CPPNJ - The Center for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy of New Jersey

Monday, May 21, 2012

Gay rights and gays wronged

By Eric Sherman, LCSW

It's enough to give you wedding whiplash.

First, North Carolina voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. The next day, President Obama made history supporting the right of gay couples to say two simple words North Carolinians (and those in most other states) will not allow: "I do." The NAACP soon followed suit, coincidentally the same day that New York City Council Speaker (and possibly future mayor) Christine Quinn married her long-term partner. 

At the same time, not to seem enlightened, a Mississippi state lawmaker cited the Bible in calling for gays to be put to death. The esteemed gentleman from Mississippi probably also does not believe in evolution, which is ironic because he is proof that some Homo sapiens have not evolved beyond Neanderthal man. (Relax, senator -- I said Homo sapien.).

As the (wedding) march toward equality picks up speed, each step forward brings a lurch back. The gyrations have more than just political and social implications. They have profound impact on millions of gay men and women who are alternately given the message that they have finally been accepted as equals, and then reminded just how threatening they are to many in society.

 As a psychoanalytic psychotherapist who specializes in working with the LGBT community, I am amazed at the range of individuals I see and their relationship to their sexual orientation. Men and women, single and in loving relationships, for whom being gay is no more an issue than being left-handed or tall. Then there are the ones who break my heart. A man who was disowned by his parents when he came out to them. A couple afraid to hold hands in public for fear of being beaten. A woman who remained in an unhappy heterosexual marriage afraid she might lose custody of her children if she left her husband for her female lover.

In 1973, when I was 11 years old, the psychiatric community finally eliminated homosexuality as a mental illness, like schizophrenia, from its diagnostic manual. Four years later, the singer Anita Bryant made national headlines crusading against homosexuality, calling gay people child molesters bent on recruiting children to their sinful lifestyle. She, too, cited the Bible and her religious faith.

No doubt there will be more setbacks on the road to marriage equality. But with polls consistently showing an overwhelming majority of young people supporting it, it's only a matter of time. It is unlikely, however, that homophobia will be eradicated altogether. Fear of otherness is a powerful motivator. Yet time marches on.