In self-identity theory this is a process known as “self-categorization” and in identity theory the process is referred to as “identification” (Stets & Burke, 2000, p. 224). Sexual orientation is among the factors that come into play in the process of forming an identity. This essay takes the position that homosexual identity in teens is a life-time development process that is intricately tied to personal identity. In particular, gay teens in Western countries are predisposed to experience conflicts and a great deal of stress as a result of overwhelming homophobic cultural influences (Vare & Norton, 1998). Essentially, it is argued that the formation of identity in homosexual teens is fraught by a prevailing culture that discriminates against sexual orientation that is inconsistent with what the dominant culture views as “normal” (Vare & Norton, 1998, p. 327).
The Western media has played a significant role in the perpetuation of homosexual identity by portraying stereotypical homosexual males (Sutton, 2007). These stereotypical gay males are essentially cast by the media in fashion and primarily the creative arts. This portrayal of homosexuals creates the impression that gay men are creative and denies consideration of the possibility that gays may be from among the lower and higher sectors of the community (Sutton, 2007). The media’s role in the formation of homosexual identity is thus one of ascription which invariably influences how the teen homosexual adopts to and achieves his or her personal identity as a homosexual. Thus this paper is formulated around three research questions: 1. How does being homosexual or gal effect teenager’s identity formation? 2. Does the media glorify being a homosexual/gay? 3. Does the media help with being accepting? This paper is divided into three main parts. The first part of this paper analyzes theoretical perspectives on personal identity in teens and thus explores the environmental and personal factors that influence personal identity along the path of ascription, achievement and adoption. The second part of this paper analyzes more directly, how personal identity is formed among homosexual teens and thus identifies the factors influencing ascription, achievement and adoption of homosexual identity. The third part of this paper analyzes the role that the media plays in identity formation in homosexual teens. Personal Identity Formation in Teens Neff and McGehee (2010) inform that self-identity is a major exercise for teens. During adolescence, the teen is typically experiencing a number of emotional difficulties associated with issues related to evaluating and perceiving the self. The teen also goes through a process of comparing the self with social realities and attempting to find a self-identity and determining where the teem fits into the “social hierarchy” (Neff & McGehee, 2010, p. 225). According to Neff and McGehee (2010), invariably, the teen’s self-evaluation and comparisons end up with a negative self-analysis as the teen is typically confronting a number of stressors such as concerns over: academic performance, the need to be popular and ‘fit in’ with the right peer crowd, body image, concerns with sexual attractiveness, and so on…(p. 225). However, Erikson’s (1968 cited in Sokol, 2009) theory of identity development, while it speaks to this process as one of crisis, it encompasses more broadly a journey to achievement and thus encompassing ascribing and adopting. Thus according to Erikson (1968cited in Sokol, 2009), the word crisis in terms of identity formation is “not a threat of catastrophe,” rather it is a “turning point, a crucial period of increased vulnerability and heightened potential”