Our perceptions of gender—our own gender and that of others—seem to have an effect on what we find sexually arousing. In fact, we notice that a distorted concept of gender and feelings of incongruity with one’s own gender are common in the early lives of some boys who develop attractions to the same-sex.
Gender refers to the psychological, emotional, behavioral, and relational traits typically associated with the two sexes. We believe our awareness of gender traits, our sense of the distinctions between the genders, and our attitude and feelings about gender can impact the development of sexual orientation. Psychologist Daryl Bem agrees. In his 1996 article, “Exotic Becomes Erotic,” he details a theory of human sexuality that is based on experiencing others as different, or exotic, from ourselves in terms of gender traits. Author and speaker David Deida also talks about this concept in his book, The Way of the Superior Man. He uses the term “polarity” to describe the distinct and different male and female energies. Polarity, Deida says, is the source of sexual attraction.
Given the significance of gender in shaping our sexuality, it can be quite important for those who are seeking to create a shift in their sexual desires to understand how they experience gender in terms of perceptions, beliefs, and feelings. This is true whether you hope to simply decrease the intensity of your homosexuality as well as if you also hope to promote or intensify your heterosexual capacity.
A complete understanding of our experience of gender requires us to consider four constructs. The first two constructs have to do with our perceptions, beliefs, and feelings about other males and masculinity and about females and femininity. Put another way, this is what we notice about males and females, the thoughts and stories that go off in our minds about what we notice, and the emotions our thoughts and stories generate in us. These two constructs are referred to as “male gender concept” and “female gender concept.”
Everyone has a male and a female gender concept. Our concepts of males and females are formed from a combination of sources, including our interactions with members of each sex, role modeling by parents and siblings, the examples of others in our environment, and social norms that are taught to us through our culture, the media, and significant institutions like schools and religion. Gender concepts can be full of contradictions and they can be extremely complex or relatively simple, depending on the individual.
The other two constructs we must consider involve our perceptions, beliefs, and feelings about our own gender traits. Put another way, this is what we notice about ourselves, the thoughts and stories that go off in our minds about what we notice, and the emotions our thoughts and stories generate in us. This is referred to as self-concept. Our self-concept is contextual, which means that it can be different in different contexts or situations. For example, imagine how you would think and feel about yourself if you were in a room full of little kids. Take a moment to connect to that image and feeling. Got it? Now imagine that you accidentally find yourself in the middle of a motorcycle gang. Does your self-concept change? Do you experience yourself differently in these two contexts?
For our conversation, it’s not the contexts of kids and motorcycle gangs that are important. Rather, we will invite you to consider how you see yourself in the contexts of your interactions and relationships with males and with females. So, for review, the four significant constructs we will consider in this series are:
- Male gender concept
- Female gender concept
- Self-concept in a male context
- Self-concept in a female context
Each of the six lessons that follow will look at a general trait or capacity that relates to both male and female gender concept and to self-concept in both a male and female context. We’ve chosen these six traits because they seem to show up frequently as areas of concern for men with unwanted same–sex attraction. In each lesson, you will be invited to consider how you experience one of those traits in other males, in females, and in yourself when you are in a male context verses when you are in a female context. The six traits are:
- Capacity and Intelligence
One final thought. We don’t subscribe to the idea that men must or should be a certain way regarding any of the traits listed above. But our families and society do provide us with some pretty strong expectations, which we tend to adopt and which can strongly affect our self-concept and gender concepts. If we are to experience gender congruity, we must deal with those expectations one way or another—either we must conform to them or we must adjust our own expectations. Likely, most of us will do some of both.