ACA Blog

May 19, 2014


Something came to my attention recently. Again. I was reminded about the way our brains love to categorize, particularly in binary terms - black and white, tall and short, good and bad, right and wrong. It's understandable why we do it - such categorization gives us peace of mind, because once we place something or someone in a proper (or improper) box, we can make sense of it and move on. It's more difficult to place something or someone in a gray area or abandon categorization altogether, because it results in uncertainty, which leads to some sort of anxiety and discomfort.

From my observation of self and others, I've noticed binary thinking occur in regards to gay and lesbian couples. Our society has prescribed certain roles to each member - males are supposed to be masculine and females are supposed to be feminine. So how is it supposed to go among gay and lesbian couples? Certainly, there are gay couples, who seemingly fit into the binary categorization (e.g., one partner has very feminine gender expression and the other very masculine gender expression). However, that's often not the case. We may have two masculine men, two masculine women, two feminine women, and other varieties. Our binary thinking then results in a sense of lack - lack of feminine or masculine counterpart. To make sense of same-sex relationships, we thus ask a question, "Who is the girl/boy in your relationship?" Patient and understanding couples may respond, "No one;" others may either become annoyed (rightfully so), engage in a debate, or ignore us altogether.

LGBTQIA issues give us an opportunity to practice being in a gray area while yielding to anxiety, which expands our minds and perception. Same-sex relationships, in particular, can teach us that families or couples don't have to nor do they often succumb to the limited rules and expectations of our society. Each couple creates its own rules and gender roles, depending on what makes more sense, what is more effective, and what each person prefers. If you work with same-sex couples:

  • Be more mindful about your assumptions and expectations of gender roles.
  • Approach each couple like a blank slate and allow clients to paint their own picture of their relationship.
  • Avoid placing clients into feminine or masculine boxes or purposefully seeking characteristics that would qualify them for a specific box.
  • Acknowledge your possible uneasiness about couples not fitting into the binary categorization.
  • Remind yourself that within each person there exist both yin and yang, feminine and masculine forces of nature - there is no need to push anyone toward one or the other extreme unless one chooses to do so for him- or herself.

Evelyn Pavlova is a counselor and an Ally, whose preferred population is LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, invisible minority, asexual, and ally) individuals. Her areas of interest are eating disorders, mood disorders, mindfulness, and spirituality. Read more about her new counseling journey 

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