Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Homosexuality and Choice: A Clandestine Relationship

I love the gay community, and I feel very comfortable saying so. Yet, I write this blog post to point out one of the things the gay community is totally wrong about: choice.

One of the cornerstone fallacies of the gay community for the last decade or two has been this idea that homosexuality is genetic. It’s actually one of the more unfortunate results of a hate campaign against homosexuality waged by conservatives for centuries, a sort of semi-harmless reaction to a very harmful prejudice.

No one is born homosexual. A lot of people may disagree, but I assure you that no child is born sexual at all, either homosexual or heterosexual. Sex doesn’t even enter into the mind of a newborn. You have to think in very Freudian terms in order to twist reality to the point of injecting sexuality into the life of a young child, and it doesn’t in any way truly resemble what we have come to think of as sexuality.

The biggest problem with homosexuality is that it is a completely invented term. Homosexuality was a disease thought up by 19th century psychologists, and it’s not real. Homosexuality is not a real thing, and it’s only use is in differentiating types of relationships for the purposes of morally judging them against the standards of religious bigotry.

I imagine it may seem trivializing, but I liken heterosexuality to vegetarianism. They’re very similar, in many ways. I see both as matters of taste. If you are raised to think meat is bad, or simply came to that conclusion on your own, then you may feel repulsed by someone eating a plate of steak next to you. I’m honest enough to admit I am a bit off-put by two men kissing, but I think their right to do so trumps my right to feel comfortable in all settings. If it is really bothering me, I generally just solve the “problem” by looking away (oh, the horror).

Sexuality is very heavily influenced by culture. Many cultures have practiced near universal homosexuality (like the ancient Greeks). However, taking the Greeks as our prime example, it’s not that they encouraged people to “be gay.” They didn’t think of sexuality in those terms, because they did not see homosexual acts as fundamentally immoral. Sure, some men of that time preferred the company of other men, but most had wives and children while also having had (and often continuing to have) homosexual relationships.

It would have been not only uncommon, but strange for a young man to forgo taking an older male lover during his adolescence. These men you see yelling about the evils of homosexuality in protests and in political debates today would have all fooled around with an older guy in their youths, and would take a young lover or two or three in their adult lives, had they been born in Greece, circa 400 BCE.

Every single one of them would have, I can be sure of it, because the same men who defended the institution of pederasty in Greece are the exact same types of men who demonize homosexuality today: defenders of tradition. Most people are helpless against the forces of social norms, and sex is no different. If your sexuality is this dependent upon the culture you grew up in, then I hate to say it, but… it’s not your sexuality.

It’s a tough situation. “Gay” people have been coached for years now to really own their sexual identity, but I think it’s pointless (or possibly even foolish) to do so. You should feel confident and free to choose to be with whoever you want, but I don’t believe in “gay” or “straight” people. I would prefer to think only of relationships as gay or straight; I don’t like identifying people by something as frivolous as their sexual proclivities.

If we’re just labeling people based on highly personal sexual preferences, I guess you can consider me a cowgirlist, though I usually finish as a doggy-stylist… and that’s why I don’t like defining people based on sexual details: way too much information.

I have this feeling that in the heat of battling all those who hate homosexuality, people supporting sexual tolerance have latched onto this fallacy that homosexuality must be genetic. It almost makes sense; who you are attracted to is not under your conscious control… so it must be genes. No one would ever “choose” to be gay, not with all the prejudice they face, right?

Except, some do. You can’t deny these people their sexuality by defining it for them based on some group’s political needs.

In fact, from my scientific understanding, homosexuality is not “genetic” at all, but may be hormonally influenced in some cases. I’m more inclined to just assume it is an “accident,” or a “fluke,” or some other less-offensive sounding term for “it just fucking happened, get over it already.”

Part of why I don’t like the propagation of the fallacy of homosexual genetics is because it paints a false picture of sexuality. The idea that people are “born gay” (or “born straight”) ignores several truths, like that some people change their preference as they get older, or that many people are attracted to both men and women.

Then you have the problem of gender not being as black and white as we imagine. Am I gay or straight if I’m attracted to someone who is a hermaphrodite? What about if I was born a man, but I feel like a woman, so I get surgery and hormone therapy to change my gender, and then, in the end, I’m attracted to women? Am I a lesbian, or just a straight man with tits?

Another problem with linking homosexuality to genetics is that it makes homosexuality look like some sort of genetic disease or hormonal imbalance. Is that what the gay community wants, to be once again minimized to the level of “disease” or “genetic disorder?” I imagine not, and yet they seem to see no way forward in the fight for equal rights, except by sticking to the story that they were “born this way.”

Homosexuality is not wrong, and it doesn’t matter one iota whether a person chose to enter into a homosexual relationship or not. It doesn’t matter whether a person’s preferences are the result of an accident of birth or culture, or if it is a conscious choice.

The reason homosexuality should be acceptable is because it’s harmless, and that’s really all there is to it.


  1. I too am weary of this argument distracting from the real issues. And as a genderqueer person (neither man nor woman gender), I am tired of watching people do a dance to define and re-define their sexual identities to allow for the fuzzier gender identities that exist. So, if I'm genderqueer, what does it mean when I'm dating a man vs a woman? What about if I'm having sex with another genderqueer person? Does dating me turn straight people queer and queer people straight? Does it mean I'm "really a woman" if I date a straight man or "really a man" with a straight woman? Should we really be letting other people's identities define our own?

    1. Does eating pork shumai make me Chinese?

      Ah, labels...

  2. Oh, and the correct medical term is "intersex", not "hermaphrodite". It will make you sound like you know what you're talking about. ;)

    1. I will use that term, but I hope most people still realize I'm clueless.

  3. I'm not entirely sure how to feel about this.

    As a man who is homosexual, I would certainly say that it does matter a great deal whether or not sexual identity and sexual preferences are genetic, hormonal, or chosen. I don't think it should matter in culture and morality, particularly not in Western Culture where freedom of choice is highly valued, but I can assure you that the knowledge that there exists very real evidence for a genetic influence on homosexuality offers me and many others a sense of relief. I feel better knowing that there isn't something I or anyone else did to make me turn out this way. Settled in that fact I feel more free to go about living my life as I choose. As far as being perceived as diseased, I see that as a non-issue. I will believe that homosexuality is a disease when being a redhead becomes classified as a disease.

    If you will forgive my being so presumptuous, it seems to me that your (justified) hesitancy to embrace labeling people because of the harm that it does is causing you to outright reject the possibility that homosexuality might actually be a condition that people are predisposed to. Yes, culture has a very strong effect on how people perceive their own sexuality and how they act it out, but I doubt its effect on peoples' innate sexual desires. With regards to the claimants of chosen sexuality, an application of Occam's razor with my knowledge of culture and sexuality would suggest that these individuals are just bisexuals who have been repressed or otherwise neglected a portion of their sexuality.

    I don't really know how to end this... so, um, I would love to hear your comments, thanks.

    1. You bring up some good points. For one, you mention that "born this way" provides relief. Relief from what? If homo/hetero are truly value-neutral, there should be no more relief than how I felt to have discovered that my brown hair is genetic and not the result of some secret additive in my shampoo.

      Also, I would agree that bisexuality is overlooked to a disturbing degree. Though I wonder why we're so keen on saying "aha! repressed bisexual!" when we wouldn't be nearly as perplexed over someone who professed to be exclusively attracted to brunettes who then suddenly dated a blond.

      I posit that the answer is "society". Society assigns moral value (positive or negative) to some traits, while other traits are simply allowed to exist in peace. Note that I'm not saying that "it's a choice!" I'm simply saying that society is why we demand an explanation for attraction to genders and not one for attraction to hair color.

    2. I concur fully.

      The relief I felt at learning that sexual orientation has some biological basis was similar to the relief I felt when I became an atheist. A sense of freedom from an externally-inflicted guilt feeling would be a fair description of it. While the concept of biological homosexuality does nothing to dissuade the persecution of religions who believe humans are inherently flawed, it can alleviate stress that results from culture's anti-homosexual tendencies.

      As for the bisexual vs. changing orientation thing, there is some evidence that women can change orientation and the frequency of bisexuality in women is much higher. There is actually no observable evidence for bisexuality in men other than self-reporting, but I feel it is important to respect someone's right to self-identify.
      Beyond that I view the difference between dating blondes vs. brunettes or white vs. black vs. asian people to be more like choosing a flavor of ice cream, whereas having a different sexual orientation would be more like being lactose intolerant. It's a silly analogy, but I think it makes the point well.

    3. As far as self-reporting vs "physical response" goes, I used to be on the side of thinking the body doesn't lie, until I read a bit deeper and realized it's more complicated than that. For example, the person who is physically aroused by being raped - the body lies and lies! I also read an explanation of what "penile response" actually means (which is the techniques used in studies that allegedly prove male bisexuality is a myth). In this case, "penile response" doesn't necessarily mean that the person has a sexual orientation toward children: http://scientopia.org/blogs/scicurious/2012/01/18/hebephilia-the-measurable-penile-response-and-psychological-damage-in-children/ And what about situations where someone would love to be able to "get it up" with someone but the penis just won't cooperate? If we can capture the elusive male bisexuality in a lab, that'd be great, but I know too many bisexual men in person to worry - it's only a matter of time before scientists catch up.


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