“Territory” by David Leavitt is a short, yet complexly intimate tail of a mother’s futile attempts to accept her son’s homosexual identity and his on-going struggle with internalized homophobia. The story opens with twenty-three year old Neil visiting his mother, Mrs. Campbell, at his childhood home. As they prepare for the first arrival of Neil’s lover, Wayne, the anticipation triggers anxieties both Neil, causing him to have painful flashbacks of the past. As these images reveal, Neil has lived with feelings of shame, embarrassment and guilt over his sexual identity, as well as an exposure to the impactful role that his mother has played in his life. We are also made privy to the numerous effects of her emotional detachment, which she ultimately leaves him to cope with, void of genuine support or feelings of positive self-regard. The narrative carries overtones of how Neil's sexual identity development has been affected by socially constructed ideology, internalization of negative self-identity, interpersonal relationships and institutional oppressive forces in the transitions from the adolescent to emerging adulthood stages. Internalized heterosexism and homophobia Neil has internalized the cultural homophobia and bias that he has experienced both interpersonally and socially (Green, 2003; Sullivan, 2008). Although the polarization of masculine and feminine gender roles had already been established well before he came out to his parents (Gilmore, 1990), his mother's reaction to this life-changing revelation marked the beginning of internalized homophobia for Neil. His mother's stoic reserve and sparse choice of words at the point of his disclosure made an immediate effect, leading him to feel embarrassed, inadequate and pitiful. This also marked a more observable emotional detachment from her son, which inherently brought with it messages of her own internalized biases and lacking acceptance of the man that he had become. Her attention turned to the
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