In class on Tuesday, someone posed the question of whether we think that homosexuality is a choice or something that's determined by genetic factors. All of us who responded indicated that we believe homosexuality is determined by genetics.
Sam pressed us to consider why it feels “safer” to assert that homosexuality is not a choice. I thought this was an interesting idea, as I’d never before examined the motivation behind this particular belief of mine. I’d like to expand on this and provide my own thoughts and further questions.
When you maintain that your queerness is not within reach of your agency, you deny responsibility for the detrimental consequences that your status may bring about in your life. Harassment directed against you because of your sexuality is always unjustified. When someone argues that you chose this “lifestyle” and that you must therefore accept all of its negative effects, you are armed with the assertion that you didn’t choose this life for yourself, so you don’t deserve the discrimination.
This idea that homosexuality is genetic speaks of the language that was used, pre-Kinsey, to characterize it as a medical condition. Perhaps arguing that your sexuality is not your choice implicitly suggests that being queer is a handicapping and/or unpleasant experience.
By asserting that our sexuality is genetically or biologically determined, do we not also imply that it’s curable?
After this critical evaluation of my own beliefs, the only thing that I’m still confident in stating is that gender and sexuality are much more fluid and dynamic than the dominant culture makes them out to be.
I don’t know for sure whether homosexuality is determined by genetics or other factors. To my knowledge, there is, as yet, no scientifically proven answer to this question. Yet I do believe, very strongly, that it’s not a choice. I’ve felt attracted to the same sex since I was young, and many other queer people who I've met have indicated that they feel the same. Perhaps, on a much deeper level, my belief in this idea that I can’t prove is also a defense mechanism. I believe it in order to protect myself from the very real discrimination and harassment that I am subjected to as a queer person in the world.
Either way, the question of whether or not your sexuality is a choice is irrelevant. Agency aside, we all deserve the freedom to love whomever we fall in love with, as freely and openly as we would like, regardless of our sexual and gender identities.
What do you think? On some level, do those of us who are more tolerant of “alternative” sexualities like to claim that homosexuality is genetic as a defense mechanism against harassment? Does believing in it suggest that queerness is curable or something that’s akin to a handicap?