I did a post recently about homosexuality and choice, and I got some interesting feedback. First, thanks to The Nerd for some support and corrections, since I certainly need it on this kind of topic. I’m pretty boring sexually, so it’s really reaching on my part when I try to write on this topic. I rely on the ideas of others on this matter, and the best I can do is synthesize all the opinions I have heard, so my personal ignorance creeps in frequently.
One comment I want to address in detail, and I figured I could do a whole post on it. The comment was left by Andrew, and is reproduced in whole below:
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.
First off, thanks for the comment. Hopefully nothing I said upset you, because that’s wasn’t my intent. Also, I hope I didn’t appear to be claiming “all” people who identify as gay are a certain way. My intent was more to point out some concerns I have with the dogmatic nature of one particular claim coming from the gay community.
Let me be clear: I’m pretty confident in saying that most people who consider themselves gay don’t choose to be attracted to people of the same gender. I also would not be surprised if many people who have same-gender attraction wish they could stop (these are the ones I feel most sorry for of all). Hopefully it was clear that I’m not accusing gay people of a massive conspiratorial cover-up regarding homosexuality and choice.
Now, onto the actual concerns Andrew brought up…
I’ve stated so before (if I wasn’t so lazy, I would find the post), but I think the genetic defense argument is weak on many grounds. My principle concern is, suppose I was attracted to children. I didn’t choose to have that attraction, but acting on it is immoral. Or, I could be inclined to want to chop up women into little pieces and lay in a bathtub full of body parts.
The point isn’t that gay people are like pedophiles or serial killers, the point is that a lot of urges might not be choices, but if society thinks they’re wrong, we’re expected to suppress them. Homosexuality is harmless, unlike those other inclinations, so it’s okay to give in to those urges (at least, in my view). However, saying “I was born this way” is not justification for a behavior. It simply isn’t, I’m sorry. It’s a piss-poor, weak argument which has no place in public discourse.
Now that I have you thinking I compare gay people to child molesters… clearly I have endeared you to my side and I can continue.
I don’t know if there is or is not a link between homosexuality and genetics. It’s possible, I suppose, though I find it highly unlikely. Sexual attraction is a very complex emotional response to a whole host of chemical, visual and cultural stimuli. I don’t think genetics can code for whether I would prefer to play the guitar over the bass, or whether I will like beef more than pork. Then again, some people are genetically pre-disposed to be disgusted by the taste of cilantro, so I can see how the concept is possible.
I think it’s more likely (and most scientific research I have read on the matter seems to confirm) that things like sexuality may be heavily affected by hormones, especially the levels of those in the mother during pregnancy. Still, I would hate for this to be the case…
While many gay people say they take comfort in knowing it’s genetic or hormonal, I think it’s borderline scary. Suppose we prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that homosexuality is caused by genetics or hormones. What then? Will Christian parents abort their gay babies, or treat hormonal imbalances to ensure straight children? While you write off gay people being considered sick as a non-issue to you, it was a major problem for previous generations when homosexuality literally was defined and treated like a disease.
It’s not about whether you believe homosexuality is a disease, my friend. They don’t drag you off for shock treatment because you think you’re sick. I know you aren’t, but certain individuals who enjoy kneeling down in front of a scantily clad man with six-pack abs and arms outstretched just might.
I openly embrace the fact that people are often predisposed to homosexuality. Any amount of time studying biology will reinforce that fact, because no species I have ever heard of exhibits purely heterosexual tendencies. From apes to zebras, there are critters that prefer sexual relationships with members of their own gender across the whole animal kingdom. When people claim “homosexuality isn’t natural,” I’m very quick to point out how wrong they are. It’s 100% natural… I just question whether we can (or should) pin it all on genetics or hormones.
If I may be so bold, while you claim that certain types of people who choose to be gay are bisexual, I believe that everyone is bisexual. I have zero doubt that there is the potential in everyone to be attracted to the other sex. Certain cultures have ubiquitous homosexuality practiced by the entire population. In my eyes, that proves that there simply are no “straight” people. We as a culture make people straight.
My “straightness” is largely a condition of socialization. I have no doubt that if I was raised around more images of two men kissing, I wouldn’t be uncomfortable around it. I liken it to the way I reacted around a man and woman kissing when I was five. My perception of male-male sexuality is essentially stunted by a culture that does not depict such things, except in the context of humor, and in truth… I often laugh more than any other single response when presented with the image of two men kissing. It’s not socially acceptable to do that in some cases, so I might look away to prevent myself from giggling like a little child.
Why don’t I have the same stigma about female-female sexuality? Come on… do I have to spell it out for you? Our culture depicts lesbians as sexy. There’s nothing hotter than two chicks going at it… except maybe having them invite me in at the end (I only need 30 seconds, I swear).
Oy… this came out much more crudely than I intended.
Maybe that cleared things up. If not, feel free to call me out on my ignorance and I’ll give it another whirl.