A Case Against Inclusion

Gail Simon

The Pink Practice


Paper presented at Social Exclusion Conference

Yorkshire Association for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy (YAPP)

West Yorkshire Playhouse 1999


I am speaking here following an invitation to The Pink Practice for me to speak on the experience of exclusion for lesbians and gay men.


I will say a little about the Pink Practice and then go on to introduce what I am going to talk about.


The Pink Practice is a counselling and psychotherapy practice for lesbians, gay men, their friends, partners and families.


It has been in existence for over ten years and came into being as a response to lesbians and gay men who were keen to find a counsellor or psychotherapist who was identifiably lesbian or gay. 


People's experience was that when they had requested a lesbian or gay practitioner, they had been met with derision, hostility, unhelpfulness and negative interpretation.


People often imagine that The Pink Practice works with people who have problems coming to term with their sexuality.


This is in fact, very rarely the case.


The Pink Practice is a general counselling and therapy practice. 


The difference, aside from its clientele, is that all practitioners are known to be lesbian or gay.


This has never been known to interfere with the therapy and it is a shame that so many practitioners still subscribe to the myth that this information about the therapist "contaminates" the therapeutic relationship.




When I elected to participate in this conference, I was very clear in my abstract that I was not willing to speak only on the experience of exclusion of lesbians and gay men.


My focus for this presentation is entitled: "The Case Against Inclusion"


I am interested in addressing exclusivity as affects people from a variety of social and cultural groupings.


And I speak as, amongst other things, a woman, as a lesbian, as a Jew and as a UKCP registered systemic therapist.




I might guess that my description of myself as a lesbian, as a Jew and as a woman might be greeted with a kindly acceptance.


Coming out as a systemic therapist, nay a UKCP registered systemic therapist in the midst of a YAPP convened meeting might be the weakest point in any desire on the part of this group to be both welcoming to me and take seriously the content of my thoughts.


On a less optimistic day, I might feel that I might as well stop talking now as, in this forum, the words of a systemic therapist may well count for much less than those of a psychoanalytic therapist.


To those of you who feel more inclined towards the BCP, then my affiliation with the UKCP or BAC, might discredit my thoughts further. Is this a kind of exclusion?


Of course not, because we can theorise what is objectively sound and what is subjectively unsound and therefore excludable.


This brings me to some  important questions which are worth bearing in mind when trying to promote inclusivity:

·       Who decides what and whom to include and what and whom to exclude?

·       Who is likely to benefit from the practice of inclusion? And how?

·       Who is likely to remain excluded and what does this tell you about those with the power to determine policies and practices of inclusivity?




Social exclusion is an unacceptable reality

-        when enforced by those with the power to exclude.


Excluding oneself can be a positive choice.


Furthermore, an invitation to membership by a dominant group is often a dangerous invitation, highly conditional, patronising, may well come about for dubious reasons and one which can result in the annihilation of less dominant cultures.


There is something sinister for me about inclusivity.


There have been many attempts by liberal institutions to deactivate the threat of difference by inviting, incorporating the “other” into the mainstream, into the dominant language and cultures of the professional and broader right wing power structures.


But this invitation can only offer a conditional membership:

- so long as you are not too challenging of the dominant theories and practices..

- so long as you are relatively amiable and not too threatening to the dominant heterosexual/white culture’.


Those who choose not to fit in with a particular psychotherapeutic story of what counts as healthy behaviour, those therapists who challenge the dominant culture of the employing authority, their colleagues’ well intentioned liberalism, are likely to have the old stories of pathology revived for them - and be excluded!




What is your account of how change occurs in institutions?


It is important to have an account.


Theories of a melting pot society and the richness of diversity are skin deep stories and do not touch the deeply embedded institutionalised prejudices which gave rise to exclusive practices in the first place.


How has your training/registering institution thought about "homosexuality" - for example?


How have they (and now you) come by these ideas?


How do they [think they] "know"?


How come they have changed their ideas [about lesbians and gay men]? (Have they really changed their ideas?)


What is your account of how change occurs in institutions?


This is an important question because changes are happening and we need to be able to have accounts of these changes and contextualise any invitation to a party.


For years lesbians and gay men have been excluded from so many psychotherapy and counselling trainings. So now more of these institutions are specifically opening their doors to us. Why?


Have they succumbed to the mainstreaming of certain liberal ideas?

Has their theory of "homosexuality" changed?

Can one really separate out one bit of theory and say, "Well, yes, since the cultural revolution, we can now admit we got that bit wrong. We have replaced it with a more ethically sensitive piece of theory"?

Can we really expect to take out, surgically remove one element of the theory and replace it with something less controversial?


The practices of many such training institutions have bordered on fascistic with regard to "homosexual" trainees (often only prospective).


What does it mean for lesbians and gay men to be entering into the previously forbidden zone in order to do therapy trainings?

Are we assured no negative knock-on effect into our community of the institution's recent history/stories?

In what ways might the history of the training institution's relationship to sexuality, gender and power be affecting your practice, your identity and our diverse communities?


Should lesbians and gay men be even considering training programmes or therapies which - and many still do - advocate homosexuality as unhealthy, immature and deviant? Where psychoanalytic trainings feel entitled to enquire of lesbian and gay applicants as to whether they have performed full penetrative heterosexual sex - only to be excluded anyway?


Is it not truly perverse for lesbians and gay men to be insisting on admission to institutions which have such an appalling history of knowing best.


Might there not be some flaw in the very ideology which gave rise to such arrogance of knowing?


How would you account for some Jews applying for positions in the Gestapo?


Is it really that extreme of just a terribly uncomfortable analogy to be making?




Let us reflect for a moment on the concept of "homophobia".


"Homophobia" suggests an irrational fear of lesbians and gay men. And the concept of social inclusion suggests the overcoming of irrational fears of others.


Kitzinger and others suggest that the fear of homosexuals is well founded.


You cannot expect to include "homosexuals" and hope that your lives will remain comfortably unaffected, that homosexuals will fit in - nicely.


Attempts at inclusion by a dominant institution are always going to be conditional upon lesbians and gay men being compliant, agreeable to certain definitions of what counts as pathology, agreeable to joining as opposed to separatism, not coming out to clients, upon being monogamous, and displaying relatively acceptable behaviours associated with gender roles etc.


Lesbians and gay men are a real threat.


Kitzinger describes heterosexuality as a very fragile institution which continually needs to reproduce itself using the media and so on to reassure itself of its existence.

I want to conclude with the three questions I raised at the beginning of this talk:


·       Who decides what and whom to include and what and whom to exclude?

·       Who is likely to benefit from the practice of inclusion? And how?

·       Who is likely to remain excluded and what does this tell you about those with the power to determine policies and practices of inclusivity?