Tuesday, 17 April 2012

It Doesn't Matter Why I'm Gay

Nature or nuture? When I consider that ever present question regarding my sexuality, I regard it with the same interest as that other important question: what colours were the dinosaurs? In other words I find the subject fascinating but essentially it has no bearing on how I live my life or how I view the struggle for LGBT rights.

The reemergence of last year's "A stroke turned me gay" story, thanks to a documentary on BBC Three tonight, has spurred some debate. Thanks to such things as the recent "ads on a bus" scandal, the concept of one's sexuality being flexible (or, my preferred word, fluid) is a "No go" area for some LGBT folk. Paul Flynn in the Guardian, and even Chris Birch's own fiance, seem convinced that Birch was always gay but was just in denial. The idea some event, be it a stroke, therapy or a magic spell, might be able to change one's sexuality goes completely against their world view. It plays, by their way of looking at things, into the hands of those crazy Christians who spend their life trying to convert gay men, lesbians and bisexuals to the "correct" sexuality.

I sometimes wonder if they are suggesting sexuality is something mystical or holy. The idea that it is immutable is akin to believing one has a soul. It's as religious, and unscientific, a belief as those who think it can be changed by therapy.

Making the argument about whether it can be changed or not is the real danger here. What does one do if science proves one's sexuality can be changed? That's the danger you face if you sit there fighting the case for an eternal and unchangeable sexuality.

To me it doesn't matter if it's nature, nuture, magic, cultural, or a mixture of all or some of those and other factors. It doesn't matter if it's a choice or not. There is NOTHING wrong with being gay, bisexual, a lesbian, asexual, straight, pansexual, polyamorous or just about any other consensual sexual flavour one can imagine. That is the beginning and the end. Even accepting one side of the argument or the other is to tacitly agree there could be something wrong with it, that if it was a choice it'd somehow be a bad thing to choose.

Now, what do I believe? Based on no evidence whatsoever I suspect it's a mixture of nature, nurture and a significant splash of cultural construction. I also believe that our current distinction of LGB and straight will disappear, that our current "gay culture" is but a passing phase that will go the way of homophobia.

But that doesn't change the fact I might be very wrong indeed, and it doesn't change the fact it doesn't matter one iota.

So I'm perfectly content to accept that I didn't choose to be gay, that some might find "benefit" from ex-gay therapy and that Chris Birch could indeed turn gay because of a stroke. I'm not quite as happy to accept one must stop playing rugby, lose some weight and get a terrible hairstyle in for the bargain though.

Pink News managed a rather more thoughtful comment piece on this than the Guardian managed.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist


David said...

I have thought for a long time that sexuality is like many other animal characteristics, e.g. height. Your genetic inheritance gives you a range of possible height. Where you end up in that range will depend upon your environment, in this case the availability of food. I see sexuality not as bipolar but as a spectrum running between 100% gay and 100% straight. Very few people will be at the extreme ends of the spectrum but our experience will determine where we lie on that spectrum. A further question arises. Is sexuality objective ? In other words, does it make sense to suggest that an individual actually occupies one place on the spectrum but thinks that s/he occupies a different one ? Alternatively, is your sexuality by definition what you think it is ?

Jae Kay said...

Some interesting points David, and I'd say that in my opinion your sexuality is what you think it is. Even if others might think differently!

Paul Brownsey said...

Very good post, Jae. The crucial point is that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with being gay, whether or not people can change or be changed.

Still,given the resources that are put into trying to change gay people or to prevent people from being gay, it's probably pragmatically useful to emphasise the very great unlikelihood of any such change being possible. If it saves some kids from being sent by their parents to 'reorientation camp', it's probably a good thing to stress the apparent unchangeability of sexuality.

Plum said...

There are cases of twins being brought up together, one gay and the other not (I follow at least two such "gay halves" on Twitter - perhaps interestingly, their straight brothers don't tweet) so it's presumably not entirely genetic.

But I agree, why it happens is a curiosity and one of many puzzles about human nature we have yet to resolve, and the days of treating it was an illness or a condition which neads to be treated are long behind us.

With any luck, we're getting close as a society to a position of the gender of people to whom we are sexualy attracted being as relevant to others as the colour of their hair or eyes, or their height or the size of their feet. For instance, why is my (non-twin) brother as interested in gingers as I am (though he's straight and likes freckly red-headed girls while I swoon at freckly red-headed boys)?