The Homosexualization of America: The Americanization of the Homosexual

By Dennis Altman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
Homosexuals and Homosexuality:
The Problems
of Definition

If the thrust of most of the changes that took place over the past decade has been toward the construction and recognition of a homosexual minority, it is important to realize that this thrust is double-edged. On the one hand the recent changes have undoubtedly been important in developing a sense of self-confidence and acceptance among those who conceive of themselves as homosexuals; "gay pride" and "glad to be gay" were slogans that expressed this feeling very well. On the other hand, the more stress that is placed on the idea of a homosexual minority, the more difficult it is to recognize that homosexuality, whether acted out or repressed, is part of everyone's sexuality and has implications for many people other than those who conceptualize themselves as part of the gay minority.

This view of homosexuality is derived from Freud, who differed from most of his contemporaries in insisting that homosexuality was neither innate nor a discrete category. For Freud, homosexual desire was part of the infant's "polymorphous perversity"; that is, we are all born with an undifferentiated sexuality, in terms of both sexual object (the sought-after partner) and sexual aim (the sought-after act). Certain variations from the "normal" pattern of sexual development, somewhat different depending on one's gender, were advanced by Freud to explain why some people become largely or exclusively homosexual in terms of the sexual object, but Freud never regarded homosexuals as a discrete category and stressed the existence of repressed and/or sublimated homosexuality in everyone: "By studying sexual excitations other than those that are manifestly displayed, it [psychoanalysis] has found that all human beings are capable of making a homosexual object choice and have in fact made one in their unconscious." 1 Consequently Freud denied that there was such a thing as "innate inversion" 2 and rejected the ideas of those earlier writers, such as Ulrichs and Krafft-Ebbing, who had argued for it. Ulrichs had seen homosexuals as men with "a feminine

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