Some Thoughts on the RC Gay Policy

For RC's most recent perspective on issues related to this article, see: Human Connections, and Sex

Gay, Lesbian, and bisexual Co-Counselors were offered a challenge in the October 1995 issue of Present Time (ed.: see Report To The World-Wide Leaders' Meeting in Present Time No. 101). What an interesting challenge it has been! Support groups have been especially important in this period, and they seem to work best when we use them to focus our attention on discharging our feelings about the policy rather than on discussing it or griping about Harvey.

Many of us are pulled toward victimization in one form or another . . . like giving up and going away, or threatening to leave RC leadership. But I like to think of us as much tougher than that. We're not so fragile that we need to go away when things feel uncomfortable.

My experience with this policy and the article in Present Time suggests that it hits GLBs (Gay, Lesbian, bisexual people) very, very differently depending on how much discharge we've gotten to do in several key areas:

  1. GLB internalized oppression, especially around goodness. Mostly we claim our goodness in a defensive way, not with relaxed confidence. There's a huge cesspool of feeling bad about ourselves that all of us need to discharge for hours and hours. Without draining that swamp, the policy can feel like it's saying we're bad/sick/perverted. But I think Harvey is actually trying to get at something quite different.
  2. Gay oppression. Most of us seldom, if ever, face and discharge about the oppression. We've had to numb it out in order to keep going every day. It looks to me like this policy basically un-numbs our feelings about the oppression, and until we get to discharge a lot, we are likely to feel that it is the oppression. My experience suggests that this just isn't an accurate picture of the situation.
  3. Early sexual memories and sex. Most if not all of the people I know who have invested a lot of time in working on their sexual distresses have come to the conclusion that just about everything they assumed to be true about sex was based on their distresses. This suggests to me that rather than "getting our knickers in a twist" about this or any other policy about sex, we just need to steadily work on our early sexual memories and keep challenging ourselves to face the depth to which all of us-GLBs and allies both-have been hurt in the area of sex. I haven't done enough work in this area yet to know for sure what my life is going to look like when I've completely discharged my distresses, but I'm willing to look at and discharge about absolutely anything. I value my re-emergence too much to have any "sacred cows."
  4. Draining "crushes"/starving out "frozen needs." I'm pretty clear by now that all of my relationships to date have been driven by a frozen need for safety and comfort, and I suspect this is true for many, many people, both GLBs and allies. It seems that most relationships, in fact, are largely based on distresses . . . distresses all humans seem to have from having been badly hurt in the area of closeness and intimacy.

With counseling resource available to us, we finally get to face the extent of this damage. I get to stop measuring my behavior against cultural norms (pseudo-reality) and start noticing where I'm functioning within distresses, however innocently acquired. I know I've fought a noble fight to retain my humanness, and also that, of course, much of what I've done to date in many areas of my life has been driven by my distresses. So what? Maybe the real issue is how vulnerable I feel to criticism-the more I believe on some level that I'm bad, the more I'm going to feel like I have to defend myself from anything that sounds like criticism. To the extent I end up defending my distresses, too, I'm doing myself a grave disservice. Ultimately, with enough time, I hope all people get to the place where we can actually face the heartbreak of how most of us have based our relationships (and many other parts of our lives) on distress. If we remember that the goal isn't to criticize anyone, it's to move all of us forward by promoting discharge in largely unexamined areas of our lives, then I think we'll be all right.After all, if we agree that the process of discharge and re-evaluation works, then we get to have confidence in the ultimate outcome of this new watershed of discharge, no matter how uncomfortable it is.

My own recent experience as client has mainly been getting to feel outrage about the difficulty most allies have had in grappling with Gay oppression. This is a step in the right direction. I've always worked hard to confront and end the oppression but I've seldom been able to feel outraged about it before. However, of late, I've been able to discharge heavily in session saying, "You [heterosexuals] want me to give up the sweetest, closest relationships I've ever known, but you haven't been willing to tackle Gay oppression? I refuse to counsel about this with the likes of you!" These are absolutely the best sessions I've ever had on Gay oppression.

The policy has had some other good effects, too. There has been more useful discharge about Gay oppression on the part of allies than I have seen in my previous eighteen years of RC. Many allies are figuring out the places they need to discharge in order to think for themselves about this policy, and many have been able, for the first time, to really face the extent of the damage Gay oppression has done to us and to them. Similarly, I have seen many other GLBs finally able to discharge directly on Gay oppression for the first time, or in other cases to look squarely and freshly at GLB internalized oppression.

I've also seen more weaknesses exposed in more RC leaders (straight and Gay) than I've ever seen before-fear, wishy-washiness, vulnerability to restimulation, latent attack patterns, undischarged distress around sex and early sexual memories, undischarged distress around Gay oppression, rigidity, frozen needs, etc. It's been an impressive and unexpected result. This is good stuff to get out in the open where it can get dealt with and discharged. After all, the real oppressive right-wing forces are preying precisely on these distresses.

After battling Gay oppression full-time for eight long years, I can say with great certainty that this policy is not the oppression which we're battling in the wide world. Even if Harvey has a few homophobic patterns which need dusting off, or an incomplete understanding of our lives as Gay people and of how Gay oppression has affected us (and let me say that every ally I've ever known needs a hand here), I still think he is essentially one of the best allies we've got. Why? Because he refuses to compromise with distress for the sake of convenience or staying comfortable. In other words, we can count on him not to buckle when the going gets tough. How many allies (in the current shape they're in) would you count on when facing an enemy who is intent on intimidating everyone into compliance? As society collapses, I'm afraid this is exactly what we're going to have to face in the future. I'd rather take one Harvey into battle with me than a hundred of our "liberal" allies who aren't sure what's right and won't take this policy on because they're afraid it will upset us. (Mind you, there are smart ways for allies to take it on and there are stupid ways. I've seen or heard about a fair number of the stupid ways-stupid in that they reflect a shocking lack of understanding about Gay oppression, Gay internalized oppression, and what's required to make the policy useful to us. But what are a few mistakes among friends?)

I don't know for sure whether the notion that same-gender sex is inherently irrational is correct. But I'm not afraid to discharge hard to find out what's rational for me, and I'm not afraid to give other people challenging sessions to find out what's rational for them either. None of us, Gay or straight, can afford to be so fragile that we won't challenge our most dearly-held assumptions.

As clients, of course, it's fine to use the policy to feel and discharge anything. But as counselors, what is required of us is a deep understanding that the policy is not the same as the oppression.

Ultimately, I think we'll end up much stronger for having gone through this. By getting to discharge hard on this policy and all the things that it restimulates, we'll be much less vulnerable to real right-wing attacks in the future. And those attacks, after all, are the critical battleground for us and for all of humanity.

"Miss Jane Marple"
Massachusetts, USA

Reprinted from Present Time No. 102, January 1996

Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00