what one develops are only the techniques that could block the relationship between oneself and other human beings. One cannot speak of human beings as sexual objects. . . . Once a person is a sexual object, you are not talking about a person any more. The essence of the relationship is that in the encounter both persons are changed. Relationships always involve a mutual awareness, and this already is the process of being mutually affected by the encounter."
Following this lead, Rosenfels' growth model discusses sexuality in terms of a subject-subject interrelationship. Since the question of sexuality is seen as secondary to the psychological growth and health of the individual, it is meaningless to speak of proper sex gender-objects because, as we have seen, the psychological dynamic at work is a striving for an inner identity in the lives of both individuals involved in a romantic union. As such, the gender identity of the two persons romantically involved is irrelevant to the concept of normal in Rosenfels' theory of sexuality. Actually, the concept of sexual normality is of no value since he emphasizes the personal psychological growth of each of the two 'subjects' involved in a relationship.
Sexuality, the fountainhead of Freud's psychology, comes to play a subsidiary role in Rosenfels' different view of the nature of things since "the tremendous overemphasis on sexuality in the civilized world is the direct result of man's attempt to force its expression into patterns chosen by society." In contrast to Freud, then, the important feature in both homosexuality and heterosexuality is not the choice of a sexual object or the sexual aim, but the nature of the relationship between the two persons involved as a means for personal identity and psychological growth; and in the end, happiness.
Finally, Rosenfels' view of things accepts sexual difference as requiring no explanation or investigation. His growth model of psychology does not admit of categorizing persons in terms of objects of study. He writes:
"The study of sexuality as a subject in itself is only an exercise in voyeuristic gratifications. Emphasis on the concrete aspects of sexual experience makes of sexuality an athletic exercise and arouses a hope of fulfillment that can never be realized in this way. Individual sexual development rests on the growth of the love capacities, and it is in this area that social conformity does its worst in maintaining the childlike statue of individuals."
Each person, in this account, is a subject unto himself. Differences are therefore accepted as differences of distinct personalities, rather than conglomerates of a category such as 'inverts' or 'perverts'. This orientation is essentially based upon the view that man is simply not a driven creature, but is also drawn by the vision which he creates of himself. The significance between a sexual orientation which simply tolerates difference (such as Freud's) and one which accepts it, as does Rosenfels, is that the former admits, indeed may require, a concept such as 'normal', the latter precludes it.
SECTION V: REVOLUTIONARY
The dust jacket for this book rightly proclaims that on the scientific level Rosenfels' new theory of sexuality is as possibly a monumental a discovery as Newton's revolution in physics. A careful and thoughtful reading of Rosenfels supports this claim, as my review has attempted to show. As a new theory of sexuality it is as ingeniously insightful as it is powerful, taking us much beyond, in regard to individual personality, the confining concepts of Freudian psychology, even considering all its vagaries and modifications. Speaking personally, and I expect my experience is not dissimilar to others, I have had moments of doubt, even tempered by my involvement with Gay Liberation, regarding the inherent beauty and dignity of my sexual orientation. This, I have no doubt, results from a socialized unconscious which, as of yet, is still not completely liberated from the adaptive aspects of living in a sexually repressive society. On a personal level, then too, Rosenfels' work can reassure every homosexual that his/her sexuality is self-liberating, and hopefully, albeit in the future, liberating for heterosexuals as well. Dennis Altman has, within a political context, noted the revolutionary implications of homosexuality. The psychic dynamic of that revolution has now been added:
"The romantic spirit of man develops revolutionary implications when the sense of individuality it brings leads individuals to alter their relationship with their adaptive world. Behind the social prohibitions against homosexuality lies a deep concern over the private and separate status it confers on the romantic capacities. In a homosexual romance love and power are released to find their own destiny." In such a way, therefore, each homosexual is a creator, as is every other person -- but so much more so for homosexuals in contemporary society.
-- reprinted from Body Politic, May-June, 1972
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