Stage One: Identity Confusion

Most identity stage models suggest that the first stage involves some denial and confusion regarding one’s feelings of attraction and sense of self. Cass’ (1979) stage one is Identity Confusion, which occurs when people see their behavior as homosexual and face a crisis about who they are. Many people use alcohol and drugs to manage the painful feelings of this stage. They may drink or use drugs to cope with their anxiety and shame or to socialize or be sexual with a person of the same gender. They may use substances to help block out unwanted feelings of attraction toward people of the same sex or to keep from ascribing personal meaning to behaviors they consider unacceptable. Consider the examples of “Joe” and “Mary.” For many years, Joe drank to drown out a sexual experience in high school in which he had sexual and loving feelings toward his best friend. He was terrified that he might be gay and did not want to bring shame to his religious family. Mary drank to cope with the confusion of being sexual with Sally, her roommate, and to avoid seeing herself as a lesbian.