An entering wedge to the discussion of this wider phenomenon can be a discussion of the attitude of Re-evaluation Counseling toward people who seek sex with people of the same gender as themselves. Some of these people identify themselves as "Gay" or "Lesbian" or "bisexual." These people are oppressed by society in thousands of ways.
As a result of resisting the oppression as best they can and thinking as well as they have been able to do, they have tended to put forward a "policy" that actual sex with a member of the same gender is "rational," that it is just one of the "natural" forms of sexual activity and is "just as rational" as any other participation in sex.
Re-evaluation Counseling under my leadership has never concurred with this. I had worked successfully with too many clients who "identified" themselves as Gay or Lesbian or bisexual before the Communities were founded to be confused about that. I could not compromise my intelligence to accept that position. Every Gay person I worked with had a completely unique expression of their "gayness." The distortion of their sexuality was always a literal expression of the distress experiences that had occurred to them in this area.
Officially and in the writings of Re-evaluation Counseling, it has always been stated that.
1. Re-evaluation Counseling opposes the oppression of Gay people as completely wrong
2. We in Re-evaluation Counseling have a responsibility to find ways to help the individuals saddled with the patterns that lead to this activity to discharge and remove such patterns,
3. We in Re-evaluation Counseling cannot compromise with any "identification" of the person with a pattern which pushes the individual towards participation in sex with people of his or her own gender. We do not concur with any identification of oneself as Gay, Lesbian, or bisexual as ultimately "rational." (Participation in same-gender sex, and identifying oneself as Gay, are two separate activities that sometimes occur together, but not necessarily.)
It is also clear that identifying as Gay, Lesbian, or bisexual can temporarily be a helpful contradiction to the isolation and oppression. Few wide-world constituencies have developed the degree of support and contradiction to most distresses that some parts of the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual community have done in recent years. In many places and activities in these communities both the goodness of the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual person and copious discharge are validated and encouraged.
Participation in same-gender sex arises only out of the individual having been hurt and left with a distress pattern by that hurt experience or experiences.
The oppressive forces in society, in making propaganda against people who participate in same-gender sex, loudly and "righteously" portray sex with a member of one's own gender as outstanding in its irrationality, as horrifying, as unholy, and label it with any other negative descriptions they are able to construct and express.
Is same-gender sex carried out between "consenting" adults that "bad"? It is harmful in its effects upon the people involved, as is any rehearsal of a distress pattern, but it is not, in general, more "bad" or "worse than" the ridiculous patterns which have become attached to much heterosexual sex (the many varieties of which range from fetishes to violence and back). It is not "necessarily" more irrational nor perhaps even as irrational as the condemnation patterns rehearsed by the people who perpetuate the oppression of Gay people by condemning them and attacking them. It is not "more irrational" than the great variety of patterns attached to heterosexual sex which are tolerated and practiced in these oppressive societies and cultures under such slogans as "the privacy of the marriage relationship" or "what happens between two consenting adults.". That much is clear.
(The introduction of young people to same-sex sexuality, which is sometimes mistakenly defended by practicing Gay men or Lesbians with the claim that the young person is being "helped to discover his or her own 'true nature"' is, of course, indefensible. It is a cruel betrayal of the young person and is introducing him or her to a completely unnecessary burden in his or her future life, but the damage done is not necessarily any worse than the "seduction" of a young person to heterosexual sex, which is commonly and correctly recognized as a crime in almost all cultures.)
We do understand that there are people for whom "identifying" for some period of time does function as a contradiction to the isolation, the invalidation, and sometimes to the separation from one's own gender.
As oppressive societies more and more increase the isolation of the members of their populations, the possibility of being deeply close to a member of one's own gender is a strong motivation to "partner" with someone of one's own sex. Relationships between people of the same gender have been increasingly labeled by the society as "sexual," and the confusion, misunderstanding, and the sexism rampant between people of different genders adds to the apparent desirability and the comparative safety and ease of a close partnership with someone who "understands" one's own experiences.
One defense of the "rationality" of same-gender sex often put forward by people who identify as "Gay" is that the "homophobia" (fear of being physically and emotionally close to members of your own gender), which is conditioned on almost everyone by our current cultures and by the oppressive society, is more destructive of people's happiness and their ability to get along with each other even than the stresses which tend to accompany lives lived as Gay men or as Lesbians. This position has considerable validity. Homophobia is a completely irrational distress, semideliberately installed by the society and its culture in order to disunite people who might otherwise unite against the many other oppressions enforced by the society.
It is completely rational, beneficial, and joyful for a woman to be close to another woman or a man to be close to another man. This is our inherent, natural way of functioning, and it is a state that people regain with eagerness when helped to discharge the conditioning put upon them by the cruel society. This rational closeness, however, has nothing to do with sexual feelings or activity.
As I said before, I had successfully counseled a large number of people who had called themselves Gay men, Lesbians, or bisexuals in the twenty years before the Communities were organized. (Remember, the Communities are only twenty-five years old at this point.) As the Communities became organized, I proclaimed the position from my experience with the earlier clients that sexual activities with members of the same gender as oneself and identification of oneself with this role were irrational, needed to be discharged, and could be discharged completely. A series of international meetings confirmed my position as policy for Re-evaluation Counseling.
However, as Gay people in the wide world began to organize to try to fight the vicious, unremitting, and cruel oppression directed at them, they tended to adopt the position in their organizations that same gender sex is "just as rational" as heterosexual sex is. In wide-world work against this oppression a kind of a truce was struck between the wide-world Gay liberation forces and Re-evaluation Counseling that we would not argue with each other publicly about this point but concentrate on uniting to resist the oppression. This policy has proven correct.
As large numbers of "Gay" people sought participation in our Communities they tended to bring this mistaken "policy" in with them, and there have been a number of controversial episodes where such people were sometimes supported in their arguments by a few RCers who, out of a "politically liberal" pattern, tended to value "peace-through-compromise" ahead of correctness.
I want to clarify and do the necessary demonstrations to make it plain that "identifying" with any activity which is not inherently rational is a mistake. That isn't the only mistaken policy from the wide world that tends to intrude into our Community, but this one is a factor in the Community, because, for a number of reasons, people who identify as Gay need to join RC. They need to use it, they need to participate in it, and they have played many good roles in the general activities of RC.
The policy of the RC Communities on this question was established a long time ago and has been reviewed and re-stated many times. Stating it succinctly, it consists of:
(1) Principled and deep opposition to any oppression of people who practice sex with people of their own gender or of people who identify themselves as Gay men, as Lesbians, or as "bisexuals." Any such oppression is completely wrong, and the Communities win organize and carry out all possible activities to end and to lift that oppression.
(2) A position that participation in sex with a human of your own gender is based on distress. It arises only out of distress experiences in the past. The distress out of which it arises can become unoccluded (if it has been occluded) and can be completely discharged.
(3) The Community assuming a responsibility, which it has so far met only in part, to learn to furnish skillful enough and effective enough counseling for people with these patterns that they can become completely free of them. It is plain from a lot of experience (and a lot of work done by RCers who in the past had identified themselves as Gay men, as Lesbians, or as "bisexuals"), that the distress situations which have left these patterns on these human victims are extremely varied and that there is no uniformity in the patterns that arise out of these distress experiences.
Because of these distresses' becoming connected to a basic survival drive inherent in human beings, which is to participate in sex for the survival of the species (comparable to the basic survival drive to eat food for the survival of the individual), it can be very difficult for the involved individual to separate the distress from the activity It is easy to understand why people have had difficulty in discharging these distresses completely, just as they have observably had a great deal of difficulty completely discharging distresses connected to eating. The two inherent survival drives apparently get latched into and furnish "strength" to the compulsions that arise out of distress experiences connected to sex (and distress experiences connected to eating).
In discussions like this, I am often asked: "What do we expect of people who still have these feelings? Are they to be forced to stand up and say that they agree with the policy of the Community when they don't yet feel that they do agree with it?" No. We want agreement with the Community's policies to come out of re-evaluation (not out of enforcement). This has turned out for some people to be very difficult. We do expect such individuals to counsel on these distresses and agree to consider in their counseling (when afforded effective counseling from an effective counselor) that it is possible that the Community's policy, to which they may still feel opposed, may be correct. I think this agreement will be sufficient.
Difficulties around this question have not, in general, arisen because people who have identified this way have refused to be counseled. The problem has been that the Co-Counselors who are needed to counsel such people well are, in general, not re-emerged enough themselves and tend to still be affected by different kinds of distress in this area. One group is caught in the "homophobia" distress installed and reinforced by the society of viewing closeness between people of the same sex as shameful and disgusting. These people, when trying to be counselors, tend to "shut down" and not think well about their clients.
Another group of interfering distresses is attached to Co-Counselors who themselves have Gay feelings or compulsions and therefore cannot think objectively or clearly about helping such a client contradict his or her distresses and discharge well.
A third group of interfering distresses are those of a kind of "liberalism" which seeks "agreement" at any cost rather than having to work through the discharge of distresses to achieve reality.
For this distress to be discharged completely and for people to relaxedly come to agreement is by no means impossible. It has happened many, many times. There are many people in the present RC Communities who at one time felt it was rational to participate in sexual activity with members of their same gender and who have re-evaluated and come to agree with the Community's policy.
I think it is all right to say to this group of leaders which I am addressing that there are many people in our Communities, most of them excellent leaders, who for tactical reasons still speak of themselves as Gay men, as Lesbians, or as "bisexuals" when speaking to other Gay men, Lesbians, or "bisexuals" but don't have sex with a person of their own gender. Many of them have married and are raising children. Often they still lead in activities for the liberation of Gay people, and people who are still fighting these patterns cherish them and follow them loyally and support them in their leadership.
Any counselor starting out to help a client on these issues should be clear that enforcement or pressure against the client's opinion that the Gayness is his or her own "nature" will not work. "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still."
Co-Counselors who have not thought deeply about the issues involved in this discussion are going to be uncomfortable at first in supporting a firm position against someone else's distress pattern that the "someone else" identifies with. I do not want to try to make any such reader "comfortable." This is where your courage will have to come into play. It might help to remind you that if you take any position supporting a Gay person's stand that s/he is "naturally Gay" or "inherently Gay" you are abandoning the person to the compulsion and allowing the person to feel that s/he has no choice about living and defending the kind of life that is exposing him/her to all kinds of ignominy (ignominy rooted in other people's distress, of course) and to a sense of helplessness. I can tell you, by now, many individuals who have worked their way out of such an identification and activity have told me that my position has been a "life saving" factor in their re-emergence in this area.
At the present, substantial numbers of Gay people are occupying positions of leadership in the RC Community. Not all of these people at this point have reached agreement with the policy which I have outlined above. This situation often came about through the need of the Gay people to have the security and safety of the RC Community around them and through the eagerness of some non-Gay leaders, unaware of the issues I have been discussing, to take advantage of the quick availability of the Gay people. In general, Gay people are free enough of family and similar responsibilities to be able to put in a lot of time and a lot of work for the "convenience" of the overworked leader who pushes them towards leadership. This situation is not a very serious problem, but I take this opportunity to call for thoughtfulness about such appointments in the future. Such appointments should not be made simply because of "convenience." (Our official International Gay leadership is not being criticized here. They have in general been very thoughtful about not overloading the Community.)
How shall we begin? Shall we refuse to let Gay men, Lesbians, and "bisexual" people teach RC until they have shed these "identifications?" Shall we tell owning-class people who wish to lead that they must carry out their own program (worked out by them selves at their own workshops) of divesting them selves of unearned income (hopefully in the direction of financing the spread of RC) before they can be trusted with very lofty responsibilities in the Community? I don't think so. But I do think we need to have a clear policy, some rational standards, and some helpful procedures.
I think our own past can show us the way. Large numbers of people in the past were smokers, that is, addicted to tobacco, when they came into RC. A decision was made, which subsequent results have certainly justified, that no one should appear as a representative of RC in such ways as teaching a class as long as she or he was still smoking. That was the proposal, that was made the standard. The action taken, however, was to simply require that the smoker commit himself or herself to giving up the addiction and to working on it directly when a client. It was required that the commitment be made publicly, and the individual was told that the Community expected him or her to report when the last cigarette had been smoked.
A few people, of course, have cheated. I know of perhaps six over a long period of time. But these few individuals who concealed their addiction and, in effect, were dishonest with the Community, were the only ones who did so out of thousands and thousands of RC teachers. Overall, not just the teachers and leaders, but the whole Community of RC has become notoriously non-smoking.
The discussion about Gayness is a place to begin thinking in the area of people disabled by patterns. Leading off from this beginning we must find a correct policy for a future society toward all the huge numbers of people oppressed by the society for the patterns that have been placed upon them - drug users, alcoholics, ne'er-do-wells, repeater criminals, "firebugs," child abusers, rapists. All these have to be inherently just as good and dear and valuable as the most innocent saint that we have any knowledge of. They are victims of distress, distress which was placed upon them against their will, by mistreatment, by other patterned victims, or by society. This distress is not their fault! The punishment and the condemnation which are heaped upon them because of their distresses never help them but only sink them deeper into the morass of the distress. I challenge all of you here to start thinking clearly on a thoroughgoing policy towards people "disabled by patterns."
All of us, of course, have been "disabled by patterns." None of us are as yet functioning as well as we would be if we were already functioning on our inherent nature. I am using the phrase in this discussion to indicate the people who have been not only disabled by patterns but also have been oppressed in various cruel ways for compulsively acting out the disabilities which resulted.