Friday, September 21, 2007

Sexuality and Rhetorically-Suspect-Knee-Jerk-ism

Thesis: Aging hippies talk a better game than they play.

Evidence: There was a small news item today about a reporter asking Hillary Clinton a stupid question: "How do you respond to the occasional rumor that you're a lesbian?" Our future president replied, "It's not true, but it is something that I have no control over. People will say what they want to say" (emphasis added).

First, I want to say that the source of sexuality seems to me to be an unresolved and unresolvable question; something like: Why do I like cheese more than tofu? Or brunettes more than blondes? So what follows isn't so much to claim that sexuality is a choice (I actually suspect that it's not) as it is a reiteration of the question.

Emphasizing the choicelessness of homosexuality seems to be the going line among self-proclaimed progressives, especially among baby-boomers. This is one of those questions that pops up in all kinds of bizarre corners of the internet. Google terms: "homosexuality + choice."

Now, for the record: hate groups and orthodox religionists insist that being gay is a choice, and a bad one. That works for them.

But it does not seem (to me) a very thoughtful response to say: "Being gay is not a choice."

Enlightened as I am, I tend to see a person's sexuality as morally neutral, which leads me to this question: who cares whether it's a choice or not? If homosexuality is a choice, after all, it seems a perfectly fine choice to me.

So my question to future-President Clinton and those who share the same perspective is: Doesn't the strenuous insistence on "fate" with regard to homosexuality seem to imply that it is not a co-equal behavior with heterosexuality? As I suggested above, if you believe as I do that sexuality is not a moral issue, then why so resistant to the idea that it might be a choice?

Comparative Example: Parents and teachers tend to believe that children shouldn't use swear words in elementary school, and adults feel comfortable saying things like, "Watch your language!" to the linguistic transgressors. But when the child has Tourette's, we say things like, "Well, the child isn't transgressing willfully when he screams 'sh*t-f---" every ten seconds."

If homosexuality is a kind of transgression, it makes sense to justify it by saying "it's not a choice!" If, on the other hand, it is not a transgression (as I'm claiming), then why do we feel motivated to disclaim it as a choice?


Monica said...

Was she actually referring to sexuality? Or was she, in a not very grammatically savvy way, referring to the fact that she can't control what people say about her? It's a funny slip, either way.

Casey said...

Good question, Monica.

I did watch a Republican debate a while back and a similar question was asked of one of the many candidates (I don't remember which): "Do you think homosexuality is a choice?"

Interestingly, the candidate answered, "Yes, I do."

And then (bizarrely), the questioner said, "No, I don't think you've understood the question -- Do... you... think... a... person... chooses... homosexuality?" -- As if they were trying to give himself a chance to resubmit his incorrect answer.

And then (awkwardly) the candidate said, "Yes, I do."

Casey said...

Monica -- on closer inspection, you're right: she was referring to the fact that she can't control what people say about her.

But -- my question about choice and "fate" stands!!!

Richard said...

I was going to make the point Monica made (if a week late!), but I'm glad you misinterpreted, because I think the argument you were making is worth making.

Casey said... give him a chance to resubmit... (sorry--typo!)

The Ridger, FCD said...

Coming in late but...

Because the argument begins with "God says it's evil and I can kill you for it." To that, the best - in a pragmatic sense - response isn't, "Oh,now, it's not bad". It's "O, no - God made me like this"

That might make some people stop and think.

Also, there's the "so you choose to be heterosexual? You look at to-die-for guys and just choose not to respond?" forces (maybe) some sort of re-evaluation.

The situation is still too close to violence to argue otherwise. We aren't anywhere close to being able to say, "Sure, it's a choice but so what?"