Why I Disagree with Obama About Discrimination

President Obama recently said, “we don’t make determinations about who we love. That’s why I think discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong.” I realize that’s a common view (among people who don’t think being gay is wrong). I appreciate that Obama is against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, I don’t necessarily agree with him.

I’m not exactly arguing that sexual orientation is a choice, and I’m definitely not arguing in favor of discrimination. My issue is more with the basis of his reason for being against sexual orientation-based discrimination — the idea that people deserve protection from discrimination because sexual orientation isn’t a choice.

To me, this line of thought seems dangerous. It seems as though they’re saying that the only reason why being gay (or bi or queer or otherwise not hetero) should be acceptable is that we can’t help it. If we could change it, we would. It’s not really a neutral or positive thing; it’s just something that we can’t change. Being queer is only acceptable if it wasn’t a choice, if it was forced upon us.

His statement implies that if we could choose who we loved, discrimination based on sexual orientation wouldn’t be wrong. Perhaps that isn’t what he meant, but he explicitly stated that the reason why he thinks the discrimination is wrong is because we can’t determine who we love. Not because sexual orientation is irrelevant to morality, not because being gay/queer is just as valid as being straight, not because we all should have the freedom to express ourselves without free of violence or discrimination — because we can’t help being non-heterosexual.

Don’t get be wrong: I think it’s great that Obama has said what he did, and I realize that many other politicians in his place would not have said as much. At the same time, it frustrates me that it should be considered a positive thing, a step forward, some kind of victory, that the president would say that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong. That should go without stating. It frustrates me that there are still so many people who think that being gay, or living a “gay lifestyle,” or committing “acts of homosexuality” is morally reprehensible.

It’s just exhausting, sometimes, existing in this society. Fighting for rights that others take for granted, being continuously reminded that there are people who hate me for who I am and how I live my life, always being aware that the people I meet may not react well to my various identities, perpetually going back and forth between being treated as “other” and having who I am be ignored or made invisible.

I realize that life isn’t fair. I realize that I have life a lot better than many, many people. I realize that all people — even homophobes and transphobes — have a right to their opinions. I just wish, sometimes, that people would stop judging so much and adopt a more “live and let live” sort of attitude. It would certainly make life easier.

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