Archive for February, 2012

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Choosing to be gay?

February 2, 2012

Currently in the news are statements made by American “Sex in the City” actress, Cynthia Nixon, 45.

“For 15 years, until 2003, she was in a relationship with a man. They had two children together. She then formed a new family with a woman, to whom she’s engaged. And she told The Times’s Alex Witchel that homosexuality for her “is a choice.”
“For many people it’s not,” she conceded, but added that they “don’t get to define my gayness for me.”

(Cited in the New York times, “Genetic or Not, Gay Won’t Go Away”, 28 January 2012, by Frank Bruni)

There are two questions here: did she choose to be straight to start with? Or is she bisexual and so made a choice?

In society it is tough being gay, so if you are unsure you wouldn’t choose to be gay, or the pressure is so tough is might take an individual 15 years to discover that they really are gay. As anyone who has been in love knows, once you do fall in love and make a commitment based on that love, whatever warm feelings you felt before towards another and thought might have been what could be called love, are nothing like this feeling.

But let me move onto the real issue, she states it was a choice to be gay. A bisexual has the freedom to love either sex but a gay person does not. Many gays have married the opposite sex for all sorts of reasons except for being in love, because who would willingly join one of the most ‘hated and despised minorities’ there is. And perhaps they were not sure until they tried being straight and perhaps by then there were children and they as responsible beings couldn’t just get up and leave. But I am getting side tracked.

If someone states that they are choosing to be gay, then clearly they are bisexual. For someone who is is gay there is no real choice, just as for an individual who can only fall in love with the opposite sex. Note the word ‘real’, I insert this because as I mentioned above, as social beings we do try to please others and so there will be individuals who will settle for a less fulfilling partnership, and if they are a consenting adult that is a form of choice.

So Nixon, a bisexual, it seems to me, has stated it is her right to claim “to choose to be gay” perhaps she has chosen something she was in denial of earlier or perhaps she doesn’t see the difference between being bisexual and being gay.

Why this is in the news is that it brings up the topic of whether one is born gay or whether it is culturally conditioned and if the later, we need to assume that being straight is culturally conditioned. If you belong to any minority group of any social environment, you know very well that you didn’t choose to be there.

You might be proud to be different. I am glad that I am left-handed for example and wouldn’t want to change to being right handed. But that is because I know there’s nothing wrong with being left-handed and I know that being different in this way has taught me a lot about the world. However I would never choose to be left-handed any more than a gay person would choose to be gay. Life would be much easier if I didn’t have to constantly make adjustments for the right-handed world I live in. Life is much easier if you never have to worry about someone giving you a look of disgust because you are holding your partner’s hand. Life is nicer if your Bahai friends naturally ask you how your partner is doing.

Julia Galef in her blog, “Pushing the right beliefs, for the wrong reasons” makes the argument that “…while I agree that the evidence is overwhelming that homosexuality is innate, I’m loath to make that argument, because in my opinion that’s not the real reason we shouldn’t discriminate against homosexuals. The real reason, as far as I’m concerned, is that it’s none of our business if consenting adults want to sleep with each other, as long as they’re not hurting anyone else. By making the “homosexuality is innate” argument, I’d be staking my anti-discrimination case on an empirical question which, if it unexpectedly turned out to be false, would seriously undermine what is actually a very worthwhile case.”(http://www.3quarksdaily.com)

Frank Bruni in his article, “Genetic or Not, Gay Won’t Go Away” cites evidence for ‘being born this way’:
“One landmark study looked at gay men’s brothers and found that 52 percent of identical twin brothers were also gay, in contrast with only 22 percent of nonidentical twin brothers and 11 percent of adoptive, genetically unrelated brothers. Heredity more than environment seemed to be calling the shots.”

And that other “research has posited or identified common anatomical and chromosomal traits among gay men or lesbians, and there’s discussion of a gay gene or, rather, set of genes in the mix. The push to isolate it is entwined with the belief that establishing that sexual orientation is like skin color — an immutable matter of biology — will make homophobia as inexcusable as racism and winnow the ranks of haters.”

However he, like Galef, sees the problem with arguing on the basis of scientific evidence: “…bigotry isn’t rational. Finding a determinative biological quirk, deviation or marker could prompt religious extremists who now want gays in reparative psychotherapy to focus on medical interventions instead. And a person’s absence of agency over his or her concentration of melanin has hardly ended all discrimination against blacks.”

and says that: “the born-this-way approach carries an unintended implication that the behavior of gays and lesbians needs biological grounding to evade condemnation. Why should it?

Our laws safeguard religious freedom, and that’s not because there’s a Presbyterian, Buddhist or Mormon gene. There’s only a tradition and theology that you elect or decline to follow. But this country has deemed worshiping in a way that feels consonant with who you are to be essential to a person’s humanity. So it’s protected.”

“Among adults, the right to love whom you’re moved to love — and to express it through sex and maybe, yes, marriage — is surely as vital to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as a Glock. And it’s a lot less likely to cause injury, if that’s a deciding factor: how a person’s actions affect the community around him or her.

I USE the words “moved to love” in an effort to define the significant, important territory between “born this way” and choice. That solid ground covers “built this way,” “oriented this way,” and “evolved this way”; it incorporates the possibility of a potent biological predisposition mingling with other factors beyond anyone’s ready control.”

I agree, society shouldn’t need hard scientific proof in order to grant equal rights and responsibilities. The argument can be made on principle. Principles such as justice and equality. However science is useful for when those arguments fall on deaf ears.

This blog began with a statement about choosing to be gay – choosing who you fall in love with and I can’t say it any better than how Frank Bruni writes below:
“I honestly have no idea if I was born this way. My memory doesn’t stretch to the crib.

But I know that from the moment I felt romantic stirrings, it was Timmy, not Tammy, who could have me walking on air or wallowing in torch songs and tubs of ice cream. These feelings gelled early, and my considerable fear of society’s censure was no match for them.
I know that being in a same-sex relationship feels as central and natural to me as my loyalty to my father, my pride in my siblings’ accomplishments and my protectiveness of their children — all emotions that I didn’t exit the womb with but will not soon shake.
And I know that I’m a saner, kinder person this way than trapped in a contrivance or a lie. Surely that’s not just to my advantage but to society’s, too.”

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