Monday, August 13, 2007

CC doesn't understand people who think homosexuality is a choice

I am usually the one who explains conservative positions to my liberal friends, but the idea that “homosexuality is a choice.” confuses me.

My father is not a tolerant guy by the UU definition of the word. He told me once that he believes homosexuality to be a genetic disease and that homosexuals were to be pitied because they could never feel for one another what he and my mother felt for each other.

(Seventeen-year-old CC was tempted to respond “What? You don’t think homosexuals can be indifferent?” but refrained.)

Now to UUs, that theory sounds pretty intolerant and awful.

But as anti-gay theories go, the “yes, homosexuals are born that way, but lots of people are born with evil urges they have to control to function as a decent person. God gave them a test and they shouldn't fail it” argument at least makes sense. While there’s a whole lot of opinion mixed in, it fits the facts and is internally consistent. (As well as setting up a parallel to pedophilia that conservative types use to imply connection. My impression at least is that pedophilia is no more a choice than any other sexual attraction, the people we think of as evil are the ones who act on it.)

I don’t at all get the “homosexuality itself is a choice” idea. I’ve known a lot of proud gay people, but I’ve also known some miserable gay people who would do anything to be straight. The idea that, say, teenagers would choose to join the group with the highest adolescent suicide rate in America floors me. It simply doesn’t make sense.

I’ve known gay people who led lonely lives for fear that telling their families the truth would mean they would be shunned by everyone who cares about them. I don’t get why anyone would choose that.

It’s a pretty standard conservative tactic to simply dismiss any scientific evidence that the arguer doesn’t agree with, so I’m sure the studies showing differences in brain chemistry don’t trouble the people who came up with this theory.

Some/Most of the people who make this argument are simply stupid, the sort of people who just don't think things through*. But my understanding is that there are rational people who feel this way.

What would be the motivation for the choice? Does anyone who grew up Conservative Christian know?


*I've asked the smartest social conservatives I know, none of whom read this blog, and gotten answers that were all either variations on the "genetic disease" theory or expressions of indifference to the sexual orientation itself, but desire to keep the laws as they are.


Anonymous said...

I think most people in the choice camp are in this one: "yes, homosexuals are born that way, but lots of people are born with evil urges they have to control to function as a decent person. God gave them a test and they shouldn't fail it” Then I think that there is the camp that sees it as a choice in that "Why would all these people go to pride marches and flaunt their gayness if they didn't LOVE it?" sort of way. I think you are right - there are a few left who thing it is ALL a choice as in - "Should I be gay or straight? Hmm, I think gay" but I think this has given way to the "it is like alcoholism" sort of choice - you can be pre-disposed to it and you need to fight it and if you don't, you choose it. When I ran in conservative Christian circles that's what I heard - that and a bad childhood caused you to be gay. A big thing in the exgay movement.

Anonymous said...

Well, the reason _I_ was told I made this choice was because I wanted attention.

I'm going to stay anonymous, for personal reasons. And I'll expound on this entry after work.

Chalicechick said...

Elizabeth: Thanks. That makes a lot more sense. I had heard it phrased "Well, since Bob *chose* to be gay..." and didn't get that this might be code for "chose to *act* gay..."

Anonymous: I'd be interested to know what generation you are.

But then, what's shocking is so dependent on where you are. I knew a girl in my southern college who dated an african-american just to cheese off her father and brother. Where I grew up, the culture is such that this would have been a less than successful method of raising eyebrows.

(At this point, even the Mormons in my area seem OK with interracial dating. Not just if asked straight out, but we're talking middle aged Mormon ladies cooing and giggling over a very attractive interracial couple who were in my wedding photographs.)


Anonymous said...

My generation?

I'm 28. 29 comes up very shortly.

Chalicechick said...


Well, I just turned 29 last month.

Progress is such a slow thing.


Lilylou said...

Actually, I think pedophiles are made, not born, CC. But I get confused by the "choice" people too. I think they don't want to believe the evidence.

Chalicechick said...

Either way, pedophilia is something imposed by circumstance. We don't decide what attracts us, we decide what attractions we act on.


Joel Monka said...

I grew up in a fundamentalist church, and it was explained to me as a child using the alcoholism analogy, just as Elizabeth said. Even today I'd say that explanation isn't total nonsense; I'm not a big believer in "biology is destiny". My point has always been that it doesn't make a bit of difference whether it is a matter of choice or not- our choices in such intensely personal matters should be sacrosanct anyway! To argue that "it's not my choice, I was born that way" is tacit agreement that there would be grounds to object if it were indeed a choice- and how far would it be from there to once again outlawing premarital sex or adultery or kinky practices even within marriage? It could even lead to dissaffiliating polyamorists!

Chalicechick said...

Heavens forfend!

whose rather crappy day is being improved by this conversation. Thanks, guys.

Anonymous said...

I've always kindof thought that all the people who insist that being homosexual is a choice are bisexual and made the choice to "be" straight. Everyone judges the world by themselves -- they think others have a choice because THEY had a choice. Lots of bisexuals don't think anyone is really fully gay or fully straight -- presumably because they judge by their own experience.

Anonymous said...

Kim has a point. I think some of this has to do with guilt and shame people feel about their own experimentation with same sex friends as adolescents. The idea that it may not be a choice scares people who might have or have had some feeling of attraction for a same sex individual. I think that there are people who have absolutely no sexual attraction to someone of the same sex, some who have no sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex and a lot of people in the middle somewhere on the continuum whose feelings of attraction for members of the same sex scares the **** out of them.

epilonious said...

I think I would fit under the "proud gay" category.

Furthermore, I agree with Gore Vidal in two of his quotes from Sex is politics:

"Actually, there is no such thing as a homosexual person, any more than there is such a thing as a heterosexual person. The words are adjectives describing sexual acts, not people. The sexual acts are entirely normal; if they were not, no one would perform them."

"The reason no one has yet been able to come up with a good word to describe the homosexualist (sometimes known as gay, fag, queer, etc.) is because he does not exist. The human race is divided into male and female. Many human beings enjoy sexual relations with their own sex, many don't; many respond to both. This plurality is the fact of our nature and not worth fretting about."

I have never really felt sexually aroused by a female. I feel that if I clenched my eyes and thought of England were I in a sexual situation with some woman I would be able to complete whatever act, but my heart wouldn't be into it...

I might also be full-well-able to find and befriend some nice girl, warn her I would never want sex with her, and marry her just so that I know my stuff will be taken care of should I die... but that seems disingenuous and since I have already found a man that I love and am attracted-to I'd much rather get as entwined as I can with him.

This is not to say that I might break-up and then meet some fantastic woman or transsexual in a couple of years time and fall head over heels in lust-peppered love with them. I just haven't ever felt that way for anyone who wasn't a born-that-way, wants-to-love-me-back man (and I had to sift through a bunch of those to find my current snoogle)... and I feel it would make me a very unhappy person indeed to fake it.

The thing is... going through with living a homosexual lifestyle is a choice. There are also lots of ancillary choices about how open you are... and what friends you keep. And humans, being the silly little sentient creatures they are, will opine on your choices and make their own choices in turn.

Like most things your relative independence influence that choice. I was much more inclined to come out and go boy-hunting AFTER I had finished college and gotten a job and moved into my own apartment with a roommate who knew my intentions. If I had told my parents at 15 why I was so sad and why I never seemed to speak of my friend that I was so excited to see that one summer... I might have gotten disowned or thrown in ex-gay therapy and had my life fucked up before my very eyes.

Knowing my parents I know that these were very unfounded fears, but I was 15 and angsty and scared and there were all sorts of diseases and lying strangers and frankly I could continue using the internet for a couple of years until I knew I was completely on my own.

Thus, there is a sort of "homosexual choice". It's whether you admit your love, consequences be damned and risk a chance at happiness... Or whether your lie to yourself and others and just hope for a day that you can suddenly become something your not, and watch your chances at happiness dwindle. A lot of people don't have to make that choice, but for those of us who get hard only and exclusively for other members of our own sex, it becomes a very large issue.

I'm just happy that public opinion is swinging from "*gasp* how DARE you ya icky perv!" to "whatever, just don't force it on people who don't want it".

PG said...

A lot of less-religious conservatives would side toward what Elizabeth said about "acting" gay. That is, they would point out that many supposedly conservative communities, particularly those in the South, will tolerate homosexuals as long as they don't publicize their homosexuality.

I agree that the world is more easily divided into men and women than into heterosexual and homosexual -- but to the degree that you think there's a morally relevant different between men and women, you can be troubled by sexual orientation because it goes against your idea of how couples should be set up. While not everyone who believes in significant sex differences opposes homosexuality, I've never met anyone who was against homosexual behavior or same-sex marriage who wasn't also invested in there being significant differences between the sexes. Believing that children must be raised by a man and a woman, for example, tends to cluster with the belief that women are "nurturers" and men are not. C.S. Lewis, for example, wrote about fairly typical conservative Christian beliefs regarding gender and family structure in Mere Christianity that sound pretty odd to the average person nowadays but probably remain convincing to his core audience.

Anonymous said...

anonymous said, "I think that there are people who have absolutely no sexual attraction to someone of the same sex, some who have no sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex and a lot of people in the middle somewhere on the continuum whose feelings of attraction for members of the same sex scares the **** out of them."

I think it's more like a reverse bell curve: lots of people at each end (more at the heterosexual end), and some people in the bisexual center. Just my impression.