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When asked in class to draw a picture of a memory or event from childhood that had some emotional significance, the image that surfaced immediately was one that Ive carried with me for many years, turning it over, looking at it through various lenses and theories, and returning to it at different stages of life, always trying to figure out how it has formed me and whether or not I can ever escape its powerful grasp: Im standing in front of my fathers desk, in my pajamas, looking up towards him as he remains absorbed in his work. He either doesnt notice me, or doesnt acknowledge my presence; Im about five or six years old, and feel intense anger, hurt, sadness and confusion about my father and how he treats me. My mind cant figure it out, but my emotions are propelling me towards a kind of final confrontation with him that will (it seems to my childish mind) forever determine my sense of myself in relationship to him. Seen through the lens of Freudian theory, as described in Freud and Beyond (Mitchell & Black, 1995), I was beginning my transition into the phallic stage of psychosexual development (p. 13). According to Freudian theory, I was becoming more genitally aware, and as a female, beginning to notice my lack of a penis in comparison with my fathers possession of one. This realization triggered my sexual and instinctual drives to focus on my father and crave his approval, wanting to be seen by him as I stood in front of his big --phallic-- desk and allowed access into that hallowed, superior male world. I was, from a Freudian perspective, trying to resolve my Oedipus

complex (1995, p. 15). According to Freud, my instinctual and sexual drives would lead me to turn away from my mother at this stage, and try to seduce my father. If all went well, in terms of normal (heterosexual) development, I would eventually accept my failure to gain my fathers sexual attentions, and return to identifying with my mother; Id learn to accept my lesser, female status by substituting penis envy with the desire to become pregnant (by my father), and later transferring that desire onto an alternative male partner (1995, pp. 15-16). After I showed my drawing to the class, Doug commented that my difficult, complicated feelings about parental approval should be seen and reflected on through the lens of LGBT awareness. He suggested that I consider my childhood development and some of my negative experiences with my parents -- like not being seen and feeling invisible -- as a result of having gone through the Oedipal stage as a non-heterosexual girl, without models of attachment that fit my internal sexuality and identity. Although Id thought a lot about my childhood and this event in particular, from a therapeutic and psychodynamic perspective, it struck me that there was something very rich and untapped in that LGBT emotional terrain (Sadownick, Personality Theory 1: Lecture, Antioch University, Los Angeles, Summer Quarter, 2011). Unlike a heterosexual female, I wasnt expressing erotic urges and drives towards my father, but for my mother, for whom I had incredibly intense feelings of erotic love. I didnt have any models or mirroring for this kind of feeling towards a female, and was forced by my mother into expressing love towards my father, instead. My sense of disconnect when this was expected of me might be explained by my emerging Lesbian identity what a girl is supposed to do is (sexually) love her father;

what I actually felt was a desire to be valued by him (seen) as an equal, while smoldering with jealous rage towards him as a sexual rival for my mother. Freud described this, somewhat pejoratively, as a negative Oedipus complex (Mitchell & Black, 1995, p. 15). I never wanted to be a boy, and I didnt feel (hetero)sexual urges for my father, but I did envy what the males in my family were given so freely: the right to express erotic desire for women and to be highly valued (and seen) for that expression. No wonder my relationship with my parents (and my brothers) was -- and remains -- so confusing. I was a girl who acted (unconsciously and instinctually) more like a boy, in terms of my psychosexual development. My family members responded to me as they would have to a heterosexual girl, a normal female, but I reacted to them very differently than expected. What a mess: Oedipus is a Lesbian!


Mitchell, S. and Black, M. 1995. Freud and Beyond: A History of Modern Psychoanalytic Thought. Basic Books: New York.

Sadownick, D. Personality Theory 1: Lecture. Antioch University, Summer Quarter, 2011.

I didnt want to be a boy, and I didnt want to have sex with my father, but I did envy what the males in my family were given so freely: the right to express desire towards females and to be highly valued (validated and seen) for that desire. No wonder my relationship with both of my parents (and my brothers) was and is -- so confusing. I was a girl who acted (unconsciously and instinctually) more like a boy, in terms of my psychosexual development. My family responded to me as to a heterosexual girl, and I reacted to them very differently. From a Freudian perspective, my unconscious is still repressing memories of these conflicts, and it continues to affect my sense of value and worth in the world. I hold onto feelings of being somehow wrong and less than and unseen from my infantile sexual stages and early childhood development, and those unresolved feelings propel me into certain actions and behaviors, while I remain unaware of whats actually driving those choices and preferences. This could explain the conflict I often feel between my strong sense of self and comfortable identity as a lesbian, and the intense shame, rage, and confusion that I often feel when interacting with my father and brothers, even after years of therapy.

I have to resolve not only my Oedipal crisis but also the lack of congruence and models of attachment for my form of sexual expression and identity.

My mother used to cajole me to be more affectionate to your father, and I would cringe inwardly, almost in disgust, refusing to do it. I wanted him to reach for me, not the other way around. Right about this time, my little brother was born, and I became the middle child, the only girl between two boys. My parents valued and validated my brothers in many subtle and overt ways that caused me pain; I could see how the possession of a penis gave them both access to parental (and especially my fathers) approval, that my anatomy did not allow. It made me furious, confused, and sad. When I tried to identify more with my mother, however, I remember feeling a profound conflict as I struggled to imagine being her, as a wife to a man like my father, and again inwardly cringing with disgust and horror. I knew that I could never be like that, so who was I to identify with? I was never going to be given male privilege or be seen by my father in the way that I craved, and wasnt comfortable emulating my mothers role, so where was my model of attachment and sexual identity?