The Battle for Normality
A Dutch psychologist addresses the mystery behind homosexuality
BY Peter Sonski
July 12, 1998 Issue | Posted 7/12/98 at 1:00 PM
Gerard van den Aardweg PhD
Dr. Gerard van den Aardweg is a Dutch psychologist specializing in the field of homosexual therapy. Van den Aardweg, the author of several books, including two on the topic of homosexuality, has lectured on five continents. He spoke with Register assistant editor Peter Sonski during a recent U.S. visit.
Sonski: Doctor, how did you begin specializing in homosexual treatment?
Van den Aardweg: Many years ago, I had to write something for a professor in my studies about the life of Andre Gide, a French novelist who received the Nobel Prize for literature. He was a homosexual and a pedophile. He was, in fact, the forerunner of all present homosexual emancipation movements. He had the tragic courage to publish books on his trends—memoirs and diaries—and novels with homosexual content and presenting it as a normal thing in the '20s in France. He liked to provoke. It was the little boy in him; he really was a little boy.
The pedophile is the most clear example of the child in the adult. These people never become grown up. As a matter of fact, in one of his diaries, Andre Gide said it of himself, “I will always remain a little boy who wants to play and he is not allowed to play by his Calvinist mother.” This emotional problem had been with him his whole life. He stayed a child.
Why do people want the notion to get across that homosexuality is inborn?
If they say it is inborn then we can more easily propagate the idea that it is normal.
Of course, inborn is not identical with normal, and acceptable, but the public at large would think that if it is innate, then perhaps it is true that there are two kinds of people: heterosexuals and homosexuals. That is an argument for a political goal of equalizing homosexuality and heterosexuality. They want to promote unnatural sex in order to undermine and profoundly alter the traditional idea of marriage and family. That is behind it all.
The homosexuality emancipation movement has always existed, but it has gained a lot of momentum in the last 20 years by being adopted by much more powerful movements—population movements. That is the only reason, because homosexuality, which is only 1.5% to 2% of the population, would not have been that important.
It seems to me that if it is innate, it also would be unchangeable—that it is a genetic quality that can't be undone.
That's the second point. You're absolutely right. Innate would mean another type of person. That's the reason I do not like the expression “the homosexual person.” It is well meant, meaning he is a person—a human person with homosexual preferences, but not a homosexual person.
A person is heterosexual. So the concept of personhood is not linked with sexual deviation but with sexual normalcy. Biologically, there is no homosexual person; there is only a heterosexual person who has a mal-development, whose sexual instincts did not develop into maturity.
Are there specific traits that are characteristic in virtually all homosexuals?
Yes. In the first place, there is the concept of neurosis, which means that homosexuality is not an isolated thing. It is a symptom of an inferiority complex, a male inferiority complex or a female inferiority complex. Neurosis is any emotionality that is not adequate given the circumstances. Typical of neurotic people is a high level of personal insecurity [as well as] inner conflicts, emotional conflicts, depressive traits, psychosomatic problems. Also, in their sexual life, the compulsivity of sex is neurotic. The relationships are not stable, mature.
The second trait is infantilism. In every homosexual you may discover what is called the child in the adult. That is, in part, in his emotional life. People with inferiority complexes remain, emotionally speaking, children. You may distinguish between the normal side of the personality—the adult side—and the immature side. The immature side you see very clearly in homosexuals, in areas that have nothing to do with sexuality. In the '50s, Edmund Bergeler wrote several books on homosexuality. He was a psychoanalyst [with] many, many homosexuals in treatment. He said that homosexuals remained in the teen age. Emotionally they are teenagers. And I think that is correct.
The third part, though connected with the other things, is the trait of augmented self-centeredness in thinking and feeling and acting. Self-centeredness. This is a very important trait that has to do with neurosis. You have to be self-centered, ego-centered, and more than on the average.
But we have a very narcissistic society. Does that contribute to the existence of homosexuality?
Our society is feeding narcissism that is already there, and, on the other hand, many people who influence our society, like some homosexual people, inject it with narcissism, with the narcissistic culture.
If people would realize to what degree we are influenced and to what degree the models of new trends of thinking and doing and behaving and lifestyles, are in fact models made by neurotic people, they would be astonished. So many deviant people determine too much in our culture. They stamp our culture. Committed homosexuals do not want to change themselves, but they want to change society. Therefore they inject a large measure of narcissism and ego-centric kind of thinking and being hard. Self-centeredness leads to being hard on other people. It leads to a diminished capability of loving.
I didn't mean to get you off track. You were talking about the different points. I think we were up to number four.
Yes. The fourth trait [is] the specific homosexual complex of not being able to identify normally with your maleness or femaleness—the so-called identity problem.
And where does that stem from? What is the root of that?
Children compare with other children. A boy may feel in this comparison, or conclude for himself, “I am less boyish”; “I am not so sturdy”; “I'm not a sportsman”; “I'm not popular”; “I am a weakling”; “I have no daring.” These are all shades of masculinity.
Is this always a self analysis? Could it be the way he is treated by other peers that creates these conclusions or these judgments?
Then, what about parental influence?
Development is not the same in every case, but in general you see that at home the first layers of development are laid. So the peer group is the second phase, but it is the more decisive phase.
There are a lot of things within the family that may predispose this element. It is not to say that the exact or direct causes would lie in the family. No. The direct causes lie in the boy's inner development—the attitude that, “I am not like other boys. I am not manly and other boys do not like me and do not accept me. Men do not accept me. Men like my father or my brothers do not accept me as a man and I do not feel a man.”
So, he comes to avoid manly things. He feels “I'm a failure in that respect, so I won't participate in certain games.” He won't participate in rough and tumble games, in games of competition, in games of the normal, healthy sex.
What is the fifth trait?
An unconscious self-pity—feeling the loner in the group, not belonging to the world of men. I stress the words “not belonging.” That is central in childhood and teenage experiences of homosexuals. You might describe their inner drama like that—and it is always an inner drama. The child who feels ugly has an inner drama; so does the child who feels himself the outsider, or inferior. He develops self-pity.
Self-pity is the normal emotional reaction to overcome grief. We feel sorry for ourselves, we cry, we complain. The child or teenager does the same things. Every parent knows the tendency of teenagers to feel “dramatic,” to feel “tragic”: “I am the center of the world. When I am rejected or feel inferior, so I am also the tragic one.”
You add that qualification that it is an “unconscious” self pity. Do you mean unconscious in a sense that it is not chosen or that it is not recognized?
Both. In the first place it is not chosen. If we stumble on the street and perhaps break a leg, we will have the tendency to cry. There is some self-pity in it, but it is more physiological.
However, it is automatic that this crying comes out as a reaction. What is happening when we cry? Why has nature given this phenomenon of crying or complaining? It is to give yourself warmth; to comfort yourself. It is a kind of self-comfort. This is automatic so, as you said, you do not choose it.
But in the second place, it becomes a habit. Self pity—“poor me”—becomes a habit within the homosexual and then he does not recognize it. If you know homosexuals more personally you will discover that behind some—not in all—this is going on. They are always feeling slighted, rejected, not justly treated, wronged—“poor me.”
This self-pitying attitude may be generalized throughout many fields of life: “I caught a cold. I'm suffering so much. Oh, please do this for me, do that for me.” Also, in the context of “You didn't understand me.” “You left me alone.” And, as a consequence, there is much jealousy in the partnerships of homosexuals and also much more violence than in heterosexual relationships.
Are there any other traits that are common among homosexuals?
Homosexual men have in common the feeling that they are not manly, not identifying with manhood. And lesbians have the feeling of not being feminine enough.
How do these traits manifest themselves, or how is homosexuality manifested through these traits?
Homosexual sex itself, the sexual longing in itself, is [the response] of a boy who does not feel accepted and recognized by the males he adores. He is always seeking masculinity because he himself does not feel masculine enough. This is an idealization of the maleness of other boys and men, and going after it as a kind of self-comfort, and it is eroticized in puberty.
Everyone passes, in puberty, a phase of this kind of homosexuality. A boy may be attracted in some way or admire the boyishness, roughness, or already-mature manliness of other boys that he still doesn't have. If he feels inferior this will have great momentum; if not, it is a transitory thing.
Girls may gush over other girls in puberty, have a relationship with other girls, perhaps a close relationship with another friend in puberty. This is typical. When she feels accepted as a girl and confident as a little woman, a woman in the making, these close friendships will perhaps lead to some eroticization, but not very much and it is transitory. After a while they discover the far more interesting possibilities of being loved by a boy.
So this eroticizing of the longing for a manly friend—“who loves me”—is characteristic of the boy who develops a homosexual complex.
If a young man or a young woman is beginning to feel these types of homosexual tendencies and the culture sanctions it, effectively saying, “You're homosexual, but that's OK,” does that person now feel it's normal to be involved in that homosexual lifestyle?
It's a very plausible option to identify with homosexuality in that case, but he does not really feel it's normal. There is always some self-doubt. There is always the voice of his common sense or his conscience that tells him, “This is not normal.” But it is an option of what you might call laziness. You do not feel at home with people [you admire or desire to emulate]. So you have a tendency to avoid them and to seek comfort with people who are more kind to you. So, if I identify with my so-called homosexuality, I do not feel the necessity of having to cope with the kind of people who have to assume a role that is difficult, because I feel a failure in that role. So courage would be the solution in puberty. Real courage. It would be and it could be and I have seen cases where it has been the therapeutic thing.
How do other sexual deviancies compare to homosexuality? There are transvestites. There are people who seem excessively erotic, who have heterosexual tendencies but can't control them. And, there are the pedophiles, and those who seek sexual gratification in other abnormal ways. Are they at all comparable to homosexuality?
Yes. All of these people are sexually neurotic, like homosexuals, and they belong essentially in the same category. All of them had a problem with their masculinity. If a boy in puberty, for instance, is teased by his comrades [or] treated as a girl because he is not so courageous, then you can understand he feels excluded from the boyhood community.
When a boy feels humiliated by girls in puberty, especially by beautiful girls, or the girls he thinks are very feminine, maybe he starts with a longing for being accepted especially by beautiful girls. So his fantasies and longings will be of the boy who wants to be recognized in his masculinity by girls. He, also, has an inferiority feeling and wants his masculinity to be reinforced by the recognition of girls.
In his fantasies and masturbation practices—we did not talk about that yet, but it is highly important in puberty and is a subject that is a non-subject in our culture—but in masturbation you can feed childish fantasies, and, after feeding them many years they become a drive in themselves, so there is much to the so-called “old-fashioned” idea that you should avoid masturbation in puberty as a habit. I think some people would never have become homosexuals if they had not, as teenagers, had these fantasies and masturbation practices.
The boy, longing for acceptance by these beautiful girls with attractive figures, is becoming in his mind, and later on perhaps, in practice, a woman chaser who is never satisfied and who is never coming to mature love but only to this teenage or adolescent pattern of “Please recognize me.” This is completely self-centered.
The transvestite is in this same vein. We have not analyzed transvestites, but I have had them in treatment and it is exactly the same. The pedophile is the boy who, in his puberty and childhood, didn't so much idolize masculine boys, but who felt excluded from the boyhood society. I mean that age before puberty when a boy does not yet have masculine traits. These kinds of boys may not have been adventurous. So he starts admiring other boys and wants to play with them. That's all there is to the pedophile neurosis.
The culture, or at least homosexual activists, have come to use the term “gay” for male homosexuality. But in many respects it sounds like the reality is just the opposite of the classic meaning of joyfulness. Any thoughts on that?
In his contacts with other men, a homosexual sometimes wants to play out what he never could in his childhood. This gives this picture of gayness. “Now I'm living,” a homosexual told me—a 35-year-old man, with a normal position in society. He found it very interesting, in the middle of the night after drinking with his homosexual friends, to roam the streets and to kick the garbage cans on the ground, and to push door bells and things like that, and have fun. As a child, this man had been very much restricted and never playful.
This “gayness” is a game and is what you see in many committed homosexuals, that they play roles. They are artificial. They're not themselves. If they would be themselves you would know them how they really are. They are a different person. So my contention is that, inwardly, a homosexual is never a happy, stable person. There is always some chagrin, some inner chagrin that he takes with him.
Personal: Native and resident of the Netherlands; studied psychology at Leiden University and received a doctorate at Amsterdam University; psychologist in private practice since 1962. Background: Has conducted exhaustive research and lectured extensively on neurosis and homosexuality; teaches courses to parents, pastors, and physicians throughout Europe; holds weekends of therapy for homosexuals in Germany; member of the (U.S.) National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuals; author of several books, including Homosexuality and Hope: On the Origins and Treatment of Homosexuality, and The Battle for Normality: A Guide for Self-Therapy of Homosexuality.
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