Today is the dawning of a new age for gay and lesbian people living in the UK: at midnight last night the law was changed to finally legalise gay marriage. I reflected on this momentous occasion, with mostly anger and disbelief that it has taken until 2014 to acknowledge and legitimate same-sex marriage in this country; this must indeed be a special day for the homosexual community. My reflection has also gotten me thinking about the idea of ‘other’ and the concepts of difference, separateness and identity –here, being played out on the macro societal level. Clearly, gay relationships are still conceived of as ‘other’ in our society –not worthy of the same rights and privileges of heterosexual-dominant constructs of ‘self’, somehow on the fringe of normalcy, something that is ‘not me’ in the eyes of the heterosexual majority.
Of course on a micro-personal level, the idea of ‘other’ is inherent within each of us. We each have aspects of ourselves which we deem as unacceptable or ‘not self’. These parts of our personalities are exiled to what Jung described as our shadow –parts of self which are unconscious, judged as bad or otherwise unacceptable. These aspects can be ‘bad’’ traits such as jealousy, dishonesty, sexuality, or anger for example, or can be ‘good’ aspects of self such as talents, creativity, or a trusting nature. As a result of our experiences of the world, we learn to split these parts of self off for the sake of acceptance, preservation, or survival. Of course much of what we do in psychotherapy is in fact identifying these split off parts and integrating them back into ourselves as we strive for wholeness, health and greater wellbeing.
Society in general has split off gay and lesbian communities, mostly through religious judgement, moral ‘codes of normalcy,’ or generalised fear of difference. I believe that this small but important gesture to welcome gay people into the rites and rights of marriage is a fundamental psychological milestone for society’s ongoing quest for health and wholeness; we are reclaiming part of our collective shadow.