Stage Two: Identity Comparison

In stage two, Identity Comparison, people begin entertaining the possibility that they may be gay or lesbian. In this stage, anxiety can be considerable, as people deal with their denial about their sexuality. People in this stage are often in emotional pain and are quite vulnerable. Substance abuse may be the primary way they have to deal with the pain associated with an experience that breaks through their denial and shatters their sense of heterosexual identity.

The examples of “Matt” and “Joan” are instructive. Matt always thought that he was heterosexual, but when he became emotionally and sexually involved with his college roommate, he began to question his identity and feelings. When his roommate broke off the relationship, Matt was devastated. He drank excessively to cope with his feelings about the breakup and his identity confusion. He went in and out of several detoxification and rehabilitation facilities during this stage of confusion, secretly struggling with inner turmoil and anguish. He finally received help when a counselor identified his conflict and helped him describe his feelings, offering him some hope of resolving his conflict if he stayed sober.

Joan was so frightened when she felt attracted to a lesbian she met at work that her drinking increased and her job was in jeopardy. When she entered treatment to save her job, Joan whispered to her counselor that she might be “one of them” but did not want to be and could not talk about it. Her counselor reassured Joan it was her choice whether to discuss it.