What If Being Gay Is A Choice?

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.

6 responses to “What If Being Gay Is A Choice?

  1. As always, wonderfully insightful and thought provoking.

  2. Does queer include bisexual, or asexual?

    • The word “queer” has many definitions. As I wrote in my post “Why I Am Queer” “To me, that’s part of the beautiful things about the word queer — it doesn’t have rigid definitions, and it allows people to make what they want of it. It doesn’t exclude. What it means to me may be completely different from what it means to others, and that’s okay.”

      I generally think queer includes basically everyone who isn’t straight (potentially even certain people who identify as hetero) and would accept the queer as a label/identity. Personally, I think queer goes beyond bisexual because it has the potential to refer to all genders. Of course, I also personally am not a fan of the term bisexual (except perhaps when used to describe people who are exclusively attracted to/interested in women and men). That is, I dislike when people assume that someone who is interested in more than just men, or more than just women, must identify as/be bisexual because that assumes that there are only men and women.

      In terms of asexuality, I think that depends on the definition you use and the person in question. I also want to say that I really don’t know much about asexuality, although I’m trying to educate myself. That said, I wouldn’t argue with an asexual person identifying as queer based on being asexual, but I wouldn’t say that asexual people, as a whole, are queer. Also, from what little I’ve read, it appears that asexual people can be gay, straight, queer, or otherwise (it’s not as though they must be one or the other) — being asexual does not necessarily mean that will not / can not / do not have romantic relationships. The Asexual Visibility and Education Network states, “Many asexual people experience attraction, but we feel no need to act out that attraction sexually.”

      In short, I don’t think that being asexual necessarily must have anything to do with identifying as queer, although it might for some people.

      Did I answer your question? I’m sorry — I wasn’t quite sure what you were asking. Also, to anyone who identifies as asexual (or simply knows more than I do about asexuality), please let me know if I have gotten something wrong or been offensive: that was absolutely not my intent.

  3. Just playing devil’s advocate to make you think. I also believe that there is more to gender than the old standby of binary which is one of the reasons that I id as queer. : )

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