Gender Preference as Psychological Immaturity

To label h**lity [abbreviated to avoid blocking] as "sin" is Biblically accurate, but not helpful to those afflicted with this disorder. Overcoming sin of any type requires some understanding of what motivates it and what mind-sets and actions will lead to mastering it.

A fundamental mandate of Christianity is that we "advance steadily towards the completeness and perfection that belongs to spiritual maturity" (Hebrew 6:1, Amplified Bible). In this context, sin is a symptom of immaturity. Overcoming sin is part of the maturation process. Let us examine in what way h**lity reflects immaturity, and so in what direction maturity lies.

Sigmund Freud's (1935)
"Letter to an American Mother"
Dear Mrs....

I gather from your letter that your son is a h**l. I am most impressed by the fact that you do not mention this term yourself in your information about him. May I question you, why you avoid it? h**lity is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function produced by a certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been h**ls, several of the greatest men among them (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.). It is a great injustice to persecute h**lity as a crime, and cruelty too. If you do not believe me, read the books of Havelock Ellis.

By asking me if I can help, you mean, I suppose, if I can abolish h**lity and make normal het**lity take its place. The answer is, in a general way, we cannot promise to achieve it. In a certain number of cases we succeed in developing the blighted germs of het**l tendencies which are present in every h**l, in the majority of cases it is no more possible. It is a question of the quality and the age of the individual. The result of treatment cannot be predicted.

What analysis can do for your son runs in a different line. If he is unhappy, neurotic, torn by conflicts, inhibited in his social life, analysis may bring him harmony, peace of mind, full efficiency whether he remains a h**l or gets changed. . . .

Sincerely yours with kind wishes,

Anna Freud, daughter of Sigmund Freud, and a leading psychoanalyst in her own right, addressed the subject of h**lity. Here are some of her observations [edited to avoid jargon and abbreviated]:

Infants, at the beginning of life, choose their objects of attraction on the basis of function, not of sex. The normal infant, whether male or female, has attachments to both male and female figures. Although in the strict sense of the term the infant is neither het**l nor h**l, he can also be described as being both.

Hans was a h**l (as all children may very well be), quite consistently with the fact, which must always be kept in mind, that he was acquainted with only one kind of sexual organ - a genital organ like his own (S. Freud, 1909).

["One may attribute to every child, without wronging him, a bit of the h**l disposition." S. Freud, About Psychoanalysis, 1909]

In preadolescence and in adolescence, finally, h**l episodes are known to occur more or less regularly and to exist side by side with het**l ones without being in themselves reliable prognostic signs. Adolescent partnerships formed on these grounds display all the outward signs of h**l object love and are frequently accepted as true pre-stages of adult h**lity. But they are self-love phenomena which belong to the varied self-contradictory symptomatology of adolescence, and they are more significant as pointers to the depth of regression to the ambivalence of early childhood than as prognostic indicators for the individual's future sexual role.

The analysis of adult h**ls traces back manifestations of h**lity to their infantile roots:

  1. the infant's bisexuality;

  2. the individual's self-love which creates the need to choose a sexual partner in the image of himself;

  3. the attempt to avoid genuine sexuality;

  4. overestimation of body features of either mother or father as the focus of sexuality;

  5. the influence of excessive love for and dependence on either mother or father or extreme hostility to either of them;

  6. traumatic observations of sexually-related activities;

  7. jealousy of rival brothers/sisters who are subsequently turned into love objects.

Notwithstanding such numerous and well-documented links between infantile past and adult present, the reasoning cannot be reversed and cannot be used for the early spotting of h**l development in children. What finally may encourage development in one or the other sexual direction are the purely chance happenings such as accidents, seductions, illnesses, objects of infantile attraction lost through death, the ease or difficulty of finding a het**l object of attraction in adolescence, etc.

  1. Het**l and h**l strivings compete with each other quantitatively during the whole of childhood. Whatever promotes het**lity checks h**lity to a corresponding degree. [How this happens is not always obvious: for boys, neither "playing with boys" nor "playing with girls" promotes h**lity by itself. It is the type of play and its context that is relevant.]

  2. The very intensity of fear of loss of male sex organs, which causes some males to avoid women and to become h**l, acts in others as a barrier against h**lity.

  3. While unresisted regression to early childhood fixation on the anus promotes passive feminine h**l attitudes in the male, the reactions against anality, especially disgust, effectively block the path to h**lity, or at least to its manifest expression.

  4. Finally, the "tendency to complete development" and "biological reasonableness" make individuals prefer het**lity to other sexualities.

On the whole, the balance between het**lity and h**lity during the whole period of childhood is so precarious, and the scales are so readily tipped in one direction or the other by a multitude of influences, that the opinion still holds good that a person's final sexual attitude is not decided until after puberty (S. Freud, 1915).

The Writings of Anna Freud, Volume VI, 1965. New York: International Universities Press Inc. pp. 184-197

From Anna Freud's remarks, it is clear that h**lity represents an immature state of development in which aspects of childhood, particularly fears and fixations, are carried forward into adulthood.

Sigmund Freud's comment that "a person's final sexual attitude is not decided until after puberty" suggests that, ultimately, sexual attitudes are under the control of the adult. We are no more forced into h**lity than we are into a life of crime.

When pathological psychological disorders mimic immature behavior, (e.g., as kleptomania mimics theft or verbal ticks mimic cussing or Alzheimer's patients mimic infants), then those suffering such afflictions merit our sympathy, aid and prayers. But we try to help those patients to recover from that behavior, and to prevent others from coming into that same state. So it is with cases of pathological h**lity.

Verbal condemnation of, or physical violence against, h**ls do not accord with Christian love nor do they aid the h**l. They merely add more trauma to the heavy load such individuals already carry. What Christians can provide are willing ears and positive role models of mature het**l relationships.

The most effective therapy is self-therapy. Often this is best performed by explaining in detail, carefully, slowly, painstakingly to another what our problems and perspectives are. The other person needs to listen closely, occasionally to ask salient questions, to encourage us to make decisions and to hold us accountable for our own decisions. But the other person rarely needs to provide answers. This forces us to listen to ourselves, to understand ourselves, to make decisions for ourselves and to act on those decisions. This is the road to maturity.

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