Are you angry or are you heterosexual? A queer critique of lesbian and gay models of identity development

Langdridge, Darren (2008). Are you angry or are you heterosexual? A queer critique of lesbian and gay models of identity development. In: Moon, Lyndsey ed. Feeling Queer or Queer Feelings: Radical Approaches to Counselling Sex, Sexualities and Genders. London: Routledge, pp. 36–56.



In this chapter I offered a queer critique of dominant lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) coming-out models in use in counselling and psychotherapy today. I have sought to highlight the limitations of stage models of identity development, such as that of Cass, and provide a critical alternative that employs ideas from queer theory. To this end, I first outlined Cass's (1979) model of coming out. I then discussed the limitations of such a model, including the possibility of such a model leading to the premature foreclosure of the variety of lived experience amongst lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer people. I then introduced some fundamental ideas from queer theory and discussed how these provide a radical challenge to models which describe, and implicitly prescribe, a fixed identity and happy acceptance of the social world as the final (ideal) state of identity development. Finally, I introduced Ricoeur's (1970) notion of a hermeneutic of suspicion and how this might be a way--theoretically speaking--of employing queer theory in existential and humanistic psychotherapeutic practice. This radical move recognises and works with the knowledge of our situated positions as client and therapist and the impact of the social world on our understandings of self and others, while never subjugating the lived experience of the client to the political ambitions of the therapist. The aim of sexual identity development and the aim of affirmative psychotherapy are--from this perspective--no longer fixity and acceptance but rather ambiguity, recognising the need to resist binary categories of identity, personally and politically, and also anger at the endemic heterosexism and homonegativity that still exists in these late modern times. With this in mind, I must ask all counsellors and psychotherapists whether the end point of 'successful' identity development should be contentment, which is not only politically conservative but also boring, as is currently the norm, or anger at the heterosexism and homophobia still prevalent in contemporary culture.

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