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Useful Counseling on "Identities"

I want to report on how H- used her Lesbian "identity" as leverage to help the heterosexual women in her class see the distress in our heterosexual "identity" and see components of our women's internalized oppression. I gained a mental and gut-level understanding that my brand of heterosexuality is riddled with distress and perpetuates sexism, and that rational sexuality is not yet part of our current heterosexual, or same-gender, experience. I began to see that H- and I are both reaching for something that neither of us yet knows.

H-, acting as counselor, said, "Teach me how to be a heterosexual woman. Show me, tell me what I have to do." Each client told her what she needed to do from our perspective (and we discharged a lot). Then every couple of minutes H- would summarize, for example: "So, let me see . . . you are telling me I need to shave my legs or cover them, I need to get a man to point his sexual compulsion in my direction, I need to be careful not to let my intelligence show in any way that might threaten a man," etc. H- did not have to point out that this "teaching" was neither rational nor appealing. She just kept asking us what else she needed to learn to do. It was ludicrous.

I noticed four things about this that worked well:

  • The invitation to teach was validating. It disarmed any defensiveness and got us focused on articulating basic assumptions and ways of functioning.


  • H- noticed that class background slanted the distress strongly in one direction or another, so she refined the direction to: "I want to learn how to be a working-class (owning-class, raised-poor, middle-class) heterosexual woman. Show me, teach me."


  • We could instantly notice that most of our "teachings" had zero appeal and that she was smart to have opted out of that distress.


  • H- kept it light, pretending not to know why she should do these things, so we had to articulate our rationale.

I cannot imagine that any of us got through that evening still thinking that we "heterosexuals" had it together and that there was something wrong with a woman who never wanted to learn our brand of heterosexuality.


Last modified: 2020-07-02 14:27:35+00