Becoming Gay: The Journey to Self-Acceptance

Overview

Winner of a Books for a Better Life Literary Award in Psychology

The importance of living authentically—accepting one’s homosexuality and embracing a positive gay identity—is at the heart of Dr. Richard Isay’s powerful work on the psychological development of gay men. In the candid language of personal case histories, including his own, Isay shows how disguising one’s sexual identity can induce anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. He looks at the dilemma of gay men who are ...

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Overview

Winner of a Books for a Better Life Literary Award in Psychology

The importance of living authentically—accepting one’s homosexuality and embracing a positive gay identity—is at the heart of Dr. Richard Isay’s powerful work on the psychological development of gay men. In the candid language of personal case histories, including his own, Isay shows how disguising one’s sexual identity can induce anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. He looks at the dilemma of gay men who are closeting in heterosexual marriages as well as at the specific concerns of adolescents, older men, and those confronted with HIV or AIDS. Isay exposes the tenacity with which psychoanalysis has clung to outdated views of homosexuality. Becoming Gay offers great insight for students of psychology, gender studies, and sociology.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The author of Being Homosexual (LJ 4/1/89) tells how it all gets started.
Ray Olson
Isay follows his normalizing Freudian book on gay male psychodynamics, "Being Homosexual" (1989), with a consideration of how men accept their gayness. Nearly every chapter of the new book takes up self-acceptance during a different condition of life: adolescence, married-with-children, HIV-infected or living with AIDS, older age, and even, since Isay recounts his own transition, as a professional psychotherapist. Isay does not report only success stories: one married man he treated, unable to make the change from heterosexual front to comfortable homosexuality, ended up a suicide. Further, Isay concedes that some men manageably opt for not coming out: two married men he reports on decided to remain so and carefully regulate or altogether avoid homosexual contact. But Isay's thrust is that acknowledging one's gayness and being happy with it are possible, with the help of psychoanalysis, at any time after sexual maturity. Unsaid is that most gay men can't afford the time and money that Isay's Freud-derived psychoanalysis absorbs.
Kirkus Reviews
Isay (Being Homosexual, 1989) discusses the role psychoanalysis can play in helping gay men to embrace their identity.

Himself a gay psychoanalyst, Isay frequently slips into awkward phrasings and clinical jargon (his meaning is always clear, but his words aren't always felicitous—verbs like "self- acknowledge" creep into his prose). Though the book is enlivened by examples from both his life and his therapeutic practice, he sometimes uses frustratingly general and stilted language to describe them. In recounting an event from his own life, for instance, Isay writes that differences between himself and his lover "enhanced the relationship"—yet he doesn't say what those differences were. He also devotes a chapter to a thoughtful discussion of the dilemma of the gay therapist: When is it appropriate for him to disclose his sexual orientation to patients? He explores the particular needs of gay teenage patients, gay men married to women (as Isay himself was), patients with HIV and AIDS, and elderly men who are just beginning to embrace a gay identity. Interestingly, unlike many in his profession, he takes an optimistic view of the potential for successful therapy for the gay elderly. An especially useful final chapter lucidly and concisely outlines the author's struggles to change the well-known and entrenched heterosexist biases within the profession of psychoanalysis—efforts that, after an eight-year battle, culminated in the American Psychoanalytic Association's 1991 statement opposing discrimination against lesbians and gay men who want to pursue training in its affiliated institutes. This was, in effect, a dramatic disavowal of the APA's unwritten policy, and an indication that the profession may be abandoning its longtime practice of pathologizing homosexuality.

An accessible glimpse of a gay-positive approach to psychoanalysis, which should interest both the gay and psychoanalytic communities.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679421597
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/14/1996
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.74 (w) x 8.49 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Isay is a clinical professor of psychiatry at Cornell University Medical College and a faculty member of the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. He is currently vice president of the National Lesbian and Gay Health Association. Isay is also the author of Being Homosexual: Gay Men and Their Development.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 3
1 Becoming Gay: A Personal Odyssey 10
2 The Gay Therapist 37
3 The Homosexual Adolescent 64
4 The Dilemma of Heterosexually Married Homosexual Men 87
5 Developing a Positive Gay Identity with HIV or AIDS 119
6 Becoming Gay as an Older Homosexual Man 138
7 Opposing Institutional Bias: Anti-Gay Discrimination in Psychoanalysis 154
Notes 177
Index 197
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