Thursday, January 26, 2012

Is It a Choice to Be Gay? It Depends on the Meaning of 'It'

via HuffPost Gay Voices, by Nathaniel Frank

When Cynthia Nixon, who became famous for her role on Sex and the City, recently told The New York Times that being a lesbian was, for her, "a choice," her words lit up the LGBT listservs, angering many who believe that Nixon is giving comfort to the enemy.

Those who believe sexual orientation is a choice are far more likely to oppose our equality, while folks who think we are "born that way" are more likely to support us.

If we can't help it, goes the thinking, we shouldn't be punished for it; and the corollary to that: if you can't choose to be gay, there's no need to stigmatize it as a way to discourage people from making the wrong choice.

Those angered with Nixon's comments felt they were both unhelpful and incorrect. They say that research, along with so many of our own experiences, make clear that being gay or lesbian is not a choice.

And what Nixon was really describing, although she refused to apply the term, was the fact of being bisexual, since she had previously been partnered with a man (Nixon later said, "I don't pull out the 'bisexual' word because nobody likes the bisexuals").

But many have also defended her words, particularly lesbian and bisexual women. They say she was only speaking of her own experiences and that if she feels it was a choice for her, it's not for anyone else to say otherwise.

The problem is that this is not just about what Cynthia Nixon "feels." It requires more rigorous thinking about what identity and choice really entail.

Nixon's comments further muddy a matter that sometimes seems to stem from a vast but rather simple confusion in American thinking.

To paraphrase President Clinton, the question depends on what the meaning of "it" is. When I hear "it's a choice" (or "it's not a choice"), I can only make sense of the statement if I know if we're discussing same-sex attraction or same-sex action.

I can't say it better than the blogger John Aravosis: "It's only a choice among flavors I already like." That is, I don't choose to like chocolate ice cream, but I choose whether, when, and how much to eat it.

The idea that one can choose to be attracted to one type of person over another is nonsensical, just as no one is accused of choosing to prefer chocolate over strawberry.

The question is what someone will choose to do with those feelings (eat chocolate or strawberry, partner with this person or that), and whether any particular choice is morally good, bad, or neutral.

Many in the LGBT community, as with progressives more broadly, would rather not contemplate the moral consequences of personal choice, lest we commit the same acts of judgment that have hurt so many of us in the past. Instead, they "bracket" questions of morality and opt for privacy, saying what we do in the bedroom is no one else's business.

If we choose to engage in same-sex sexual behavior, no one but us is equipped to judge our choice. If Nixon feels this was her choice, so be it.

But at a minimum, it is imperative to clear up the confusion between sexual attraction and sexual action -- not because a same-sex sexual attraction has anything wrong with it (indeed, the problem with bracketing the moral question of choice is that it wastes an opportunity to argue that, in the words of the late Frank Kameny, "gay is good"), but because the suggestion that we chose our sexual attractions does not make sense (it's not just wrong; it's literally meaningless).

Then we can move onto questions of choice about our actions.

Read the rest

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

select key words

2007 National HIV Prevention Conference 2009 National LGBTI Health Summit 2011 LGBTI Health Summit 2012 Gay Men's Health Summit 2012 International AIDS Conference abstinence only ACT Up activism advocacy Africa african-american aging issues AIDS AIDS Foundation of Chicago anal cancer anal carcinoma anal health anal sex andrew's anus athlete ball scene bareback porn barebacking bathhouses bears big bold and beautiful Bisexual Bisexual Health Summit bisexuality black gay men black msm blood ban blood donor body image bottom Brian Mustanski BUTT Center on Halsted Charles Stephens Chicago Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus Chicago Task Force on LGBT Substance Use and Abuse Chris Bartlett chubby chaser circumcision civil rights civil union Coaching with Jake communication community organizing condoms Congress crystal meth dating dating and mating with alan irgang David Halperin David Munar depression disclosure discrimination domestic violence don't ask don't tell douche downlow Dr. James Holsinger Dr. Jesus Ramirez-Valles Dr. Rafael Diaz Dr. Ron Stall drag queen Ed Negron emotional health ENDA Eric Rofes exercise Feast of Fun Feel the love... female condom fitness Friday is for Faeries FTM gay culture gay identity gay latino gay male sex gay marriage gay men gay men of color gay men's health Gay Men's Health Summit 2010 gay pride gay rights gay rugby gay sex gay youth gender harm reduction hate crime HCV health care health care reform health insurance hepatitis C HIV HIV care HIV drugs HIV negative HIV positive HIV prevention HIV stigma HIV strategic plan HIV testing hiv vaccine HIV/AIDS homophobia homosexuality hottie hotties how are you healthy? Howard Brown Health Center HPV human rights humor hunk Illinois IML immigration International AIDS Conference international mr. leather internet intimacy IRMA Jim Pickett leather community leathersex Leon Liberman LGBT LGBT adoption LGBT culture LGBT health LGBT rights LGBT seniors LGBT youth LGBTI community LGBTI culture LGBTI health LGBTI rights LGBTI spirituality LGV LifeLube LifeLube forum LifeLube poll LifeLube subscription lifelube survey Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano love lube lubricant Lymphogranuloma Venereum masturbation mental health microbicides middle Monday Morning Perk-Up MRSA MSM music National AIDS Strategy National Gay Men's Health Summit negotiated safety nutrition One Fey's Tale oral sex Peter Pointers physical health Pistol Pete pleasure PnP podcast policy politics poppers porn post-exposure prophylaxis PrEP President Barack Obama Presidential Campaign prevention Project CRYSP prostate prostate cancer public health public sex venues queer identity racism Radical Faerie recovery rectal microbicides relationships religion research safe sex semen Senator Barack Obama sero-adaptation sero-sorting seroguessing sex sexual abuse sexual addiction sexual health sexual orientation Sister Glo Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence smoking social marketing spirituality STD stigma stonewall riots substance abuse treatment substance use suicide super-bug superinfection Susan Kingston Swiss declaration syphilis Ted Kerr Test Positive Aware Network testicle self-examination testicular cancer testing The "Work-In" The 2009 Gay Men's Health Agenda Tony Valenzuela top Trans and Intersex Association trans group blog Trans Gynecology Access Program transgender transgender day of remembrance transgendered transmen transphobia transsexual Trevor Hoppe universal health care unsafe sex vaccines video violence viral load Who's That Queer Woof Wednesday writers yoga You Tube youtube