Let me to start with an analogy derived from physical chemistry, in my opinion really appropriate to introduce the subject. The potential energy of a body in a field of gravity as the terrestrial one we live in is proportional to the height of the body, to bring a body upwards a certain amount of work must to be done that is stored in the form of potential energy in the body and can be returned as kinetic energy when the body falls from the highest position to return to the lowest. All bodies have a natural tendency to occupy the lowest positions that they can reach, i.e. to be located at the minimum possible level of potential energy. Observing the curve of the figure, imagine that we have a body at point A, the minimum point of a curve (a bond) over which the body can move. If the stretch of the curve from A to C had not a maximum but was constantly decreasing, the body naturally would slide in position C and there would remain stably because the point C would be for it the lowest point reached. If, however, between A and C there was a maximum point B, the body to pass from A to C should first increase its potential energy by climbing up to the point B and then decrease it down to the point C. The difference in height between A and C represents the difference between the initial state and the final one, if the height of the point C is less than the height of the point A, we can say that the final state C is more stable than the initial one, but whether to move from A to C the body must exceed the maximum represented by the point B to a height greater than the height of A, the body to achieve a more stable final state (C) must move through an intermediate state (B) more unstable (at higher potential energy) compared to the initial A. The difference in height between A and B is the activation energy of the route between A and C, if the body which is located in A does not arrive first in B charging potential energy cannot fall into C markedly decreasing its potential energy compared to the starting point A.
If the body of which we speak cannot receive energy from the outside, the passage from A to C takes place only if there is no activation peak B, and is an irreversible step, the body falls, loses its kinetic energy in the impact and stays there because it cannot regain its initial position A. To move the body from C to A it would be necessary to supply power from outside and this was excluded by assumption, the body remains then permanently in C.
If instead it is assumed that it is possible to supply energy to the system from the outside, fails the concept of irreversibility, the body that is located in A must receive from the outside an activation energy equal to the difference in height between A and B (relatively small) to get in C (hypothesized to a lower level of A) and returns energy equal to the difference in height between B and C, higher than the activation energy, the process then, at the end, leads to a decrease in potential energy and to greater stability. If the body was in C it could return to A, but just getting from outside energy equal to the gap between C and B, activation energy of the transition between C and A, and returning at the end a share of energy corresponding to the difference between B and A, lower than the activation energy, in this case the process would result in a final state less stable than that of departure. These concepts have a general validity in many fields and are the basis of the theory of stability.
Let’s apply what has been said in the world of affectivity. Imagine the stress put on the ordinate and imagine the abscissa represents a series of possible states for a guy, from the condition of single “stable”, who don’t even imagine to have a life together with another guy (stretch before the point A) to the single “who is moving towards a couple’s involvement” (stretch AC) up to reach the condition of a couple’s partner in unstable condition (stretch over C). The curve is the so-called curve of stress. Assume that a guy is in state A, the point of minimum stress and then of relative stability. If the peak represented by point B there was not and the stretch of the curve from A to C was constantly decreasing, the way toward a less stressful situation C would be natural and spontaneous. The guy gradually passing from A to C would reduce his stress gradually to the new situation of stability. However it happens very often that the curve of stress presents a maximum between A and C, in this case, to pass from a situation of relative minimum stress A to another relative minimum of stress, inferior to A, represented by point C, is required energy (stress) of activation, i.e. is required an increase in stress leading to overcome stress peak represented by point B, in order to be placed in a final situation of greater stability C.
Suppose that the point A represents a subject in condition of being single in equilibrium and the point C represents the same subject in living couple’s condition in equilibrium. Let us assume for hypothesis that C is a less stressful condition than A, if the curve AC is always descending the transition from A to C is spontaneous and does not present any problem in terms of increased stress, if between A and C there is a maximum B, to move from A to C the activation stress is needed. The higher is this activation stress, the more the process is difficult. Furthermore, if the peak B does not exist, the one that is located in A sees the prospect free up to C, i.e. understands where he is going, and then if the final situation will be of greater or lesser stability, but if the peak B exists, and then the moving from A to C needs an activation stress, the one that is located in A is not able to see what is beyond the peak B and therefore cannot understand at the outset if the overrun of the stress peak B will be advantageous or disadvantageous, because the point C may also be higher than A and the situation of married life (gay couple) could be more stressful than that of single.
For a hetero, typically, the AC stretch presents no points of maximum between A and C, the subject understands from the beginning towards where he is moving and can therefore realize from the beginning the fact that his condition in situation of couple’s life in some cases would be worse than that of single (C higher than A). For a gay guy, instead, activation stress of the process that leads him from being a single to the couple’s condition does really exist and is represented by social problems and the partial acceptance of homosexuality that must be overcome to get to married life (gay couple). Moreover for a gay guy it is not predictable from the beginning, for the very existence of the peak B, if the final result of the attempt to reach the condition of couple’s life will be stabilizing (less stress) or further destabilizing (higher stress). Assuming, hypothetically, to simplify the discussion, that the couple’s life is less stressful than single’s life (C lower than A), to move from state A to state C there are many possible ways all different from one another, some of them have very high activation stress, others much lower. Chemists know that the presence of a catalyst causes a reaction with strong activation energy, what thereby tends not to occur, can instead easily take place through a series of intermediate steps all at low activation energy. So in the affective life, thinking to move from a situation of single to that of couple in one step is unrealistic (high activation stress and high uncertainty about the stability of married life (gay couple) compared with the condition of single) and so we try to create a series of intermediate steps, all low activation stress, which can lead to the final result. Inter alia by evaluating the increase of stress step by step you can get an idea of the convenience of the entire process. It starts by creating a contact, then sympathy, then a friendship, a friendship ever closer and with every step you evaluate the opportunity to take the next step.
I come now to the idea of identity and complementarity. A gay guy can fall deeply in love with another guy when he feels really similar to him, in this sense, the fact that the other is gay is a necessary but not sufficient condition. It is not enough to fall in love with a guy, otherwise it would not even be homosexuality, but he must also be a gay guy, because without this condition reciprocity is theoretically impossible. Basically starting from all “guys”, we are limited to the subset “gay guys”, but the progressive restriction of the field goes further by imposing the condition that he is a “gay guy congenial” i.e., one that we can perceive as profoundly similar. Here’s an example of restrictive condition, a hidden gay guy directs his research among the “hidden gay guys.” And yet, a gay guy who has a life experience linked to a strong sense of religion is predominantly oriented towards guys with similar experiences. It is then natural that a guy is orientated towards guys whom he perceives to have a sexuality similar to his own, that is based on similar fantasies and sexual behavior, condition without which the sexual equilibrium is actually very difficult. It is certainly easier to find couple’s harmony between persons closely similar that share the same type of sexuality and for this have no particular inconvenience in couple’s sexuality, that does not require, in these cases, adaptation efforts on the part of either. These identification mechanisms are the basis of the relations of friendship and also apply in the hetero field but in the hetero field sexuality has inevitably well-defined gender roles and then, in a couple’s sexual dimension strictly heterosexual, identification has a very relative sense, while for a gay guy it remains an important value in the strictly sexual field. Why a guy can feel more or less at ease in Gay Project? Why can he be more or less able to make friends in this area? The answer comes by itself, the greater is the degree of affinity with other guys, the higher is the is degree of integration and gratification. For a gay guy towards guys apply rules similar to those that govern the relationships of a straight guy with the girls: there is no defined border between friendship and love, but serious friendship is the minimum condition for any genuine relationship as a couple. I would add that the roles, and do not talk about sex roles, but about familiar ones, for a hetero guy have a meaning also in relation to children, in these situations the differentiation between the male and the female in the couple is automatic and spontaneous. Among gay people instead the condition of substantial equality is one of the few guarantees of equilibrium and stability. The more the relationship is unbalanced, the more is fragile. I should add that among gay people identification mechanism also acts deeply within the couple already established, if it is a real couple: sometimes a guy assumes the attitudes of the other or the attitudes of the face and body, ways of expression, and also of reasoning are shared and, over time, if the relationship goes on well, each guy actually perceives the other as the other half of himself. These mechanisms act in the same way in loving friendships, more or less unilaterally sexualized, and in so called best friendships that for a gay guy can be a step “low activation stress” to more engaging relationships.