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Valar Qringaomis

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Not Born This Way

‘I am gay – but I wasn’t born this way’

"As Jane Ward notes in Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men, what’s interesting about many of these claims is how transparent their speakers are with their political motivations. “Such statements,” she writes, “infuse biological accounts with an obligatory and nearly coercive force, suggesting that anyone who describes homosexual desire as a choice or social construction is playing into the hands of the enemy.” People who challenge the Born This Way narrative are often cast as homophobic, and their thinking is considered backward – even if they are themselves gay...

For Aravosis, and many gay activists like him, the public will only accept and affirm gay people if they think they were born gay. And yet the available research does not support this view. Patrick Grzanka, Assistant Professor of Psychology at University of Tennessee, for instance, has shown that some people who believe that homosexuality is innate still hold negative views of gays. In fact, the homophobic and non-homophobic respondents he studied shared similar levels of belief in a Born This Way ideology...

Ward has received her own hatemail for pushing against the ruling LGB narratives, with some gays telling her she’s “worse than Ann Coulter,” the controversial US author of books like If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d Be Republicans. And when I published my essay on choosing to be gay, an irate American lesbian activist wrote me that it had “just been confirmed” to her that my writing was “directly responsible for four gay deaths in Russia”...

Activism must be founded upon facts and truths, or the whole program will eventually turn out to be a sham. Drowning out every voice that dares to question dominant cultural narratives is not the same thing as invalidating the arguments those voices are making...

The American Psychiatric Association writes in a 2013 statement that while the causes of heterosexuality and homosexuality are currently unknown, they are likely “multifactorial including biological and behavioral roots which may vary between different individuals and may even vary over time”...

“If we look at the ravenous pursuit, particularly among American scientists, to find a gay gene, what we see is that the conclusion has already been arrived at. All science is doing is waiting to find the proof”...

“Scientists are asking whether homosexuality is natural when we can’t even agree exactly what homosexuality is.”

Grzanka agrees. “If you know anything about social constructionism, then you know these sexual categories are very recent. How then could they be rooted in our genome?”...

When I first said I chose to be gay, a queer American journalist challenged me to name the time and date of my choice. But this is an absurd way to look at desire. You might as well ask someone to name the exact moment they began liking Chaucer or disliking Hemingway...

Humans aren’t who and what we are because of one gene. We’re who and what we are for a variety of reasons, and some of it might have something to do with how our genes randomly interact with our environments. But that’s not the whole story, and to engage in discourse that pretends it is — regardless of the nobility of the intentions — could have “profound and very negative consequences” for the LGBT community, says Grzanka.

“Limiting our understanding of any complex human experience is always going to be worse than allowing it to be complicated,” he says...

The Born This Way narrative can actively damage our perceptions of ourselves... Ward sees this as a self-hating narrative. “Could you imagine if the dominant narrative of people of color was, ‘Well, of course I’d want to be white if I could. Wouldn’t everyone want to be white?’ That’s so racist! We’d never accept that story.”

Perhaps it is time to look to the beginning of the gay rights movement. “Queer Nation and earlier movements in the US were not fundamentally organized around Born This Way explanations,” says Grzanka. “They were organized around sexual liberation, and the radical notion of challenging heteronormativity.”

Gay and lesbian activists, says Ward, used to draw on religion parallels to argue for inclusion. “People aren’t born with their religions. They’re born into religious cultures, and they can convert if they’d like. But there are still legal protections for them.”
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