I am what I am? Existentialism and homosexuality.
Abstract: This paper undertakes an exploration of sexual orientation from an existential perspective in which the author makes her primary focus the philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre and his ideas concerning freedom, facticity and bad faith. The essentialist vs. constructionist debate is visited briefly within the context of existentialism, and the author considers the relationship between the principles of 'gay affirmative' therapy and an existential-phenomenological approach. The paper seeks to demonstrate that from a phenomenological standpoint, sexual orientation could usefully be considered to be a component of facticity.

Key words

Gay, lesbian, LGB, homosexuality, existential, phenomenological, therapy, Sartre, facticity, freedom, choice
Article Type: Report
Subject: Homosexuality (Psychological aspects)
Existential psychology (Research)
Philosophy of mind (Research)
Author: Acton, Helen
Pub Date: 07/01/2010
Publication: Name: Existential Analysis Publisher: Society for Existential Analysis Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 Society for Existential Analysis ISSN: 1752-5616
Issue: Date: July, 2010 Source Volume: 21 Source Issue: 2
Topic: Event Code: 310 Science & research
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United Kingdom Geographic Code: 4EUUK United Kingdom
Accession Number: 288874206
Full Text: Introduction

Historically, little has been written about sexuality by the existentialists, and still less on homosexuality. In recent years, however, a proliferation of papers relating to homosexuality within the context of psychotherapy and existential-phenomenology has begun to appear in the Journal of the Society for Existential Analysis. Since homosexuality is a topic close to my heart--perhaps the topic closest to my heart--it seems apposite to examine my own position within the discourse and to consider how that position may impact upon my work as an existential-phenomenological therapist, since 'the starting point of an existential way of working is for the practitioner to clarify her views on life and living' (van Deurzen 2002, p3).

To that end, I shall here explore the concept of sexual orientation through the lens of existential philosophy, concentrating in particular on that of Jean-Paul Sartre and his key concepts of freedom, facticity and bad faith. I shall go on to take a brief look at the essentialist vs. constructionist debate within a similar context, before appraising a little of the current literature on therapy with lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) clients with a view to considering how it fits with an existential-phenomenological approach and reflecting upon the questions raised for my own practice. Inevitably these areas of exploration overlap, as will be demonstrated within this paper, and I shall raise questions throughout.

Philosophically Speaking

During the era when the majority of existentialists were writing their magna opera, thinking around the subject of homosexuality was still predominately aimed at establishing an aetiology (and hence a 'cure') for it. It is perhaps due in large part to this fact that, generally speaking, the existential writers of the time chose not to enter into the debate, uninterested as they were in theories and explanations, particularly those of causal development; indeed, 'phenomenologically, the attempt to find a particular "cause" to explain an imprecisely defined area on the wide spectrum of sexuality is quite meaningless' (Cohn 1997, p94).

Even Merleau-Ponty who, amongst the existential writers, was the most interested in sexuality, paid little attention to sexual orientation (Merleau-Ponty, 1962). For him sexuality is a fundamental aspect of encounter and intersubjectivity which permeates all aspects of life; we are incarnate consciousnesses who manifest our being-in-the-world through our bodies, and sexuality is an expression of our world view and our desire to be-with. As Milton highlights, 'an existential understanding ... will focus on the relational function that human sexuality has for human existence, [and] the relational intentionality' (Milton 2000a, p42). In this context, homosexuality is simply 'an existential mode of seeing and being seen in a sexual situation' (Serban 1968, p501). Somewhat notoriously, however, the existential-phenomenological writer Boss did write on homosexuality, classing it as a 'perversion', and the pathologising attitude to his words has led to their being disowned by many contemporary existential writers (Cohn, 1997; Spinelli, 1996; Milton, 2000a). Indeed Spinelli (1996) points out that such pathologising only makes sense within a cultural context which assumes bio-reproductive norms, and Boss's attitude would be classed by very few as existential. So though there are fleeting glimpses of homosexuality to be found elsewhere within existential thought, it is undoubtedly from Sartre's writings that we can glean the most about an existential attitude to homosexuality; not least because Sartre actually used 'the homosexual' to illustrate his concepts of freedom, facticity and bad faith on several occasions--a stroke of luck, since 'in a sense, listening to Sartre on freedom is in fact, hearing the existential voice' (Babarik 1996, p112).

Freedom and Facticity

For Sartre, human consciousness is freedom, albeit freedom limited by facticity (1943). The notion of freedom, which he also calls 'transcendence', lies at the very heart of Sartre's philosophy, but though he places a great deal of emphasis on the 'absolute freedom' of the individual to choose how he lives his life, he nevertheless concedes the 'essential distinction between the freedom of choice and the freedom of obtaining' (1943, p506). Absolute freedom is to be understood as freedom always within a 'situation', and as the capacity to be free 'within [one's] situation to confer significance upon that situation' (Solomon 1972, p280); it is more accurately defined as freedom of intention or 'situated freedom' (Spinelli, 1994). In Sartrean philosophy, our freedom is limited only by a set of facts--those aspects of our situation over which we have no control and no choice--our 'facticity' (Sartre, 1943). This can be taken to include our time and place of birth, our nationality, gender and height, our right- or left-handedness, for example, in the light of which fixed elements our freedom and possibilities must be viewed always as 'factical possibility' (MacQuarrie, 1972). Where our capacity for choice comes into play is in how we choose to live this raw material, and it is these choices for which Sartre says we are entirely responsible (Warnock 1970). From a Sartrean viewpoint, for instance, sexuality per se (rather than sexual orientation) is taken as an aspect of our facticity, all the while acknowledging our factical possibility in that 'there is an infinity of possible ways in which one may weave one's sexuality into the warp and woof of one's life (Barnes 1974, p61). Or in terms of gender, a million individuals born with the facticity of being a woman will live that fact in a million different ways; though she did not choose to be a woman, what each woman 'does' with the fact that she is a woman, and how she 'interprets' that fact, will be her choice entirely--her way of 'choosing oneself (Sartre, 1943).

If we accept, then, the notion that our freedom to choose is limited by certain givens, this raises the question, what exactly constitutes facticity? For me it is here, within the discussion of what 'counts' as facticity as a limit to our freedom, that we find the core of the debate over homosexuality. For surely, taking Cannon's description of facticity as 'the contingent world which I did not create but which I must choose to live in some fashion or other' (1991, p46), the fundamental question is whether or not sexual orientation is a choice we can make, or a given of existence--a situation within the limits of which we are free to choose our response. Certainly if as phenomenologists we are concerned with lived experience, then we must heed the fact that for many individuals, perhaps the majority, sexual orientation 'may not feel like a choice--may not be available to consideration by us in the way that we are used to choices being available' (du Plock 1997, p67). As one experienced therapist of twenty years observes, 'I have never encountered in my practice a gay man who "chooses" to be homosexual' (Isay 1994, p16).

Indeed, I find Sartre's declaration that a homosexual is not a homosexual in the same way that 'this red-haired man is red-haired' (1943, p87) and the corresponding attitude '... people do say "but I knew very early". It is seen as a fact about themselves, as if they had looked in the mirror and found that they had red hair or something' (McIntosh 1981, p49) to be alarmingly dismissive of, and run counter to, the actual lived experience of so many homosexual individuals whose relationship with facticity and freedom is so poignantly captured by Housman's parallel metaphor, written at the time of Oscar Wilde's trial, an extract of which follows:

But if now, in the time-honoured tradition, I take myself as an example and consider my own sexual orientation, what do I know? Well, I know that I am sexually attracted only to men; I know that at the age of 36 I have only ever experienced a desire for sexual and intimate relationships with men; I know that I am physically 'turned off' by contemplation of sexual contact with a woman; and I know that it does not feel like I have, or ever have had, any choice in that. I know that to identify as a heterosexual woman fits with my experience, and that I no more chose to be straight than I chose to be a woman; I experience my straightness as as much a part of my facticity as my gender. However, thinking in Sartrean terms about the freedom I do have, I know that I have a choice in how I respond to this given--in what I do with it, how I behave. I know that I could choose to have sexual contact exclusively with men; I know that I could choose to have sexual contact with women, whether or not I find them physically attractive; I know that I could choose celibacy. Equally, I know that I have choice in how I interpret my situation: I may view my heterosexuality as a piece of wonderful luck in the heterosexist world in which we live; I may see it as a frustrating limitation to the numbers of people in the world to whom I am sexually attracted; or I may perhaps experience it as an uncomfortable deficiency on the part of a militant gay-rights activist. But though all of these options are demonstrative of the freedom and choice I have, to choose any or all of them would not change the basic fact that I am sexually attracted only to men; because whilst I agree that I have freedom in how I live heterosexually, which in Sartrean terms will be demonstrative in some way of my 'fundamental project' (Danto, 1975), my lived experience does not allow me to concede that I have freedom in the fact that I live heterosexually. My lived experience is that I have no more choice of sexual orientation than I do of gender. So I return to the question, is sexual orientation--be it heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality not an element of our facticity? It is when one thinks of oneself as a 'thing' that one falls into bad faith, since for Sartre 'an homosexual is not an homosexual as this table is a table' (Sartre 1943, p87); and yet, is acknowledging an aspect of one's being which is experienced as facticity the same as considering oneself to be a thing?

Bad Faith

The human condition is fundamentally characterised by the tension between freedom and facticity. For Sartre, any attempt to flee or deny either our freedom or our facticity is described as 'bad faith' (1943). His discussion of bad faith is both complex and far-reaching, and he describes several types of bad faith; but for an exploration of an existential attitude to homosexuality, it is the 'paradigm case of bad faith ... the misinterpretation of choices which one makes for himself as facts which determine one' (Solomon 1972, p293) that seems most pertinent. Closely linked is the tendency to interpret a set of past facts about oneself as a prediction of the future, which in the present context would be illustrated by a man who may 'on the basis of a past of homosexual encounters, characterize himself as a homosexual, thus excusing himself from responsibility for future homosexual acts' (ibid. p297). Judgemental tone aside, for me this perspective misses the point, since it places the emphasis on a person's behaviour, rather than 'internal' experience; for whilst I would concur with the notion that past choices of behaviour do not predetermine future ones, and I can choose not to act upon my sexual urges in the future, that does not change the fact that I experience those attractions. One can choose not to engage with the label 'homosexual' but can one choose to whom one is attracted? Indeed here we find the 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' bind in which the gay man finds himself from a Sartrean standpoint; for just as he is in bad faith for declaring himself a homosexual based on past experience, so too would he fall into bad faith by 'acknowledging all the facts which are imputed to him, [yet] refus[ing] to draw from them the conclusion which they impose' (Sartre 1943, p87), namely that he is a homosexual. In Sartrean philosophy we find a fine line between denying one's freedom and denying one's facticity.

This is not to say that a gay man can in good faith state that he knows he will never be attracted to a woman, for such occurrences are of course known. Indeed people can experience major changes of sexual orientation within the course of a lifetime, and a phenomenological approach to lived experience would remain open to such. But I would suggest that what one cannot do is choose to experience a change in innate sexual impulse. Even bisexual individuals do not choose to be attracted to both genders. For if we bring the discussion back down to the phenomenology of lived experience, it is evident that 'few words grate on contemporary gay nerves like the word "choice". The idea of homosexuality as a deliberately chosen path runs counter to the personal experiences of gays and lesbians' (Moon 2002).

Sartre's discussion of homosexuality is undoubtedly rendered problematical for the contemporary reader by his apparently interchangeable use of the terms 'paederast' and 'homosexual', his frequent allusions to homosexual acts as mistakes to be overcome, and his use of the language of 'guilt' and 'sin' (1943). Moreover there is more to Sartre's view of homosexuality than in relation to the concepts of freedom, facticity and bad faith he espouses in Being and Nothingness, since he returns to the subject in his later, more obscure, work Saint Genet, Actor and Martyr. It is here, in his treatise on the life of the writer Jean Genet, that some deeply questionable attitudes seem to come to the fore. In several passages he equates a male homosexual inclination with a passive stance, or an essentialising of a person's 'objectivity for others' (p81) and makes repeated reference to homosexuality being akin in these respects to womanhood. Again, Sartre's use of language is somewhat alienating for the modern reader in its explicit judgement, peppered as his writings are with phrases such as 'in defiance of nature', 'the corrosive cynicism of homosexuals' and 'the resemblance of the universe of theft to that of homosexuality'. Polemical use of language notwithstanding, Sartre does appear to be unequivocal in his statement that 'a person is not born homosexual or normal' (1952, p78), clarifying that for him there is no question of sexual orientation constituting an element of our facticity. But are his views simply a product of his facticity, namely, the epoch during which he lived? For, as Moon so succinctly puts it, 'nothing in all of Sartre's writings can help us to evaluate studies in today's scientific journals' (Moon, 2002).

The Modern Debate: Essential or Constructed?

Whilst a full and comprehensive exploration of the essentialist vs. constructionist debate is beyond the scope of the current paper, as indeed is any attempt at a thorough analysis of the ever-expanding body of Queer Theory literature, the general nature of the dialectic warrants a mention in the light of an existential perspective. Broadly speaking, an essentialist position states that a person is born homosexual or heterosexual, that there have been homosexuals in every time and culture throughout history, and that sexual orientation is a fixed and unchangeable part of one's identity that 'homosexual behaviour is a manifestation of some inner essence, perhaps biological or psychological' (Greenberg 1988, p485). In contrast a social constructionist would posit that homosexuality as we know it is a social and cultural construct, as famously put by Foucault, arguably the father of social constructionism:

Whilst there are clearly degrees of extremism in both of these viewpoints, a social constructionist position is commonly associated with notions of choice where sexual orientation is concerned, thereby aligning itself with an existentialist position as espoused by Sartre. For Spinelli, who contributes something of an existential perspective to the debate, any fixed identity is no more than a construct--a way of being-in-the-world which leads to both 'sedimentation' and dissociation of beliefs, values and experiences--and he questions the whole notion of the need to define ourselves by sexual orientation or identity, be it homosexual or heterosexual (Spinelli, 1996 and 2001). Though he acknowledges that there can be comfort, security, and personal and group empowerment to be found by many homosexuals in identifying themselves as such, Spinelli is ultimately more troubled by the repercussions of this separatist perspective. He shares the concerns of writers such as Foucault and Vidal that 'the word "homosexual" should only be used as an adjective to describe sexual activity and not as a noun to describe and identify a particular type of being'; he laments that 'what we do, or do not do, has become who we are, or are not' (Spinelli 1996, p15). In his writing on strategies adopted by those individuals seeking to reduce their feelings of alienation when 'coming out' as gay, Davies describes various approaches taken by those who 'accept their homosexual behaviour, but don't like the idea of a homosexual self-identity' (Davies 1996b, p79), thus perhaps illustrating the existential position that behaviour need not define identity.

And as the essentialist vs. constructionist debate rages, scientific enquiry into the nature of sexual orientation continues. Studies advance into the possible influence of physical and social evolution, prenatal sexual differentiation or brain organisation, genetic variations, chemical imbalances, and biological, hormonal and anatomical differences (McKnight, 1997). The sixty four thousand dollar question appears to be, is a homosexual orientation the result of 'nature or nurture'? But for us as phenomenologists, will the eventual outcome of all this research hold any actual relevance? And indeed, do attempts to discover the 'cause' of one type of sexual orientation over another hold any meaning for existential-phenomenologists, since 'it may well be that to study homosexuality is to reinforce its separate existence in the world' (Plummer 1981a, p27)? For whether science finds that we are born with our sexual orientation already determined due to hormonal conditions in the womb (ie. nature), or it establishes that, as Laing and Cooper observe in their commentary on Sartre's work 'one is not born a homosexual, Sartre argues, but ... it is an outcome discovered or invented by a child at a critical moment' (Laing & Cooper 1964, p79) (i.e. nurture), neither suggests that the older child or adult actually experiences a choice in the fact that he is attracted to members of his own sex. And crucially neither side of the 'nature or nurture' debate has anything helpful to say about how a gay person chooses to live his homosexuality. Indeed 'this issue of choice is incomparably more human in dimension and poignancy than the essentialism vs. constructionist debate' (Babarik 1996, p113).

But in our attempts to acknowledge that a client's lived experience sits always within a social context, it would be disingenuous not to recognise that inherent within the discourse is a political dimension, since 'today the word "choice" has become anathema among [LGB] people ... because it is generally used against [them]' (Moon, 2002). And perhaps it is no coincidence that in Sartre's Saint Genet writings we find both an air of moral judgement and an insistence on freedom of choice, since in today's debate it is more often than not those seeking to condemn homosexuality who persist in asserting its status as a 'lifestyle choice'. Indeed, for many, an essentialist perspective offers something of a 'defence'; as Greenberg observes: 'when heterosexual chauvinists have told homosexuals to change, essentialist theories have provided a ready response: I can't' (1988, p492). Within the current political arena, as gay rights and equality are fought for so fiercely, there can be no doubt that an essentialist position, or at least one which denies the availability to the individual of choice of sexual attraction, is one of the gay lobbyist's most powerful weapons (Vance, 1988). Moreover, uncomfortable as we may be with labels, viewing them as restrictive, and wary of 'the problem of "essentialising"--of the ways in which "doing" and "experiencing" can become consolidated into "being" through categoric labelling' (Plummer 1981b, p54), it is nevertheless incumbent upon us to appreciate the benefits thereof experienced by many clients within the LGB community. If a client comes to us doggedly clinging to a label, who are we to disabuse him of 'the protection of labelling to those who are different and who were made that way' (McKnight 1997, p186), uneasy as such ideas may make us? Indeed herein lies paradox, that lifeblood of existentialism--in that 'categorization is paradoxical: it aids and it destroys' (Plummer 1981a, p29).

And so we must tread carefully. For whilst as existentialists we are concerned with the primacy of choice and freedom, can we go too far? Do we have a tendency to 'minimize the power of facticity to restrict and curtail freedom' (Anderson 2004, p140)? To the reader committed to a phenomenological approach this may seem like something of a non-issue, because of course we all prioritise the lived experience of the client in the way in which they experience it, don't we? But my unease is bluntly illustrated by the recent experience of a supervisee reporting a supervision session in which she was told by a fellow trainee that 'existentially sexuality is fluid and there is no such thing as gay' (Crabtree, 2009). I concur with Crabtree's opinion that such a position is dangerous, and though it may seem extreme, this insistence upon abstracted ideas may be present in many an over-enthusiastic existentialist. For me the danger is that such unquestioning adherence to an existential concept of freedom, and an 'over-emphasis on the fluidity and plasticity' (Crabtree 2009, p258) of our experiences of sexual attraction takes us too far away from the actual lived experience of our clients which is simply not borne out by this attitude. Where is the phenomenology in taking such a position? Is the notion of a fixed sexual orientation such a challenge to our belief in elasticity of being that in this alone we choose to ignore the phenomena?

Therapy Today

And so this brings me to an exploration of some of the current discourse around therapy with gay and lesbian clients. An existential approach to working with sexuality requires the therapist to 'eliminate assumptions based on a sexual identity and to focus on the client's experience of being in the world sexually' (Milton 2000a, p42); and a thorough phenomenological exploration of the client's actual lived experience of his or her sexuality is indicated. In describing the 'existential phase' of his four-phase gay affirmative therapy, Malyon makes the key observation that

[our] culture provides the heterosexual individual with a wide range of well-understood and highly valued "purposes" for life. These cultural guidelines, however, tend to be exclusively heterosexual in nature ... As a result, the existential crisis can be especially potent for gay men ... Special complications and aberrations of identity formation ... are considered to be the result of social values and attitudes, not as inherent to the issue of object choice

(Malyon 1982, p68-69).

In recent years various models of therapy have been categorised as 'gay affirmative psychotherapies' and there is ongoing debate as to whether or not an existential-phenomenological therapy can be classed as such. For some, the very notion of being anything affirmative is unphenomenological since it appears to be contradictory to the rule of bracketing (du Plock 1997; Goldenberg 2000), while for others 'a lesbian and gay affirmative stance runs the risk of essentialising sexual identities' (Milton 2000b, p87), and a risk is also run of 'affirming something which could more usefully be explored or even challenged' (du Plock 1997, p65). However, if we take the dictionary definition of 'to affirm' (ie. 'to state your support for an opinion or idea') rather than its interpretation as meaning 'to promote', then an existential-phenomenological approach which is accepting and supportive of any client's way of being-in-the-world seems to me not so incompatible with the umbrella of gay affirmative therapies. Indeed as an existential-phenomenological therapist I would embrace the definition of a gay affirmative therapy as one which 'assist[s] individuals to accept and value their sexual orientation' (Krajesk 1986, p16). And what comes to the fore amongst the majority of the literature on therapy with LGB clients is an insistence that therapists do not make any assumptions based on a client's sexual orientation, but rather explore how the client experiences his or her sexuality, just as one would do with a heterosexual client (Cohen and Stein 1986)--an outlook truly phenomenological in its perspective, and one which recognises that there are 'infinite ways of "being-in-the-world" homosexually' (Cohn 1997, p95).

But the literature varies, and certainly polemical attitudes exist, particularly in literature aimed at straight therapists, in which can be found views such as 'it is prejudice to be only gay friendly. You must be gay informed' and 'gays and lesbians themselves often do not know the issues and facts, and you, as a therapist, need to inform them of the issues relating to their being gay' (both Kort 2008, p18/19). The dominant model of gay affirmative therapy has become that outlined by Dominic Davies in the key text Pink Therapy, and much of the current discussion has arisen from the directive and prescriptive nature of Davies' model. There are suggestions made by Davies which run counter to our belief in the potency of unknowing and 'naive wonder' (du Plock 1997), such as his instruction that therapists working with LGB clients pre-educate themselves about LGB 'lifestyles and cultures' and attend Gay Pride to demonstrate support, and his '12 guidelines for retraining' therapists to work with this client group; and his approach raises questions also present within the context of therapy with ethnic minority groups, such as the benefits or otherwise of client matching and specialist training.

But if we look beyond Davies' more extreme suggestions and his somewhat militant tone, there is much which I would argue could be wholly embraced by an existential approach, not least the dictum that 'the gay affirmative therapist affirms a lesbian, gay or bisexual identity as an equally positive human experience and expression to heterosexual identity' (Davies 1996a, p25). Further, central to the description of gay affirmative therapy are the 'Core Condition of Respect' for the client's sexual orientation, personal integrity, lifestyle and culture, and calls for respectful attitudes and beliefs--again, not so different, I hope, from the work we do. And Davies further calls for all therapists working with an LGB client group to 'examine their own heterosexism, in the same way that they have an ethical duty to be aware of, and work on, their own sexism and racism' (ibid. p38), a dictate with which I would wholeheartedly agree. Finally, he proposes that:

And who amongst us could argue with that?


It will be apparent to the reader that the topics I have discussed are complex and rife with both paradox and contradiction, and as many questions are raised as answered. So all I can do in good faith is to consider the angles and viewpoints of others, with a view to establishing for myself where I stand.

For me as an existentialist this boils down to the simple question of whether or not sexual orientation can be considered to be a component of our facticity; and emphasising an attendance to the phenomenology of people's actual lived experience the answer, for me, controversial as it may be, is yes. Though we can still take an exploration of freedom to be central to the therapeutic encounter, we must reframe our phenomenological enquiry with questions regarding how a gay client chooses to live his or her given homosexuality, and what it means for them. As existentialists we must guard against the possibility that our focus on choice and freedom may seduce us into adopting a theoretical framework which insists upon 'the notion of the plasticity of sexuality for all which is in reality the possibility of bisexuality for some' (Medina 2008, p132).

And in thinking about my own practice, I feel that there are good grounds for marrying less militant notions of gay affirmative therapy with existential-phenomenology, and crucially that there is integrity in doing so. Indeed I am left with the conviction that since an existential-phenomenological approach takes as its heart the belief that what we bring to the therapeutic encounter is ourselves as we are, crucial to my work will be the fact that I consider myself to be a deeply gay affirmative person--so that in the final analysis, how could I be anything but a gay affirmative therapist?


Anderson, T.C. (2004). Sartre's Early Ethics and the Ontology of Being and Nothingness. In Guignon, C. (ed) The Existentialists. Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield.

Babarik, A. (1996). A Phenomenological-Existential Perspective on Homosexuality: A Non-pathologising Therapeutic Approach. Unpublished MA Dissertation. London: School of Psychotherapy and Counselling, Regent's College

Barnes, H. (1974). Sartre. London: Quartet Books.

Cannon, B. (1991). Sartre and Psychoanalysis: An Existential Challenge to Clinical Metatheory. Kansas: University Press of Kansas.

Cohen, C.J. and Stein, T.S. (1986). Reconceptualising Individual Psychotherapy with Gay Men and Lesbians. In Stein, T.S. & Cohen, C.J. (Eds) Contemporary Perspectives on Psychotherapy with Lesbians and Gay Men. New York: Plenum Medical. pp27-54.

Cohn, H.W. (1997). Existential Thought and Therapeutic Practice. London: Sage.

Crabtree, C. (2009). Rethinking sexual identity. Journal of the Society for Existential Analysis 20.2: 248-261.

Danto, A.C. (1975). Sartre. London: Fontana Press.

Davies, D. (1996a). Towards a model of gay affirmative therapy. In

Davies, D. and Neal, C. (eds) Pink Therapy. Buckingham: Open University Press. pp24-40.

Davies, D. (1996b). Working with people coming out. In Davies, D. and Neal, C. (eds) Pink Therapy. Buckingham: Open University Press. pp66 85.

Deurzen, E. van. (2002). Existential Counselling and Psychotherapy in Practice. London: Sage.

Du Plock, S. (1997). Sexual misconceptions: A critique of gay affirmative therapy and some thoughts on an existential-phenomenological theory of sexual orientation. Existential Analysis 8.2: 56-71.

Foucault, M. (1979). The History of Sexuality. Volume One: An Introduction. London: Allen Lane.

Goldenberg, H. (2000). A response to Martin Milton. Existential Analysis 11.1: 103-105.

Greenberg, D.F. (1988). The Construction of Homosexuality. London: University of Chicago Press.

Housman, A.E. (1939). The Collected Poems of A.E. Housman. London: Jonathan Cape.

Isay, R.A. (1994). Being Homosexual. New Jersey: Jason Aronson Inc.

Kort, J. (2008). Gay Affirmative Therapy for the Straight Clinician. New York: WW Norton and Co.

Krajesk, J.P. (1986). Psychotherapy with gay men and lesbians: A history of controversy. In Stein, T.S. and Cohen, C.J. (eds) Contemporary Perspectives on Psychotherapy with Lesbians and Gay Men. New York: Plenum Medical. pp9-25.

Laing, R.D. and Cooper, D.G. (1964). Reason and Violence. London: Tavistock Publications.

Macquarrie, J. (1972). Existentialism. London: Penguin.

Malyon, A.K. (1982). Psychotherapeutic implications of internalized homophobia in gay men. In Gonsiorek, J.C. (ed) Homosexuality and Psychotherapy. New York: The Haworth Press. pp59-69.

McIntosh, M. (1981). The homosexual role; postscript: The homosexual role revisited. In Plummer, K. (ed) The Making of the Modern Homosexual. London: Hutchinson & Co. pp30-49.

McKnight, J. (1997). Straight Science? Homosexuality, Evolution and Adaptation. London: Routledge.

Medina, M. (2008). Can i be a homosexual please? Existential Analysis 19.1: 129-142.

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962). Phenomenology of Perception. Trans. Smith, C. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Milton, M. (2000a). Existential-phenomenological therapy. In Davies, D. and Neal, C. (eds) Therapeutic Perspectives on Working with Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Clients. Buckingham: Open University Press pp39-53.

Milton, M. (2000b). Is existential psychotherapy a lesbian and gay affirmative psychotherapy? Existential Analysis 11.1: 86-102.

Moon, P. (2002). Sartre and sexual choice. The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide 9.5 (viewed online at http://findarticles.com).

Plummer, K. (1981a). Building a sociology of homosexuality. In Plummer, K. (ed) The Making of the Modern Homosexual. London: Hutchinson & Co. pp17-29.

Plummer, K. (1981b). Homosexual categories: Some research problems in the labelling of perspective of homosexuality. In Plummer, K. (ed) The Making of the Modern Homosexual. London: Hutchinson & Co. pp53-75.

Sartre, J-P. (1943). Being and Nothingness. Trans. Barnes, H. 1957. London: Routledge.

Sartre, J-P. (1952). Saint Genet, Actor and Martyr. Trans. Frechtman, B. 1963. London: W.H. Allen and Co.

Serban, G. (1968). The existential therapeutic approach to homosexuality. American Journal of Psychotherapy 22(3): 491-501.

Solomon, R.C. (1972). From Rationalism to Existentialism. New York: Harper and Row.

Spinelli, E. (1994). Demystifying Therapy. London: PCCS Books.

Spinelli, E. (1996). Some hurried notes expressing outline ideas that someone might someday utilise as signposts towards a sketch of an existential-phenomenological theory of human sexuality. Existential Analysis 8.1: 2-20.

Spinelli, E. (2001). The Mirror and the Hammer. London: Continuum.

Vance, C.S. (1988). Social construction theory: Problems in the history of sexuality. (Keynote Address: International Conference on Gay and Lesbian Studies). In Which Homosexuality? London: GMP pp13-34.

Warnock, M. (1970). Existentialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Helen Acton is an existential-phenomenological therapist in private practice in Cambridge and London. At the time of writing she was in the final year of the Advanced Diploma in Existential Psychotherapy at the School of Psychotherapy and Counselling Psychology, Regent's College, London, where she was the recipient of a Hans W. Cohn bursary.

Email: helen.acton@mac.com
Oh who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrists?
   And what has he been after, that they groan and shake their fists?
   And wherefore is he wearing such a conscience-stricken air?
   Oh they 're taking him to prison for the colour of his hair.

   Oh a deal of pains he's taken and a pretty price he's paid
   To hide his poll or dye it of a mentionable shade;
   But they've pulled the beggar's hat off for the world to see and
   And they're taking him to justice for the colour of his hair.

   Now 'tis oakum for his fingers and the treadmill for his feet,
   And the quarry-gang on portland in the cold and in the heat,
   And between his spells of labour in the time he has to spare
   He can curse the god that made him for the colour of his hair.

homosexuality appeared as one of the forms of sexuality when it was
   transposed from the practice of sodomy onto a kind of interior
   androgyny, a hermaphroditism of the soul. The sodomite had been a
   temporary aberration; the homosexual was now a species
   (1979, p43).

it is helpful ... for the therapist to seek to create a
   relationship which is collaborative, and become a companion in the
   client's journey, rather than the tour guide. This is based on the
   belief that the client knows what is best for them, or at least if
   they do not know, the therapist certainly doesn't know (ibid. p26).
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.