Sunday, August 12, 2007

Is Homosexuality Something You're Born With, or Something You Choose?

By now you've probably seen Bill Richardson's tortured response to that question at the Logo forum, and Melissa Etheridge's surprise that he initially chose "choice"... which is very un-PC. She was certain he didn't mean to say that, and she was right.

I don't know why.

Of course, as a straight man who is not running for President, it's none of my business. (If I were asked that question on Logo, I'd have to say, "I don't care." Which is one of many reasons I'll never be elected President.)

I feel about that question the same way I feel about gay marriage: I don't care. It's none of my business. (Especially since I'm not married, and therefore have no horse in this race at all.)

Still, it's hard for me to imagine why gay marriage has to be a "civil union" whereas straight marriage performed in a civil ceremony is still "marriage." If "marriage" doesn't have to be religious to be "marriage" why does "gay marriage" have to be?

Besides, any institution which can be legally entered into by Liza Minelli and David Guest, or Britney Spears and either of her husbands, can't possibly still be "too sacred" for gay people to enjoy.

But back to biology vs. choice.

Again, no one asked me, but... It seems to me that when gay people say "it's biology" they are playing right into the homophobes' hands. The discussion itself is, to my mind, a humiliating one for homosexuals to have to have.

No one else is asked to justify his life according to nature vs. nurture. One hundred percent of, say, Methodists choose to be Methodists. None of them were biologically born Methodists. Yet we still respect their right to be Methodists.

On the other hand, whether you were born a paraplegic, or you became one by choosing to drive drunk, you still get equal access to the same ramps and parking spaces.

And people can be born with a tendency toward alcoholism or drug abuse. We don't honor those lifestyles simply because folks were born to them. We do, however, respect the choice to recover from substance abuse.

And a woman's right to choose to do with her body as she wishes is obvious. (A man's, too, in a perfect world.) The fact that something is a choice doesn't make it less of a right.

Who cares if "gayness" is something you're born with, or something you choose? I think the discussion itself is insulting. But then again, it's not me that it insults, so I'll shut up now.

Except to say one thing: If gay people continue to hang their rights on the "I was born this way" hook, they are only asking for trouble the day a genetic test is invented. Should only those gay people who test "positive for gayness" be entitled to civil rights? Should those who actually did choose to be gay be discriminated against? I don't think any sane person wants that.

Okay, now I'll shut up.


Sydelle Pearl said...

Um, how is a politician supposed to know if it's something biological or something you choose when scientists who have devoted their lives to this question don't know? Why don't they ask him how to cure cancer while they're at it?

Michael Markowitz said...

THANK you! As usual, Sydelle, you're spot on.

I'm also irritated by the idea of asking someone a question with two choices when you're only prepared to accept one. Melissa Etheridge was schoolmarm-shocked he said "choice." Well, in that case, why ask??

This exchange reminds me of the scene in the Simpsons movie where Albert Brooks not-so-subtly leads President Schwarzenegger to the desired envelope. Ah, Simpsons... Is there anything they can't prophesy?

Anyway, I don't see why anyone should have to shrug and say, "Hey, what can I do? I was born this way." in order to get their civil rights.

The Crutnacker said...

You summed up what I didn't know I was thinking when I watched his response. Who knows if it is nature or a choice? Who gives a rats ass? If you are happy and nobody gets hurt, I could care less.

Frankly, I think that answer would have been the best any politician could have given.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry - did I miss something? Are Methodists insisting that their CHOICE be granted civil rights status?

Nature vs. choice DOES matter in the long run. If it's proven that gays are gay because they're wired that way at birth, I'll support their civil rights as a minority all day long.

But if it's a choice, they don't have a leg to stand on.

norm said...

I guess "choice" is a less desirable option because then people will say, "You chose this? Well then, if you don't like being treated like crap... stop being gay and go straight."
A stupid reaction, but I do think people would act that way...and I can certainly understand the desire to avoid that kind of shit.

And...even though I figure there are all kinds of reasons why someone might be gay, I agree with you....why is it anyone else's business?

Sydelle Pearl said...

Could Anonymous please provide some reasoning for his statement that if it's a choice, they don't have a leg to stand on? What is that arbitrary statement based on? Would it be okay to deny civil rights to people who chose a certain profession for example? Or chose to shave their heads? Thanks!

Michael Markowitz said...

>>I'm sorry - did
>>I miss something?
>>Are Methodists
>>insisting that
>>their CHOICE be
>>granted civil rights

If you're not aware that all Americans have the RIGHT to observe any religion they CHOOSE then the answer is yes. You have missed quite a lot.

And by the way? Unless you were born in your present dwelling and city, you better hope the government respects your CHOICE to live there.

Do yourself a favor. Stay anonymous.

Grubber said...

Great post.

My underlying fear (white married male here-full disclosure) is if it is tracked down to a gene or whatever and confirmed that gays are born and it is not a choice.

In the words of Julie Stiles from the Bourne Supremacy, "Scary version?"

The next thought will be, "we can fix that".

Michael Markowitz said...

Thanks, Grubber. You're absolutely right. Science moves along (as it should) and our ability to cope with its consequences races to keep up. (Or in the case of the Creationism and Intelligent Design crowds, digs in and tugs back)

We already have the hideous nightmare (IMHO) of women having litters of 5 or 6 or more babies, simply because science makes it possible.

We will have to make the kind of choice you talk about sooner than we think. Parents will probably be able to choose eye color and hair color and all of that stuff... Frankly, judging from most people's homes, clothes and kids' names, I'm not sure everyone has the class and taste to design a human. Are any of us looking forward to "pimped out" babies? Would you really want your height decided by the person who named you "Amythyiste" or "Lexus" or "Synn'Seer" or Anferny"?

I actually hope it's a choice. That seems more freeing to me. That each of us is born a blank slate, and we can make choices along the way. To me "something you're born with" evokes a disease.

On the other hand, I think it would be great if you could "retrofit" yourself. Sort of DNA-plasty. As much as we like to think that, for example, all white people love being white, and all black people love being black, it's just not logical.

Grubber said...

Whole scary area. I can see the pitch for a movie.

It's Brokeback mountain meets Logan's Run, but with Vera Wang designed jumpsuits and Manolo Blahnik boots.

Title.....Purity in the City.

Okay...going for a drink after that one.