Sunday, January 29, 2012

Genetic or Not, Gays Won’t Go Away

Cynthia Nixon caused a recent firestorm when she said she chose to be lesbian. Not being inside her mind and having lived her life, it's impossible to know for certain how she interprets "choosing" to be gay. Perhaps she's bisexual or perhaps she finally gave in to feelings and attractions that she had long experienced. I don't want to judge her even though some of the usual hate merchants of the professional Christian set have leaped on her statements as proof of their anti-gay "choice myth." Having been married with children and in the closet for decades, on could argue that I "chose to be gay" when I came out. I'd argue that instead of choosing, I finally admitted the truth about myself and began the process of rejecting the religious and societal brainwashing I'd been subjected to. I can state with absolute certainty that my emotional/physical connection with a guy I love is far different and more spiritual fulfilling than what I can experience with a woman. And I mean no slight to women by this comment. It's simply how/who I am. And Lord knows I tried desperately to deny it for 37 years.

Frank Bruni has an op-column in the New York Times that looks ate the Cynthia Nixon brouhaha and the reality that gays are not going away no matter how much the Christofascists malign us and denigrate us. and try to convince the ignorant and gullible that we all could be straight if we but wanted to. Here are some column highlights:

Born this way. That has long been one of the rallying cries of a movement, and sometimes the gist of its argument. Across decades of widespread ostracism, followed by years of patchwork acceptance and, most recently, moments of heady triumph, gay people invoked that phrase to explain why homophobia was unwarranted and discrimination senseless. Lady Gaga even spun an anthem from it. But is it the right mantra to cling to? The best tack to take?

Not for the actress Cynthia Nixon, 45, whose comments in The New York Times Magazine last Sunday raised those very questions. For 15 years, until 2003, she was in a relationship with a man. They had two children together. She then formed a new family with a woman, to whom she’s engaged. And she told The Times’s Alex Witchel that homosexuality for her “is a choice.” “For many people it’s not,” she conceded, but added that they “don’t get to define my gayness for me.”

They do get to fume, though. Last week some did.
They complained that she represented a minority of those in same-sex relationships and that she had furthermore handed a cudgel to our opponents, who might now cite her professed malleability as they make their case that incentives to change, not equal rights, are what we need.

By hinging a whole movement on a conclusion that hasn’t been — and perhaps won’t be — scientifically pinpointed and proved beyond all doubt, they hitch it to a moving target. The exact dynamics through which someone winds up gay are “still an open question,” said Clinton Anderson, the director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns Office of the American Psychological Association. “There is substantial evidence of various connections between genes, brain, hormones and sexual identity,” he said. “But those do not amount to a simple picture that A leads to B.”

[B]igotry isn’t rational. Finding a determinative biological quirk, deviation or marker could prompt religious extremists who now want gays in reparative psychotherapy to focus on medical interventions instead. And a person’s absence of agency over his or her concentration of melanin has hardly ended all discrimination against blacks.

What’s more, the born-this-way approach carries an unintended implication that the behavior of gays and lesbians needs biological grounding to evade condemnation. Why should it?

Our laws safeguard religious freedom, and that’s not because there’s a Presbyterian, Buddhist or Mormon gene. There’s only a tradition and theology that you elect or decline to follow. But this country has deemed worshiping in a way that feels consonant with who you are to be essential to a person’s humanity. So it’s protected.

Our laws also safeguard the right to bear arms: not exactly a biological imperative. Among adults, the right to love whom you’re moved to love — and to express it through sex and maybe, yes, marriage — is surely as vital to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as a Glock. And it’s a lot less likely to cause injury, if that’s a deciding factor: how a person’s actions affect the community around him or her.

We don’t need to be born this way to refute the ludicrous assertion that homosexuality poses some special threat to the stability of the American family. We need only note that heterosexuality — as practiced by the likes of Newt Gingrich and John Edwards, for example — isn’t any lucky charm, and yet no one’s trying to heal the straights.

We don’t need to be born this way to call out Chris Christie, currently trying to avoid responsibility for a decision about same-sex marriage in New Jersey, for being a political wimp. Andrew Cuomo showed courage and foresight in fighting successfully for such legislation in New York. Christie, who fancies himself a dauntless brawler, should do the same in the state next door.

I honestly have no idea if I was born this way. My memory doesn’t stretch to the crib.

But I know that from the moment I felt romantic stirrings, it was Timmy, not Tammy, who could have me walking on air or wallowing in torch songs and tubs of ice cream. These feelings gelled early, and my considerable fear of society’s censure was no match for them.

I know that being in a same-sex relationship feels as central and natural to me as my loyalty to my father, my pride in my siblings’ accomplishments and my protectiveness of their children — all emotions that I didn’t exit the womb with but will not soon shake. And I know that I’m a saner, kinder person this way than trapped in a contrivance or a lie. Surely that’s not just to my advantage but to society’s, too.

If the laws are only going to protect characteristics that are not a "choice," then one of the first things that needs to change are laws that bar discrimination based on religion. If there is anything in life, it's religious affiliation. Yes, one may be raised in a particular tradition, but each and every one of has the choice to walk away from it. Religious affiliation is ultimately 100% choice. And that being the case, the Christianist need to be truly careful how they poise their anti-gay arguments. Because by pushing the "choice myth" and linking legal rights to only things that are not a choice, they are sowing the seeds for their own destruction.

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