What if being gay is a choice? Of course, to even consider debating that, we’d need to decide what it meant to “be gay.” Having “homosexual desires,” acting on them, being out, identifying as gay? What about queers? To a certain extent, depending on the definition “being gay” could be a choice (and being queer even more so). If being gay means being out and not acting in a heteronormative way, then yes, being gay is a choice. However, being alive is a choice (continuing to eat, only crossing streets when cars aren’t coming at you, not outright killing oneself — all choices to stay alive). Leaving one’s home — even getting out of bed in the morning — is a choice. Not using a wheelchair (if one does not need it) is a choice (actually, even if it is needed, it is still some form of a choice). Practicing a religion is a choice. Speaking is a choice. Not all choices are easily put aside; not all choices are frivolous. Sometimes, when a situation might technically provide more than one option, the other option is so unacceptable, so intolerable, so unbearable, that it is barely a choice.
If I were to choose to be queer, would that make my identity less legitimate? Would that make me less deserving of protection from homophobia?
A section of the pro-gay rights people argue that being gay is okay, that gay people deserve rights the same as anyone else, because being gay is natural and can’t be changed. Essentialism — gay people are gay, and trans people are trans, because they were born that way; it’s innate; it’s not something that can change. “God made me this way.”
“Gay by the grace of God,” “God made me gay, and he doesn’t make mistakes” — once again, it feels as though agency is being taken away from me. Being queer has to be out of my hands, something that I can’t control. So, the basis of my argument for why being queer isn’t wrong is that I was created this way? I’m not buying it. That doesn’t seem like a very strong message. (Granted, I’m not a particularly religious person.)
The idea that being queer is morally acceptable because I was “born that way” feels really restrictive and limiting. My gender and sexuality should be considered legitimate, regardless how they came to be. I should have freedom of gender and sexuality, regardless whether they’re a matter of biology, choice, or something else entirely.
I can’t be allowed to play with my options? I can’t be allowed to explore? Why can’t it be a matter of self-expression, instead of strictly a matter of revealing some innate essence?
And why is the focus so often love? (I mean, aside from the fact that in terms of rhetoric and politics and whatnot, love is a safe reason.) Mainstream gay rights activists and allies often talk about gayness in terms of love — that it just means loving someone of the “same gender/sex,” and how can you have a problem with love? So, if it’s just about sex, or trying something new, or figuring things out, then being queer shouldn’t need to be accepted? If I’m not in love with him (them/hir/her/zim/preferred pronoun) — if I just think he’s hot, or that he has a nice smile, or am intrigued by him for some random reason — that’s somehow less respectable or less legitimate?
Now, I’m not trying to argue that being queer (gay, lesbian, pansexual, etc.) or straight is just a choice. However, should the idea that we can’t change our sexual orientation (or preference) be the basis for acceptance? If, for some people and in some cases, it were a matter of self-expression or choice, should their sexualities be considered less legitimate? Should they then be judged in ways they wouldn’t be if it were a matter of biology? I don’t think so.
In a lot of ways, I rather like the idea of calling it “sexual preference,” as opposed to “sexual orientation.” Sexual orientation just seems as though there is some form of underlying truth about to whom I’m attracted and what I want. There’s some ever-fixed mark to which my sexuality is oriented that cannot change. I don’t feel as though that’s the case.
I think that gender (and biological sex) is only one of many things that matter when it comes to who we’re attracted to. Who I’m interested in depends on my mood, how I’m feeling at the time, how I identify, how I want someone to think about me, the actual people in question.
Being queer is an integral part of who I am. For me, it’s a matter of so much more than just to whom I’m attracted.
What if it is sometimes a choice? Even though our attractions may not be a matter of choice, who we have sex with (consensually, anyway, and that’s what matters) is a matter of choice. Who we decide date, and the people with whom we form relationships, is a choice. It may not be much of a choice, but it’s still there.