I taught high school English for two years with Teach for America and I was extremely close with my students. They told me everything; sometimes even things I did not necessarily expect to hear. What I noticed in our daily conversations were how they described their own sexual identity. They did not use the terms gay, lesbian, or bisexual and it this was not because they were fearful of public disclosure. In fact they were very open about their sexual activity; maybe even a little too open some times. Right in the middle of a lesson about the book Beowulf is not the best time to discuss that. (hopefully group laughs)They did not like the terms, because they did not match how they felt completely or on any given day. I thought that was very interesting, because I grew up with either you are gay, straight, bisexual, or lesbian. In my head, I thought, what are you then? Label yourself! My students hated labels. One described it as suffocating. That was a vocab word that week for my 9th graders. So when I started grad school and we begin discussing models of sexual identity, I thought wow. These models do not represent my students, so why would I use them. They did not even represent MY development of my gay identity. I said out loud, we need to expand on these models. That is what inspired me to propose this round table discussion. As the new generation of people who are doing this work, it is time that we begin placing our own stamp on models that were developed in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Times have changed and our resources do too.Let me give a disclaimer: I have not done research on this topic and I do not pretend to be an expert. Instead this is meant to bring up a point that I am sure many people have said before and to hopefully encourage a group of us to mobilize in doing some work on these models in order to enhance our work with students.
2. Nor do models include other forms of sexuality, such as pansexual.
5. Even our transgendered community are identifying their gender identities to themselves and other people at earlier ages.
As I read various research articles, we seem to think that by naming the limitations of our research some how excuses them. We cannot continue to generalize models crated with research that only represents a small populations experience. We are perpetuating the cycle of imposing the dominant narrative on other people who do not identify with it.People with multiple marginalized identities have a very different development experience due to influences. Queer people of color deal with homophobia from their family and cultural community, which influences their coming-out process (Adams, Cahill & Ackerlind, 2004; Harris, 2003; Lewis, 2003).
First bullet: We cannot continue to rely on models decades old to guide how we work with our students today. They are different.Second bullet: People should have options and the current models do not allow for that. No more boxes.Third bullet: In social justice we talk a lot about not making assumptions and not labeling people anything other than what they wish to be called.
Region 1 Conference Presentation
Models of Sexual Identity Development & Today’sYouth Cornell F. Woodson NASPA Region I Conference 2012 Mystic, CT
Outline for Discussion• Review of Sexual Identity Models • Fassinger, Cass, and D’Augelli• Critique of Models• New Generation• Suggestions Expanding on Current Models
Fassinger’s Model of Gay/Lesbian Identity Formation (1997)Phase I – Awareness (I) – Feeling different or being different (G) – Existence of different sexual orientation in peoplePhase II – Exploration (I) – Strong erotic feelings for same-sex (G) – One’s position on gay people as a group
Fassinger Model of Gay/Lesbian Identity FormationPhase III – Deepening/Commitment (I) – Labeling sexual identity (G) – Awareness of oppression of groupPhase IV – Internalization/Synthesis (I) – Secure/confident in love for same sex (G) – Secure/reliant on group membership
• Outlines two separate processes. Individual/Internal process Group Membership process• Branches are assumed to be catalytic Each produces movement in the other• Does not emphasize public disclosure It’s about self-disclosure• Considers cultural factors Ethnicity, religion, etc.
Cass’ Model of Sexual Orientation Identity Formation (1979)Stage 1: Confusion – Am I gay?Stage 2: Comparison – Accepts possibility, grieves for losses.Stage 3: Tolerance – Not the only one; seeks out other gay and lesbian people.
Cass’ Model of Sexual Orientation Identity Formation (1979)Stage 4: Acceptance – Begins to self-identifyStage 5: Pride – Goes publicStage 6: Synthesis – Sexual identity becomes a “piece” of self.
• Explains ALL students thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (Cass, 1979).• Represents a sequential process.• Emphasizes public disclosure.• Emphasizes aquisition of homosexual identity into concept of self.
D’Augelli’s Model of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Identity Development (1994) Process I – Exiting a homosexual identity • Self-disclosure • Public disclosure Process II – Develop a personal sexual identity status • Challenge of internalized myths about what it means to be GLB in conjunction with others. • Ability to summarize thoughts, feelings, and desires.
D’Augelli’s Model of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Identity Development (1994) Process III – Developing a GLB social identity • Creating a supportive network of people Process IV – Becoming a GLB offspring • Coming out to parents
D’Augelli’s Model of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Identity Development (1994) Process V – Developing a GLB intimacy status • Enter into a same-sex relationship Process VI – Entering a GLB community • Engaged in social and political action
• Indicates various times that people come out to others.• Reflects the importance of coming out to parents.• Discusses the influence people have on their own development.• Human plasticity: response to biological changes and environmental circumstances • Development is life long process
Critique of Coming Out Models1. Studies included small sample sizes (Bilodeau & Renn, 2005).1. Most of the models were developed based on the experiences of white gay men and generalized to include everyone else (Bilodeau & Renn, 2005; Fassinger, 1998; Golden, 1996).1. Most coming out models propose an orderly or linear series of stages (Cohen & Savin-Williams, 1996; Fassinger, 1998).
Critique of Coming Out Models4. There is an assumption that a person’s sexual orientation and sexual behavior will match and neglect that sexuality exists on a continuum (Kinsey, Pomeroy & Martin, 1948; Golden, 1996).5. Models do not include bisexuality as a stopping point. It is seen as a path to an ultimate goal of acquiring a gay or lesbian identity (Pope & Reynolds, 1991; Rust, 2000; Dolan, 2012)6. The models mark the end of one’s process as LABELING themselves as gay or lesbian (D’Augelli, 1994).
Critique of Coming-Out Models7. The use of language, such as: lack of awareness of same-sex attractions, exiting heterosexuality, and identity confusion (Cass, 1979; D’Augelli, 1994; Fassinger, 1998).8. Models, aside from Fassinger’s, do not include cultural influences on the development of racial/ethnic groups (Fassinger, 1998; Savin-Williams, 2005 ).9. Models do not represent the differences in the coming-out process between genders (Saghir & Robins, 1973; Bell et al., 1981; Chapman & Brannock, 1987; Cohen & Savin-Willams, 1996) .
New Generation of Students1. Being labeled or acquiring an LGBTQ identity matters very little, because there isn’t a link between their sexual identity and their sexual behavior (Savin-William, 2005).2. Consider sexual terms as something the adults do; this generation does not relate.(Unks, 1995; Savin-Williams, 2005).3. “Teenagers are redefining, reinterpreting, and renegotiating their sexuality and the terms used to describe it” (Savin-Williams, 2005, p. 1).
New Generation of Students4. Age in which this generation recognized their same-sex attraction was, on average, early childhood (Savin-Williams, 2005; Anderson, 1995).5. Average coming out age is 11-14, which is 5-6 years earlier than the older generation (Boxer, Cook & Herdt, 1989; Offer & Boxer, 1991; Anderson, 1995; Beemyn & Rankin, 2011b).6. Impacted by the intersectionality of their identities (Winter, 2004; Stevens, 2004).
Expanding on the Models1. Conduct new research that includes a more diverse population.2. Conduct new research that addresses the experience of people with intersecting identities.3. Develop new models that are not linear and allows for repetition; similarly to D’Augelli’s notion that sexual identity development is a life-long process.
Expanding on the Models4. Create new models that include bisexuality as a stopping point.5. Create models that include other forms of sexual orientation, such as pansexual.6. Create models that respect the fact that some people do not label themselves LGB or do not use labels at all.
Conclusion• As the new generation of student affairs professionals, it is our duty to develop new resources.• I recognize that some students do identify with the labels we currently use.• Our models should reflect the world we are trying to establish.
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