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“To Thine Own Self Be True” (Chapter 7) Dennis Flanigan is 42 years old, a successful mental health professional, and unabashedly gay.

“To Thine Own Self Be True” (Chapter 7)

Dennis Flanigan is 42 years old, a successful mental health professional, and unabashedly gay. Flanigan is often called upon to provide his expertise on issues concerning gays and lesbians, mental health, as well as transgender and body modification. Flanigan is also an atheist and, in his words, a “militant homosexual.” So, when closeted clients ask him whether they should come out to their family and friends, there is no question that he’ll tell them they should, right? Wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although Flanigan is open about his own homosexuality, he does not encourage the same degree of openness with his homosexual clients, especially those who are conflicted between their identity and their sexual orientation.

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One such client, an evangelical assistant pastor, was terrified that he would be exposed as a gay man if his relationship with the pastor’s son was revealed. He sought therapy with Flanigan to help him ease his anxiety surrounding the situation. The assistant pastor did not want help coming out, nor did he want to go to another church despite the genuine risk of being discovered. Rather, he simply “wanted to feel less anxious.” He was fine with the apparent hypocrisy of his choices. An integral part of him was wrapped up in him being a preacher.

As inconsistent as it might seem, Flanigan actually helps clients, such as the assistant pastor, stay “in the closet.” Based on his nearly decade-long research of studying the topic, Flanigan reached the conclusion that the identity-sexual orientation conflict had increased for individuals with strong religious beliefs which, for many of them, included the belief that homosexuality would lead to their eternal damnation. In that case, revealing their homosexuality would have far more damaging consequences than potential abandonment by friends or family. Asking them to openly admit their sexual orientation would be nothing short of denying a vital piece of their core identity, their religious orientation.

1.Explain how the internal conflict between an individual’s identity and sexual orientation could become an organizational diversity issue.

2.Can you think of a situation in which it is better for individuals to hide their sexual orientation than to be open?

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