Jungian templates for contemporary gay men; or "what does Mary want with that bear and what's the diva dishing?".
Abstract: Using Jung's archetypes, one can derive models of gender specific behavior for gay men. While not necessarily endorsing the existence of a priori universals, we suggest that these archetypal templates are socially constructed models of behavior. Further, just as many within the mythopoetic movement have used various mythic themes like the Wild Man, King Warrior, Magician, and Lover for heterosexual men; we suggest that mythic themes can also be used to guide gay men. These models/guides are discussed as well as clinical implications for therapists.

Key Words: Jungian archetypes, sexual orientation, masculinity, gay men, therapeutic guides
Subject: Gays (Health aspects)
Gays (Psychological aspects)
Gays (Social aspects)
Psychologists (Research)
Parents of gays
Homosexuality (Political aspects)
Homosexuality (Social aspects)
Homosexuality (Psychological aspects)
Stereotype (Psychology) (Psychological aspects)
Stereotype (Psychology) (Social aspects)
Authors: DeVoll, Michael G.
Blazina, Christopher
Pub Date: 09/22/2002
Publication: Name: The Journal of Men's Studies Publisher: Men's Studies Press Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2002 Men's Studies Press ISSN: 1060-8265
Issue: Date: Fall, 2002 Source Volume: 11 Source Issue: 1
Topic: Event Code: 290 Public affairs; 310 Science & research
Product: Product Code: 8043300 Psychologists NAICS Code: 62133 Offices of Mental Health Practitioners (except Physicians) SIC Code: 8049 Offices of health practitioners, not elsewhere classified
Persons: Named Person: Jung, Carl Gustav
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 94077707
Full Text: Some of the most passionate political arguments today center around gay and lesbian issues. In the past few years, we have seen public referenda on gay marriage defeated, protests over company policies for domestic partner benefits, court battles over adoptions by gay and lesbian couples, and heated debate over the law enforcement of hate crimes related to homophobia. Additionally, we have witnessed several high-profile murder cases involving gay victims. Counselors, psychologists, and other mental health professionals (for simplicity, henceforth referred to as "therapists'') need to be equipped to help gay men and lesbians cope with the myriad issues that could arise as a result of their sexual orientation.

Hopcke (1989) suggests that gay people must carry the burden of going through a special psychological process of self-consciousness in both their sexual and emotional development. This is due in large part to the lack of models for homosexual self-image and relationship. The exploration of the sexual identity starts with the basic questions of "Who am I, and why am I this way?" These questions can cause such inner turmoil when asked by a gay youth because we live in a culture focused upon heterosexuality as the norm. This can lead to the internalized message that being gay is wrong, perverse, immoral, or deviant. Some of the ways that the resulting turmoil manifests itself includes poor self-acceptance, extreme sensitivity to being misunderstood, social withdrawal, poor school attendance or performance, substance abuse, participation in prostitution or pornography, running away from home, and suicide ideation and/or attempts (McDonald & Steinhorn, 1990). When underlying issues are not resolved, difficulties may also continue into adulthood. McDonald and Steinhorn (1990) suggest that there are societal pressures that increase lesbian and gay men's susceptibility to alcohol and drug abuse that have been estimated to be as high as 33 percent, as compared to 10 to 12 percent for the general population. Similarly, Simonsen, Blazina, and Watkins (2000) recently found that gay men who felt conflicted about adhering to stereotypical male gender roles were more likely to have symptoms of depression and anxiety. While there is a dearth of research about how gay men adjust to societal pressures of a largely heterosexual-focused culture, historically we know that it was only in the past 30 years that the American Psychiatric Association suggested that being gay was not a mental illness. Further, theorists from Freud onward have seen homosexuality as largely a regressed state of immature functioning. With these notions still a part of cultural lore, gay men need to have positive models to emulate. We believe that therapists need to be aware of potential positive templates in an effort to share them with clients.

In order for the therapist to be of assistance, there must also be an understanding of sexual orientation, both what it is and where it comes from. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer or explanation for either of these questions. However, by examining notions inspired by Jungian theory, some assistance is provided in understanding the psychological process of gay individuation. In particular our focus is upon Jung's use of archetypes. Most evident is the mythopoetic movement's use of this Jungian notion that includes Robert Bly's "Wild Man" (1990), Jungian analyst Robert Johnson's (1988) use of the Warrior, and Moore and Gillette's (1990) use of the notion of psychic integration. Each of these theorists use the Jungian inspired perspective, claiming their models are derived from archetypes, universals, or a priori templates to which all humankind can relate. Even if one calls into question the existence of archetypes, each of the theorists mentioned above use myth and mythology as templates for men's gender roles. That is, the way that myth is interpreted leads to a prescriptive notion for how men should conduct themselves, be it Bly's Wild Man or Moore and Gillette's integrated King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover. This use of mythos is historically consistent with what humankind has done over the course of its existence, that is, derive models for "appropriate" behavior from the stories of heroes, villains, demi-gods, and the like. What we suggest here is that just as Jungian templates derived from mythic stories guide heterosexual men, so too can gay men use templates. So, in short, gay men need descriptive and prescriptive models as well. In this paper we present some possible templates for gay men using the Jungian notion of individuation, which stresses integration of stereotypical masculine and feminine characteristics. We will focus on gay men to the exclusion of lesbians with the realization that although the individuation process may be similar, it would be better dealt with separately.


To examine gay individuation from a Jungian perspective, it is necessary to have some basic understanding of Jung's concept of the collective unconscious and archetypes. Jung built on Freud's concept of the unconscious by dividing it into two distinct parts. The more superficial, individual component he referred to as the "personal unconscious" and the deeper more universal aspect he called the "collective unconscious" (Jung, 1959/1969). In terms of the latter, Jung saw this as universal and common to all people. He also saw the collective unconscious as being composed of archetypes--symbolic figures that were a priori templates for human behavior. So these archetypes are symbolic types of characters or personalities that populate our collective unconscious and can potentially guide our behavior as we identify with them.

We acknowledge that some claim "archetypal" material is derived from universals; however, we are mostly interested in them as a product of social construction and therefore will refer to them in the spirit of "templates." That is, these are models that cultures create to provide guidance for their people. Many of the mythopoetic writers have taken myths, reinterpreted them beyond their original contextual meanings, and then subsequently developed templates for men's gender roles. With that said, it does not, however, diminish their use on the cultural level. Whether one is of the belief that these templates are taken from a universal collective or a socially constructed descriptive and prescriptive model, both approaches lead us to the same place; we use these models to guide our gender-specific behavior. These can be used as psychological guides for the individual, in this case "how to be a man," or cultural templates as guides to resolve social tension (Blazina, 1997). Archetypal templates provide blueprints for both.

However, before looking at the role these archetypal templates play in gay men's lives, it is important to briefly examine the Jungian notion of homosexuality. Jung seemed to believe that straight men would identify with their personas as they are socially and culturally observed or biologically defined, whereas gay men would instead identify with their anima or feminine aspect (Downing, 1989). Jung dealt very little with homosexuality in any direct way, but others have examined his views. For instance, Hopcke (1989) explores Jung's writings over the course of his career to see the maturation of his view of homosexuality. He then proposes four attitudes that Jung held regarding homosexuality: (1) homosexuality ought not to be a concern of legal authorities; (2) homosexuality is best understood when put in a historical and cultural context; (3) an individual's homosexuality should be distinguished from other aspects of the individual's personality; and (4) an individual's homosexuality has a meaning peculiar to the individual in question, and psychological growth consists of becoming aware of that meaning for the individual.

From these four attitudes, Hopcke proposes three Jungian assumptions/theories of homosexuality: (1) homosexuality is nearly always a result of a particular relationship with the feminine, (2) homosexuality may result from an incomplete detachment from the original archetype of the Hermaphrodite, and (3) homosexual orientation is determined by genetic or biological factors (i.e., constitutional homosexuality). A problem with the first two statements is that they present homosexuality only as the result of maladaptive integration of the gay man's feminine side, a problem in need of a solution. Instead, what should be considered is that being gay is a normal variation within the developmental continuum.

Hopcke examines other Jungian theorists' and therapists' ideas on homosexuality and also concludes there is a trend in treating homosexuality as pathological or as a state of psychological immaturity. Hopcke finds that what is all too often found in "first generation" Jungian thought is "a stereotype in psychological guise" (p. 96), presenting gay men as over-identified with their feminine aspects, who feel compelled to pursue a tentative form of masculinity based on sexuality. Although there has been some movement away from this homophobic perspective, most therapists and theorists still practice it. When dealing with gay men, the problem is not resolving their sexual orientation, but helping them to come to their own individuation within a culture that does not necessarily support it.

Most of contemporary Jungian discussion of gay men also centers around their relationship to their anima or other archetypes like the puer aeternus, the Divine Child, and the senex, the Old Man. Hopcke takes all of this discussion into consideration and then presents a new theory in which sexual orientation is determined through a complex interaction of the archetypal templates of the masculine, the feminine, and the Androgyne. Hopcke strives to make clear that this is not a simple process to evaluate. Rather, these templates are integrated, then actualized and acted upon both physically and emotionally with another man. He doesn't see gay men's sexuality as simply a flight from womanhood, an identification with the feminine, or an androgynous acting out. This is also more consistent with current Jungian thought. In their book Transforming Sexuality (1994), Ann and Barry Ulanov note that each of us must deal with the archetypes that are opposite to our conscious gender identity. It is our own unique style of the integration of these opposites that give us our own individual make up. Hopcke just adds the third archetype of the Androgyne to the mix as the bridge between masculine and the feminine archetypes. He sees archetypal roots in this androgyny and looks to Jung's characterization of the Hermaphrodite as an important theoretical tool. In the individuation process of gay men, he sees this third component as absolutely necessary because of the different relationship (as opposed to heterosexual men) to the psychosocial definitions of masculinity and femininity (1989).


So the task now is two-fold: to see how standard Jungian archetypes might function in Hopcke's modified theory involving three archetypal templates, and to see if other more contemporary gay archetypes might be developed for application to this theory. When examining traditional sexual archetypes as explored by Jungian theorists, the problem of heterosexism is often seen. This lingering heterosexism can be seen in Ann and Barry Ulanovs' discussion of "The Animal/Animus as Complex," where they tell of the results of a client who had been "gay bashed." The client afterwards physically gained weight and "stood more solidly." Emotionally, they describe the client as wearing his "gay manhood" more on the inside rather than publicly, "as something substantial in his identity, not a theatrical facade" (p. 34). They say he now looked like someone who could not be picked on. "He had learned a terrible lesson--that savage reaction to unintegrated feminine elements in him had nearly cost him his life, but ultimately had saved it by what it taught him" (p. 34). This man's failure to conform to societal gender roles is presented as the problem instead of the fear, terror, and violence perpetrated on gay men by a homophobic society. It is the gay man who must "become more integrated" (i.e., must not act so queer), not the criminal who must become more accepting and less violent. This fails to take into account the widely held belief that "homophobia derives, in part, from heterosexuals' fear and anxiety about their own sexuality--fear about the homosexual desire that might exist within their own psyches [and gay bashing is their] impulse to externalize those homosexual activities" (Harper, 1992, p. 64).

The Ulanovs' homophobic attitude is also seen in their book The Witch and the Clown: Two Archetypes of Human Sexuality (1987) in the chapter on "The Witch in Men." Here they posit men's fear of the witch brings about a defense mechanism of avoiding women, thereby choosing the homosexual route as the least dangerous route, only to be touched from a distance in anonymous sexual contacts. This presents the stereotype of the gay man as only a sexual creature having unfulfilling anonymous sex.


It is possible to take some of the traditionally held archetypes and place them in Hopcke's model. For instance, Ulanovs' description of the feminine archetype of the Witch template includes hidden ambitions, the possession of secret knowledge and powerful spells, and a cackling revenge. Instead of being the one who makes a gay man flee from women, she could be seen as the one who teaches him the way to entice another man, and the one who drives him toward his sexual ambitions or helps him react to the one who spurns his advances.

The same process of reframing could be undertaken with the masculine template of the Clown. The Ulanovs characterize the Clown as one who is in a costume of vivid colors, uses slapstick surrealism and swoops of laughter, while personifying the worst and most hidden feelings of inferiority. Refrained in this new theory, the clown would be the masculine part of the gay man who is concerned with how he is perceived by others, the one who must be dressed just so and must have a certain body type. In short, he is concerned with a particular image. But he is also the one that can be easily hurt by other's words and opinions. His "slapstick surrealism" is evidenced in many forms of "camp" that are seen in the gay community. Camp is the performance of any number of outrageously exaggerated culturally stereotypical gender roles. These are often androgynous, like drag queens, but can also be ultra-masculine stereotypes in any type of performance situation.

Although there seem to be few androgynous traditional archetypes, these can also be put into Hopcke's theory. Jung (1959/1969) describes the archetype of the Trickster as having a fondness for jokes and malicious pranks and being a shapeshifter. Doty (1995) expands on this with his description of the lunar trickster, in which the lunar is often equated with the female or anima. As a bridge between the masculine and feminine, this androgynous lunar trickster can fill the third role in this new model with humor, but also could be the source of frustration through his pranks. This is the type that fools those people who are concerned with very traditional, structured gender roles, but is also the one who feels the oppression of the culture in an all too often brutal way.

Other Jungian archetypes, such as the Mother and the Hero, can fit in the model as well. The Mother would be the gay man's desire for comfort and care or his desire to give such. This can be a self-soothing function that allows for self-care and as well as sharing nurturing comfort with others. The Hero would be the gay man's longing for someone to save him or his need to save others. Hopcke (1989) is clear to point out that there are polarities of dominance and submission within the masculine.

Also within the masculine archetype, Hopcke looks at the puer-senex relationship, typical of many gay relationships involving a younger man (the puer aeternus, or Divine Child) and the older man (the senex, or the Old Man). Of this, he discusses the relationship as an initiatory one in which the younger man can come to know himself through an erotic bond with the older man. They need to do this because they "have been robbed of their masculine self through social values and stereotypes which deny that they are men at all" (p. 172).

Although this reframing of traditional archetypes could be a valuable tool for therapists, it is also valuable to look for some new templates that could be applied specifically to gay men. Taking a cue from gay male culture and slang, a feminine archetype could be represented by the "Queen." She is the one who is in need of worship and praise and is used to getting her way. She commands attention and can have some attributes of the Witch, with a sharp tongue and one who is not to be trifled with. Sometimes she takes the form of the Bitchy Queen--the "prissy" gay man who takes on culturally traditional ultra-feminine mannerisms and has a sharp tongue and an acid wit. In pop culture, this archetype can be seen in the character Jack from the NBC series "Will & Grace." With his acid tongue, quick comebacks and "effeminate" mannerisms, Jack is the ultimate Queen. There is also the sub-type of the Gym Queen--the outwardly feminine yet very muscular man. In gay lingo the Queen is sometimes referred to as Mary, sister, girl or girlfriend, missy, or simply by female pronouns.

Building on this royal language, a masculine archetype could be represented by the "King." He is the one who has control, authority, and power and is seen as the acme of masculinity (again, in a culturally stereotypical form). Hopcke sees representations of this archetype in gay erotica where there is an expression of contemporary gay consciousness much in the same way folktales express important psychological themes in folk culture in which tales were told. These roles include the bear (usually a large, hirsute man), a uniformed man, the jock, the all-American young man, or any other of the many culturally stereotypical ultra-masculine roles. The whole line-up of the Village People is a virtual roll call of King archetypes.

For the androgynous archetype, an ideal character would be the drag queen, for our purposes referred to as the "Diva." This is a man performing as a woman in a very glamorous, theatrical way. It is not that they want to be women, therefore not transsexuals, or that they just want to wear women's clothes, therefore not transvestites. The perfect example offs archetype is gender-bender RuPaul, accessing the cultural expressions of women to push the boundaries of what is "man" and what is "woman." This is something that gay men (or any homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered person) must do every day. They challenge what it means in our society to be men, but each one does it in a different way, depending on how he has actualized these three archetypes in his persona. And since the individuation process is unique to each person, there is no one pattern that will be followed; rather, there will be as many paths of individuation as there are masculinities within the gay community. This may be in keeping with Pleck's (1981) notion that we need not speak of masculine but rather masculinities. In the same way this notion of pluralism can be found in the gay community. The templates discussed here point in that direction. Perhaps one of the challenges is affirming this multiplicity within the gay community, as well as helping heterosexual therapists who work with gay men appreciate these different tracks of individuation as legitimate.


With the rising numbers of openly gay men, therapists need to be equipped to help these men with the issues associated with living a life that does not fit the norm of our culture. They can do this by using both traditional archetypal templates and the new gay ones presented here. Therapists must be self-aware and realize that they may still be too quick to jump to the oversimplification that gay men are simply immature and not fully developed, with some overwrought mother complexes. They must be willing to step outside of the traditional heterosexual viewpoint that being gay is a sign of deviance or emotional regression. With this sensitive awareness, they can help the gay man realize that his sexual orientation is not the result of a problematic integration of his feminine side or a mis-projection of his masculine side. Rather, it is a normal variation of the complex relationship of his masculine, feminine, and androgynous aspects at work in his psyche and a response to a myriad of biological and cultural influences. With this view, the gay man can be on his way to his individuation with a more wholly functioning persona.


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Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to Michael G. DeVoll, Episcopal High School, 4650 Bissonnet, Bellaire, Texas 77401. Electronic mail may be sent to mdevoll@ehshouston.org.
Michael G. DeVoll and Christopher Blazina
University of Houston
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.