Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Great Gay Gene Debate

i didn't expect to write on the same topic two days in a row.  but i saw something on facebook i had to respond to, and as usual had more to say than i could contain in a fb message.  there was a mother jones article on the possibility that the bachmann creature was right that homosexuality was a 'choice'  rather than genetically prompted. [this was mother jones, so you know they were on the right side.]

  i've always been uncomfortable with the 'defense' of homosexuality based on the idea that it's genetic.  it may be, which would be interesting.  it would also be irrelevant to the question of gay rights.

there's so much we don't know about the structure of the brain, including, as i've gathered, the question of whether a given gene creates a particular quality or responds to that quality; the brain seems much more changeable than we once believed.

but what does that have to do with the fact of homophobia? lots of things we do, from the most trivial to the most profound, involve genes and changes in genes.  if there is a gene that causes homosexuality, there is likely a gene that causes heterosexuality and bisexuality and attraction to tall blonds or short redheads. but tall blonds and short redheads are not asked to justify their conditions--and heterosexuals certainly aren't.

it's always seemed to me at best condescending to embrace the idea that homosexuality isn't someone's fault because they have this gene.  homosexuality is no one's fault because homosexuality is not a fault.  must we justify heterosexuality because hets were made that way by some weird gene?  and if it turned out that there wasn't such a gene, would hets be blamed for choosing their sexuality?

this question of 'choosing' is the companion argument to the genetic issue.  if there isn't a gene that creates homosexuality,  the argument goes, then people choose to be gay.  and that's a bad bad choice.
so we end up clinging to that poor little gene, to free homosexuals from their wicked choices.

but the 'choice' question is a bit more complicated than the 'phobes want to admit.  we end up with an image of someone who thinks, 'golly, wouldn't it be fun to be gay? i think i'll go out and find me a same-sex lover.' it's an awfully bizarre image.   there is choice involved in any sexual decision, but the choice isn't whether or not be straight or gay or bisexual or anything else: the choice is whether or not to act on a given attraction.  even within the wonderful world of heterosexuality, there isn't a whole lot of choice about who to be attracted to.  would that there were!  someone is interested in a sexual relationship with you. he [for convenience's sake, i'm making 'you' a straight woman for the moment]....he is everything a guy should be: kind, sensitive, strong, handsome, respectful, intelligent--whatever it is you long for in a lover.  and you're not attracted to him. you can try to become attracted, and maybe over time you'll find him sexy. maybe not.  maybe the guy  you find sexy is a friggin pig.  and no matter how much you tell yourself not to be attracted to mr. piggy, your hormones pay no attention.  you have a choice here; you can choose to have sex or not have sex with either of these guys.  you control your actions, not your desires.

so yes, a gay person can choose to act or not on homosexual desires.  to that extent mr. bachmann is right.  where he's wrong, fundamentally and immorally wrong, is in his conviction that the only right choice is to flee homosexuality.  maybe, as some people have suggested, that's because he himself has made that choice. maybe not; i've never had great gaydar.  but if he does have attractions to men and has chosen not to act on them, good for him.  he chooses within his own moral convictions.  but he has no right to impose those convictions for others.  if god has talked to him [or is it only michelle god talks to?], that's fine.  my guess is that 'god' has said very different things to a lot of other people.

the 'choice' between accepting a genetic predisposition or deciding to be gay is a false choice.  if there is a genuine moral flaw in being gay and honoring that desire, i have yet to learn what it is.  maybe bigotry too has a gene, and the homophobes can't help what they feel.  but they damn well can help what they do with those feelings.  trying to cure a nonexistent disease is a lousy choice.  

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