Working on the Policy about Gayness

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

I want to write about Gay, Lesbian, bisexual (GLB) policy (ed.: see Report To The World-Wide Leaders' Meeting in Present Time No. 101) and what I have done. I've done a very good job. So good even I could tell! But after each piece of good leadership, I would have to discharge more on feeling like I was a bad person, like I didn't do it right, and that I could expect to be yelled at by you (Harvey), Jeanne d'Arc, or Nijinsky if you all ever found out! It was useful for me to see that there was some inevitability in this coming up, given the components of the internalised oppression around goodness and significance, and to see it as old distress to be discharged. I had a rugged few days before the workshop with some of this old restimulation, but I was able to figure this out before the workshop so it didn't have to wipe me out there. I'm glad.

I didn't do anything with people on the policy until J- addressed it in the second class of the first key leaders' workshop. J- did a demonstration with me. It was very, very good indeed! Apart from the fact that GLB issues were right on top, I decided to show the workshop the piece about goodness and how hard the lack of believing in our/my own goodness sits on us/me. It was useful for folks to see this. I had a lot of furious feelings on top around my fears of the policy setting allies and ex-GLBs off into dramatising tones of disgust and holier-than-thou at us. After a bit of initial discharge, J- got me to use the role exchange around oppression (i.e., "I'm not a Lesbian, you are . . ."). It turned out to be a fabulous demonstration. I was crying pretty furiously and hard already, and then I started to say how disgusting he (the Lesbian) was but interrupted myself because I didn't want to model that. (I'm not keen on using the direction of what we hate about each other as GLBs to work on the internalised oppression unless a solid amount of work has been done on goodness, as I don't think the client can always tell the difference between what she/he feels and reality and so not always is there a lot of useful re-evaluation taking place.)

So anyway, at this point I changed the phrase to: "No, you are good, but I'm going to make it so that will never know that, and you will always believe you are disgusting and bad, and you'll never be able to understand that you are good . . . ." Well, the floodgates broke for me and just about every other GLB, and some allies, too. It allowed me to see, in a new light, my own innocence in the oppression and that we are good people. The demonstration also helped people to see the depth of these hurts around goodness. It turned out to be a strategic demonstration for the progress of the workshop, as well as easing the tightness for me!

The second (bigger) workshop started that night. I met with GLBs and allies at 7:00 AM both mornings and at topic-group time. J- pre-arranged support groups, and he allowed me to set things up for GLBs. I had a GLB leaders' support group and got another leader, who had been at the GLB Leaders' Workshop in Boston, to lead a second GLB support group. So there was a lot of time for us to meet and discharge over those two days.

During the three topic group slots, I talked about this challenge having always been in RC but that now we have a chance to take it more fully. I talked about being courageous when we work in sessions, about not discussing the policy but discharging, about not using this as an excuse to criticise RC or Harvey, and about goodness and always remembering how good we are and how we never deserve to be judged for anything we've done or do.

I talked about not confusing discharging on the policy with the fact that one of the most important things for all of us in our re-emergence is to figure out about closeness and caring, that if the only avenue we have to do that at this time is via same-gender closeness which may involve sex, then it's an okay thing. Basically, I held out a strong commitment to taking this policy on seriously for discharge, but also to being respectful, loving, and tender with us all in our re-emergence.

I set the tone well, and it paid off by the end of the workshop. In my support group, I think most of the people had taken the policy on only to the extent that it didn't interrupt their functioning. They still thought it would all turn out to be not true and that it was just an interesting exercise without too much hardship. But on the last day they took on that it may well turn out to be true. It was good to see them think this for themselves and take it on seriously for themselves, rather than me telling them to do that. People got to work hard without having to negotiate over the defensiveness.

Apart from the tone I set that allowed people to go to the hard place by their own decision, I think the best thing I did was in the Saturday topic group. I had worked with one of the people in the support group that morning. He had gotten to a point of feeling like life would not be worth living if he couldn't have the hope of deep same-gender closeness (via sex). So I worked more with this same man in the topic group to show both allies and GLBs how to do hard counselling with love and caring and so that all of us could see some of what there is to discharge. The demonstration was great. I did a second GLB demonstration on the frozen longing that is often attached to same-gender sex/identity/closeness with another man. The demonstration I did with the Lesbian was mostly about her not wanting to lose the security and home base offered by the Lesbian community.

I talked about how in session we sometimes need to take a direction to give up longing and hoping for something, even if it's a rational human need, in order to loosen the rigidity attached to it. If that rigidity is attached to same-gender sex and Gay identity, then this hope/longing definitely has to shift in order for us to be able to start thinking in this area.

I could never have wished for a better ally demonstration. I picked someone who I knew was personally very committed to GLBs and to ending the oppression. But I suspected might fall short of pushing us hard on the policy, so I wanted to loosen up whatever was there. I was expecting something around thinking, policy, etc., etc., but what I got was a gem. Somehow she began talking about the closeness and intimacy with the man in her life falling short of fully reaching her. She still had a hope for the intimate closeness she'd had with a girlfriend in her adolescence when they had been sexual (twenty years ago). I asked her to give up ever hoping to get that again. It took a while for her to understand why I was doing that. She argued that she was wanting to build that kind of intimacy with her current male partner. Eventually she understood. I told her it looked like this longing, attached to same-gender sex, could be a rigidity in the way of her being able to fully follow through with GLBs. She cried hard at this point. She had always held in the back of her mind that maybe closeness and loving could be reached fully with women if she finally decided to give up on it with men. Without that frozen hope, life looked bleak.

It seems that if allies have some frozen longing/hope attached to same-gender sex, then they may not be able to counsel us well in this area. The whole topic group was fabulous. It touched everyone there deeply to see people working so hard and facing those tough issues.

I've noticed how many heterosexuals, women at least, have had some same-gender sex experience or some longing for it somewhere. Someone I know who works with young people said that by an early age, girls' relationships are sexualised by society, and there is a lot of hurt at having to pull back from those relationships for fear of being targeted with Lesbian oppression. I then started to think that if many women have some frozen feelings of loss of closeness with women still to be discharged, they may either flip into liberal "everything GLBs do is fine with me," if they didn't have too much disgust come in at them, or flip over into extreme hatred of GLBs, if they inter-nalised a lot of disgust. It's my new theory for the day and is still to be checked out and refined some.

Well, having people discharge on this bit of hope that we most don't want to give up, I think loosened things enough for a few people that it was then possible for them to look at the policy maybe being true. I have to say again that I know this wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been so clear to people how much I love and care about Lesbians, Gay men, and bisexuals. People can tell I know how good we are and that I understand our struggles to be close with any human at all. I know it is good that we try where we can, and some of us need to keep trying closeness with the same sex to be able to gain access to the full range of closeness available to all humans. I told people about the several years of extreme isolation I had gone through by trying to live this policy in my life a few years ago, without the discharge, and that now when I tell myself I can have sex with women, I am much closer to men and all people than I've ever been. This is useful to tell people, I think.

While doing this work at the workshop, I knew I was doing well, yet I would need to take mini-sessions on doubting that I was doing okay at all. I half expect to be criticised still. The distress says that if I'm not doing all this in a tough, holding-the-firm-line way, then I'm not being courageous enough and I'm still trying to defend the identity or something. I don't really think I'm doing that-just the distress says so. And hell, I figure the goal here is to get us to actually take on the challenge of discharging on the policy, and that did happen in a successful way.

I know I did a fine job of providing leadership, but what was hard was being visible in the process. Many people said their highlight of the workshop was me and the work I'd done. I got very uncomfortable when more and more people said that. The expectation of attack jumped 500%. I will discharge more on this point. It has me pulling back into invisibility, which I think isn't useful anymore, and besides, maybe I can weather people's criticising patterns nowadays!

There were many light and fun times. I made the analogy of this being like setting sail on uncharted waters-never knowing what we would find, when we would return home, or if we would ever return home at all. Afterwards some folks started singing sea chanteys and calling me skipper! It was sweet and funny and helped people to stay out of restimulation. Of course there were a lot of jokes. It was a close time with each other.

Later . . .

It's a month since this workshop now, and I've done a couple more things on the policy since then. Last weekend, I was at H-, leading a working-class and allies workshop, and I did a gather-in on the policy after the workshop.

I have pursued getting us all to discharge about the loss/grief and hope/longing attached to same-gender closeness (sometimes via sex). It seems to work well for loosening the tightness that both allies and GLBs have when starting to look at the policy. People have been getting good discharge on things like loss of pre-birth twins, the effects of sexism and internalised sexism, losing relationships with girls, and the effects of homophobia on closeness between men, as well as on specific early sexual memories and other incidents. I was able to keep working with the man I worked with in S- on how giving up same-gender closeness via sex seemed to make life look not worth living. I am proud of how people have taken on the challenge of the policy and how hard they are working to move through the distress.

At this gather-in, I also did one of the funniest demonstrations I've ever done (i.e., a demonstration which allowed the client and everyone else to work lightly on fears). I was working with an ally, and initially it seemed to be about her taking a principled stand in relation to GLBs and discharging not being able to do that because of fears of appearing superior. At some point, I shifted the demonstration and got her to teach me how to be heterosexual! Very soon it was clear that this was going to move into her discharging the parts of heterosexual sex she had taken for granted as being normal and okay, but which were clearly, to her and everyone else, based in distress, and in this particular case, based within the gender stereotypes. Group laughter exploded at each illustration from the client on how to be heterosexual.

Tonight I have just done a gather-in in my own Community. It was interesting to notice that it felt harder for me to lead on this in my own Community, i.e., I had lower expectations of allies (part of the GLB internal-ised oppression) here than elsewhere and had to fight harder against my insignificance patterns to be bright and open. I did well, but it's interesting to notice the difference.

I learned a couple of things at this gather-in. I keep seeing time and time again how much hope and/or longing many allies have attached to GLBs. The ally tonight had hopes of GLBs, because of the oppression, being able to think better about human beings than heterosexuals, and in particular, being able to think better about him. I don't know if it is just that I'm finding this an interesting area to get allies to work in, or if there is something here for many allies to discharge.It may be why it has been hard for heterosexuals to get working on the policy, with many of them having so much attached to us. The other thing I've learned is how tightly sexism and men's oppression sit on heterosexuals when thinking about sex. For many, there is a long way to go on discharging at that place before having any clarity about sex.

The work with the GLBs continues to go well. I am pleased with how much courage people have in looking at the very difficult distresses there are to discharge here. Allies are impressed when they see GLBs working hard on facing those early isolation terrors (or whatever). One thing I liked at the end of tonight's gather-in was how much allies wanted to keep working on the many implications for them of this policy. It certainly helped contradict some things for me to see that!

At these gather-ins, I also try to make three key introductory points, which can potentially get lost in the midst of the work on the policy. One is that the oppression is real, it is vicious, it exists, and it has to be fought against. The issues of violence; inter-nalisation of the oppression resulting in heavy addictions and suicide; discrimination in health, housing and employment, etc., are human rights issues which need to be fought against. The second point is the importance for GLBs of discharging on goodness and how little we have a sense of that, how it is easy to overlook the effects of this part of our internalised oppression, given how good we often "appear" to be inside RC. The third point is the importance of early sexual memories work. So, in doing a gather-in, I try to make these three introductory points clear for people as a basis for doing the bigger work of the policy itself.

What else to tell you in this report? Well, I can tell you how this is all going for me personally. Mostly it is going well. I do have times when early sexual abuse restimulation is high and I have a rugged day or so, but in the process of this I am figuring out how to keep those feelings just to sessions and not have to have my life go badly just to access them. This is new and a relief, I tell you! I am able to discharge well by just having the counselor tell me I was sexually abused and counteract my every denial. Previously it has been hard to discharge this without there being a hard time in my life. So this is good.

The other thing that has come up for me since working on the policy is the pull to withdraw back to insignificance, invisibility, and marginalisation (components of the GLB internalised oppression). I am glad I can notice the pull and discharge on it rather than act on it. Sometimes it is a daily decision to keep going in a significant, central, open, and visible direction. Working with mainstream families in my job of organising home-based childcare means I have to keep this direction!

I am loving doing this GLB policy work and noticing how much I've learned in the past few years. I am pleased that I am able to get people discharging on the policy. I have to remember to keep discharging after each gather-in, so that the resti-mulation doesn't pile up for me. Sometimes it gets hard on me going in deep with people in demonstrations if I am not doing enough work in the same place myself.

I think I mentioned earlier that in my life I allow myself the possibility of having a sexual relationship with a woman. By cutting that option off previously, I cut off the sense of any closeness with any human being at all. It is interesting to note that when I decided that sex with women would be okay for me, I became a lot closer to some men I had been making friends with. I have also been more and more open (generally) in my workplace and taking more and more visible leadership. Last week I called a meeting after a union training course to begin working towards organising a broad childcare-worker movement pushing for increased recognition and pay and better working conditions. I intend to lead this campaign and have already drawn people to follow my lead.

Another place where I have broadened my life out was having a birthday party the other week. Having the party was a big enough step forward in itself, but noticing the broad range of people I invited was also pleasing. I don't know if I will have an ongoing relationship with a woman or not. I'm not rushing into anything there. But for the meantime I will keep that door open and use it where I can, to be able to fully develop closeness widely by continuing to make closer friendships with both men and women. I am glad to be able to push my re-emergence in this way. Thank you for holding out this challenge to us all.

"Harriet Green"

Reprinted from Present Time No. 102, January 1996

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