JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS
Who Am I?
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D
I watched a six-part tv series on LGBT history from the 1950s to the present. It was interesting with a small amount of new information, and I am very happy these kinds of programs are helping to inform and educate people about the, mostly unknown, history of this population. As a member of this group, I was a little disappointed and realized every story is told from a particular perspective. Much of this was not mine. This really made me think about how history of any kind is a general reporting from different vantage points. Each person has their own experience of how history is made in their personal sphere.
The people, groups, and activities that helped me to find myself as a Lesbian woman and develop a positive sense of identity were not mentioned. I was reminded of my personal history of learning about sexuality and the sexual self or different lifestyles. It was mostly non-existent in my Catholic upbringing. Nothing was ever mentioned in school or at home. I had the obligatory medical explanation of sex from my mother, a nurse. The only things ever mentioned in school were about not having anything remotely to do with affection, touch, or sexual expression as it was immoral and, as a female, I could get pregnant. Not very helpful.
As a Catholic nun for 11 years, I was taught to assiduously avoid “particular friendships”, a euphemism for romantic, exclusive, attractions primarily to the same sex.
The only confidential conversations I could have were with priests in confession. Not helpful! I eventually was sent to a psychologist because of depression and, though he was extremely helpful in many ways, he told me that my attraction to women was only because I was in an all-female environment and I was transferring my feelings from men to women and I was not homosexual.
I left the convent and married, desiring a family and children, and not being gay, of course. I completed a Master’s degree in Counseling, we adopted a child, and something was still horribly wrong. I revisited my earlier confusion about sexual preference and myself as a sexual and relational being in counseling. At age thirty-five, I came out as a Lesbian woman. What helped me was being in the Kansas City Women’s Chorus, going to the women’s bookstore, a place of gathering and connection, and going to women’s concerts with all women performers who were Lesbian women singing about our lives. I was also a part of the women’s movement working for equal rights and personal safety as a Lesbian feminist. None of this was covered in the documentaries.
I am asking you to think about your personal history as you experienced it. Think about telling your story from your perspective. One way to do this is to think about writing a memoir. This is an activity of self-reflection that brings creative expression to your life. A memoir is part of your story, a collection of experiences, memories, or events. It is not an autobiography. It may be looking at themes, lessons you have learned and can share with others. It is story-telling. Everyone’s story is different. Doing this can be fun, and healing, both mentally and physically.
Looking for themes is helpful. Look at defining moments, people, interests, and activities you come back to in various ways. One of the requirements for my application to a doctoral program was to write an autobiography of one’s personal, educational, and professional history. This was difficult and took me many months to complete. I was amazed to see the recurring themes and interests. This can be so helpful and enlightening to you as you review your life with a different lens.
Each time we go through a developmental shift, we almost always do a life review. We look at where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. This is helpful and healthy. One of the programs that helps people ask the questions and begin to tell their stories is Story Corps. It was begun to help preserve the stories of our times in America. On their website: www.storycorps.org/participate/great-questions there are categories like ‘Great Questions for Anyone, Friends or Colleagues, Grandparents, Parents, Growing Up, School and Teachers, Relationships, Working, Religion, Serious Illness, Family Heritage, Remembering a Loved One’ and other topics. This would help get you started.
Telling your story from your perspective can be a great activity for you, a gift to your family, friends, and colleagues. It is a wonderful way for you to remember yourself and how you arrived at where you are now, to appreciate yourself, and claim your own personal sense of your various identities. Knowing our history helps us grow, enjoy the moment and look forward to the future more hopefully. Try it and you may like it.
Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor and educator. She is the author of the “Life Weaving Education Curriculum” that teaches creative, effective problem-solving. For counseling appointments (confidential video or in-person sessions), seminars, speaking engagements, or information on Life Weaving, Neurobehavioral Programs, or Imago Relationship Therapy call