Intro to Sociology is taught by an adorable, witty, and slightly befuddled old lady with the appropriate and delightful appellation of Professor Tuck. Professor Tuck does everything she can to make the material interesting and keep us entertained, and one of those ways is to prompt discussion on a range of topics. The other day homosexuality popped up, and she asked if we thought people were born that way, or if they choose to be.
A couple of guys near the back piped up that they thought it was a choice, and it's worth mentioning that one of them was Connecticut Redneck. For the record, I hated that kid before this class.
Professor Tuck asks him why he thinks the way he does and he replies that he thinks homosexuality is something people choose because lots of gay people have been with people of the opposite gender, which leads to him thinking that since they're perfectly capable of acting straight, they must be actively choosing to be gay.
Now, while I hate this kid, I can see where he's coming from. He doesn't understand how a person can apparently swing both ways, and then claim they have no choice when they "pick" one gender over the other. He's probably one of the millions of people who've been tricked into thinking that homosexuality is only defined by how and with whom you have sex. And since I've been wanting to talk about this issue of choice, I am using him as a springboard to do so.
Homosexuality, as a word, like heterosexuality, is defined by which gender you prefer to have sex with, but it is an incomplete and, in my opinion, slightly irresponsible definition. Being gay may, at some point, involve having sex with someone of the same gender. But a heterosexual person does not become heterosexual upon becoming sexually active. Prior to the popping of that cherry, they will have crushes on, obsess about, pursue relationships with certain members of the opposite gender, not necessarily (though, sometimes) with the intention of having sex with that individual. They are attracted to, desire the company of, develop emotional bonds with opposite gendered people. Everyone understands this about heterosexual people. I am stating the obvious and you are wondering why.
The reason why is that it is the same way with gay kids. We do not wake up one morning and say to ourselves "By what method can I ostracize myself from society, disappoint my parents, and deprive myself of constitutional rights taken for granted by most people today? Shall I fail at my school work? Get arrested for vandalism, perhaps? I know, I'll have dirty gay sex! That'll work!" and then proceed to engage in purely sexual encounters just for the dirty fun of it.
The argument that gay people choose to be gay has a bunch of problems but there are two that are glaringly obvious. The first is that the people who say we choose do not believe that they could choose themselves. They cannot choose to be gay, which is to say that they could not make themselves suddenly want to be in a relationship with someone of the same gender. But they think you can. There is something about them that makes them not choose to be gay, but there is something about you that makes you choose to be gay. Something intrinsic, perhaps? Like actually being gay prior to and irrespective of the choice you make? Hmmm?
There's also the issue of why on god's green earth someone would choose to identify as a stigmatized and sometimes violently hated demographic if they had the choice. Yes, some people are masochists. And yes, the situation in North America is a lot better than it used to be. However, not long ago you put your life on the line in order to engage in hot gay sex, and in some countries you still do. So why does someone need that so badly that they will risk all manner of horrible death or mutilation in order to acquire it? They put that need in their own heart? Because it seemed like a good idea?
All that aside, there remains the fact that I did not choose. You can tell me I did, but I didn't. On the contrary, there was a time when I "chose" to be straight, and I did my very best to follow through, but the choice was not whether to be straight or gay, the choice was whether to behave straight or gay. It seems like a small distinction, but it is a huge one. An enormous motherfucker of a distinction.
Which leads me to the role of choice in sexual orientation.
Gay people are really not different from straight people. We want what we want, but we choose whether we will pursue it. Straight people want happy fulfilling relationships with people of the opposite gender, and they make decisions about how best to make that happen. Some of them get drunk in bars and have sex with people until they find one they like more than all the others. Some of them spot someone they like and pursue a relationship that may or may not include sex. They choose if they will be promiscuous or not, and they decide how to treat the people they're interested in. They make all kinds of decisions about their behavior in the pursuit of romantic or sexual interests.
But they don't choose who they're attracted to. It just happens. A girl doesn't look at a guy and decide "I'm going to find that guy attractive." He's hot or he isn't, and she reacts to her attraction to his hotness or lack thereof.
The girl who has seldom, if ever, looked at a guy and thought he was hot finds her eyes drifting to another girl. She wants to know her name, she wants to get to know her. She hasn't even noticed the hot guy. She did not decide to not notice him, she just didn't. She is not deciding to be curious about the girl, she just can't stop wondering.
You can tell a person they chose to be gay till you're blue in the face. They know better than you do whether they've make a decision or not, and odds are pretty good that the only decisions they've made are in regards to their behavior, not who to be attracted to.
We can always choose our behavior. It's really the only thing we have control of. We can choose to suppress our most basic needs and submit them to some other goal. We can even subject ourselves to sex with people we don't want to have sex with in order to hide a part of ourselves we are afraid to confront or expose. But we can't choose to have that need any more than we can choose to breathe.
So. There is, apparently, scientific data regarding the inherent nature of homosexual attraction, but I'm not a science nerd. If you are a science nerd, please direct me to some good, readable material on the subject, because I like to have plenty of weapons in my arsenal, in case I need to make the argument while choosing to conceal my identity as a dirty dirty lesbian ho.
I'm done now. Goodbye.