Maryna Didenko: “People do not choose their sexual orientation, they are born like this”
Kyiv radio host and psychologist Ivan Storchak and psychologist, coach, author of LGBT trainings for professionals (psychologists, doctors, journalists, social workers, police officers) Maryna Didenko had a conversation.
What are the types of sexual orientation?
Today, it is already known all over the world that there are three normal types of sexual orientation: heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality. In our country there are different opinions but, for example, in the United States, in the early 1970s, they came to the conclusion that homosexuality is not a disease but a normal variant of human sexual orientation.
Why does homosexuality remain a taboo subject in Ukraine?
In our country, for a long time there was no sex at all, and now we have had a sexual revolution, we are starting to talk about sex, about the manifestation of sexuality. We even try to introduce sexual education in schools ... This topic is developing, people start talking about it and are no longer afraid of expressing their feelings and their love. They want to live openly in an open world. For them, it is important to hold the loved one’s hand and walk with her/him along the street. Unfortunately, homosexual people cannot do it openly in Ukraine because there is a lot of discrimination, aggression and rejection. On the part of society, family. Ukrainian society is not ready for manifestations of different love.
What do you think needs to be done for society to change attitude to homosexuality for better?
First of all, you have to educate people. People are afraid of what they do not understand. We never talked about same-sex love at school. We have not read about it in books, have not seen it anywhere. Now it is very important that people get the right information about what homosexuality is. That it is not a disease, that it is a normal variant of human sexual orientation. That people do not choose their sexual orientation, they are born that way. They can't change that. A person does not wake up in the morning and does not choose what sexual orientation he/she is going to have today. This is not happening. It takes a very long time for some people to accept themselves. For some, it takes years and decades. Some people cannot accept themselves, sometimes they turn to psychologists. There are American studies that show that if the child cannot accept himself/herself when they reach teenage years, they become vulnerable to suicide behavior. There is a problem of alcoholism, drug addiction in adulthood, if a person cannot accept himself/herself.
Do parents need help when they find out about the sexual orientation of their child?
If it is a young child, a teenager who depends on parents, then they may use compulsory treatment, which is not helpful, because there is nothing to treat. Unfortunately, there are still such “specialists” in Ukraine who take advantage of the shock state of such parents.
Parents are traumatized, they are in distress. When a child is born, mother and father have some kind of projection of their child’s life. And when a child in Ukrainian society says that he/she is gay, lesbian, transgender, and so on, then the parent’s world falls apart at this moment. They go through stages that are very similar to the stages of experiencing grief and loss. First, the parent is in a state of shock, then the denial begins, then the feeling of guilt ... Someone turns to religion, someone talks to specialists, someone is sobbing for days. There is also a huge problem that you will not talk about this with anyone. You will never tell anyone about the homosexuality of your child and you are left alone with your emotions. Therefore, it is very hard and difficult ... And after passing through the stage of feeling guilty, they start expressing their feelings. They may have negative or positive emotions, but, most importantly, they have those emotions.
The next stage is decision making. Decisions may be different: accept your child, but, for example, never again talk about his/her personal life. The second option is a conflict that can drag on for many years, the third and the best option is to accept your child as he/she is.
What stages does gay, lesbian, transgender person go through while accepting themselves?
I want our listeners to understand that sexual orientation cannot be changed, it is impossible to wake up and get rid of what nature has given to you. Every LGBT person goes through a difficult period of acceptance and understanding themselves.
There are six stages of accepting yourself. For some they take several months, years, and for some their whole life. The first stage is doubt, when I understand that “for some reason I am different from others”. The second stage is comparison, when a person sees that his/her peers date representatives of the opposite sex, and for him/her this is not natural. The third stage is tolerance, when a person understands what is happening to him/her and to some extent agrees with this. Some stays at this stage, some go further and then we have the stage of internal acceptance of oneself. There are also fifth and sixth stages, but not all LGBT people are able to reach them. This is the stage of pride. When a person has accepted his/her homosexuality and wants to tell the world about it. At this stage, the coming outs are very often made. And the last stage, which, unfortunately, achieved by even less people. This is the stage of synthesis when the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity becomes unimportant in a person’s life. He/she has socialized, he or she has a loved one. Sexual orientation becomes secondary as it happens to heterosexual people. Because of aggression and discrimination, very few people reach the stage of pride, more often they are stuck at the stage of tolerance or even earlier stages.
Why do homosexual people need psychologist’s help?
As part of my work in a project funded by the French Foundation Sidaction, I have the opportunity to provide psychological support to gay men, which living with HIV and their partners, and also teach doctors to be more tolerant. I want society and colleagues to understand that homosexuality is not a reason to turn to a psychologist. That is, if a person is gay, it does not mean that he needs to go to a psychologist. They have issues because of pressure, because they cannot accept themselves, they are not accepted by society, by parents. And then a person starts having problems when he is not accepted the way he was born, for example through unsafe sexual practices, he can become an HIV positive person. And this can cause depression and some kind of anxiety. And then a psychologist can help them deal with it.
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