Sunday, September 16, 2007

An Article, Misconstrued

In the latest issue of Mother Jones, Gary Greenberg writes an article titled, “Gay by Choice?” The subtitle says “If science proves sexual orientation is more fluid than we’ve been led to believe, can homosexuality still be a protected right?”

As I feared, this subtitle has already led some anti-gay and anti-SSMers to rush to the lines shouting “Told you so!” to SSM supporters.

One blogger writes: “There's a fascinating article in the far-left magazine Mother Jones questioning the conventional wisdom about the fixed nature of sexual identity. Such C.W. is a studied part of the gay rights movement. Homosexuality as a fixed and immutable trait (like race) must be maintained in order for the judicial/legal theory of same-sex “marriage” and other claims to successfully move forward.”

As if any of our arguments depend on the immutability of homosexuality.

The crux of our argument doesn't depend on science to prove that we are born gay. What matters is that we don't think it's okay to discriminate based on orientation, the same way it's not okay to discriminate based on religion.

Whether you are born gay, environment makes you gay, or choose to be gay, or some combination of the three (most likely) what matters is that sexual orientation is "so deeply woven into a person's identity that it is inseparable from who they are" to quote Jon Davidson, Director of Lambda Legal.

Further, "the capacity for sexual orientation to change—with choice—the ability to change it at will. Trying to change your attractions doesn't work very well, but you can change the structure of your social life, and that might lead to changes in the feelings you experience."

For, if one were to read the entire Mother Jones article, one would discover that the main subject “Aaron,” a “reformed” homosexual, lives a life without any close contact or intimacy with anyone. He doesn't enjoy sex with women, has never had sex with men, has never had a long-term relationship with a man or woman, and he doesn't date. He lives an asexual life. He is 51 years-old. And, let me repeat, has never had a long-term relationship.

So sure. I suppose some people can, in fact, change their sexual orientation. But I would not call that a happy life for most people. Aaron may indeed be happy. But I don't think it's fair to say "gayness is a choice, see everyone! you can all change, too!" When most people would not consider an asexual life a happy one. I definitely would not call the reparative therapy he underwent a "success."

The article explains Aaron's life now post-"treatment:"
"He's dated women, had sex with them even, although "I was pretty awkward," he says.”It just didn't work." Aaron has a theory about this: "I never used my body in a sexual way. I think the men who actually act it out have a greater success in terms of being sexual with women than the men who didn't act it out." Not surprisingly, he's never had a long-term relationship, and he's pessimistic about his prospects. "I can't make that jump from having this attraction to doing something about it." But, he adds, it's wrong to think "if you don't make it with women, then you haven't changed." The important thing is that "now I like myself. I'm not emotionally shut down. I'm comfortable in my own body. I don't have to be drawn to men anymore. I'm content at this point to lead an asexual life, which is what I've done for most of my life anyway." He adds, "I'm a very detached person."

In other words, anyone CAN change their orientation, but like "Aaron" are they going to lead happy lives?

Most of the time, I think that answer is no.

I also have a hunch that most gays and lesbians would not even choose to be straight if they could so choose, because they just can’t imagine being attracted to the opposite sex. The same way straight people say they wouldn’t choose to be attracted to the same sex, if they could so choose. Even truly bisexual people can’t “simply choose” to only be attracted to the opposite sex just to make their lives a little easier. People fall in love with people, not genders, not sexes.

The “choice vs. born-that-way” dichotomy is old hat.

I know strictly heterosexual people. There are strict lesbians with their “gold stars” (never slept with a man), and solely homosexual males. I know women who only date men yet make out with girls when they are drunk (who I think are probably really gay). There are girls who have sex with girls only to please their boyfriends. And gay football players who would never consider entering into a relationship with another man. There are bisexuals. There are even “trysexuals.” There are “hasbians,” (a former lesbian who is now married to a man). And I even know some former heterosexual women who are now Birkenstock-wearing, vegetarian, cat-owning, toaster-oven-collecting, PFLAG card-carrying, full-out lesbians. And there are many more in-betweens. In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to find a person who hasn’t at least thought about it once in a while.

In a world with this much diversity, why do we continue to only legally protect one of those types of relationships by marriage (in the U.S.)? If you can find one person in this crazy world that makes you happiest, why does anyone else get to tell you that it is not acceptable? That your relationship isn’t equal to theirs? Those are rhetorical questions. I already know all the opposing arguments by now.

The concept of “fluid” sexuality isn’t a new idea. For our entire argument to hinge on the idea of homosexuality being rigid, immutable, and strictly biological would be insane. People are multi-faceted, in that their behaviors are usually the result of a complex combination of biology, society, psychology, sociology, etc. Likewise, for anti-SSMers to state that homosexuality is a “choice” is also too simplistic.

The point for most of us pro-SSMers is that people should be able to be with the person who makes them happiest, regardless of gender. Any two (non-related, for the incest-obsessed) people who want to get married and have equal marriage rights and protections under the law should be able to do so. Regardless of gender.

For Greenberg to insinuate that homosexuality shouldn’t be a protected right if it is a “choice,” is careless at best and reckless at worst.

He’s feeding right into the greedy, hungry mouths of those who desperately want and need some “authority” to finally tell them they are correct.

26 comments:

JanieBelle said...

Hi Jane!

Thank you for visiting UDoJ, and for your comment there.

A similar topic was recently touched on by Elizabeth Wood over at SexInThePublicSquare.org, and you may find that conversation of interest as well.

I too find the immutability of "The Big Three" (het, bi, gay) categories silly and irrelevant. I don't think it's a digital "radio button" thing, but rather more of an analog sliding scale, and one's place on that scale is not fixed.

Further, where I happen to be on that scale today, where I was yesterday, and where I am tomorrow, whether I choose to be where I am or whether I was born there has no bearing (or at least shouldn't) on my rights as an American, or my dignity as a human being.

Again, thanks for dropping by, I look forward to seeing you often.

Kisses

Jane Know said...

Janiebelle,
Hi, thanks for visiting! And thanks for the link to the Elizabeth Wood article.

Yes, sexual orientation often changes for people throughout their lives for many different reasons.

Tradition has been wrong about many things, and the notion of heterosexuality as superior and deserving of rights above others, I am sure is one of them.

Jane

JanieBelle said...

"Yes, sexual orientation often changes for people throughout their lives for many different reasons."

Hell, mine changes throughout the course of the day! It's why I self-identify as "without sexual preference". Boy was that just indigestible to the Opine Idiotorials boys when they visited my "Jersey Girls" thread.

It was pretty funny, actually.

Jane Know said...

Haha, I'm sure it was indigestable to them! Especially since our friend "Marty" has revoked his homosexuality and married a woman. Since he's done it, we should all have to make that sacrifice.

On Lawn said...

our friend "Marty" has revoked his homosexuality and married a woman. Since he's done it, we should all have to make that sacrifice.

I'll repeat,

Marriage isn't about forcing people to do anything, let alone people outside of marriage.

There is no "have to" for gays necessary in recognizing marriage as an institution of gender integration.

John said...

"There is no "have to" for gays necessary in recognizing marriage as an institution of gender integration."

You must be awfully ignorant if you can't see why gays need marriage.

It is not just about benefits; it about dignity.

But that's off-topic for this thread.

I also know a few people whose orientation is a bit difficult to pin down.

I wonder, seriously, why do people care so much about it. I mean, I "care" to extent that I like to know what makes the human animal tick, but to use this information as a weapon against individuals that don't fit an "either-or" is dead wrong.

JanieBelle said...

onlawn opined:
"I'll repeat,

blah blah blah"


Oh, well if you repeat yourself, then that must make your argument valid. It suddenly makes sense, now that you've regurgitated it! I'm convinced!!!111!!!!1!oneoneone!!

or not.

Onlawn, you were such a fun little mouse with which to toy, I trust you'll be purchasing a copy of my novel when it comes out.

John said:
"I wonder, seriously, why do people care so much about it. I mean, I "care" to extent that I like to know what makes the human animal tick, but to use this information as a weapon against individuals that don't fit an "either-or" is dead wrong."

Indeed but morality, compassion, logic, honesty, and fairness have never been obstacles for the theocraticly inclined.

On Lawn said...

Oh, well if you repeat yourself, then that must make your argument valid.

What makes an argument valid is its ration and reason. It is repeated because while people agree with the argument when presented, they continue with the fallacy that marriage is about forcing gays to do do anything at all. Or as Jane said, "we should all have to make that sacrifice", emphasis mine.

I'm convinced!!!111!!!!1!oneoneone!!

or not.


I always thought that meme (!!!!111oneoneone) was cute. Thanks for sharing.

But did you have an argument that didn't hinge on a strawman, and embellishment?

If you really feel that marriage is about forcing people to not be gay, by all means present that argument.

... waiting ...

Indeed but morality, compassion, logic, honesty, and fairness have never been obstacles for the theocraticly inclined.

Those are some very interesting charges.

I'd be interested in what you read that lead you to believe I was

1) Illogical in my argument (!!!!11!1oneoneone ... :)

2) Theocratic

3) Dishonest

4) Not Compassionate or fair

On Lawn said...

John,

You must be awfully ignorant if you can't see why gays need marriage.

Sadly, after all these years there is very little I am ignorant of in this debate. Especially with how people constantly repeat the same arguments over and over. Yet I've debated this topic with many, many people none have yet been able to answer this question:

1) If marriage didn't exist, why would gays "need" to invent it?

If you had a reason gays needed to neuter marriage, you would certainly be bringing something new to the table. Please share...

It is not just about benefits; it about dignity.

So now government is in the business of mandating dignity? What equal protection could do with a mandate to regulate the dignity of everyone, for everyone. Its not unfamiliar a concept, at least to those who've read Orwell.

But perhaps I misunderstand. Do you really feel that without a marriage license you are deprived of dignity, and that dignity is owed you by the government? Being deprived of dignity, you fell, forces you (and I mean complete coercion as Jane said "have to" above) to give up a homosexual lifestyle?

You tell me.

A counterargument to my refutation of Jane's claim would show how the government, with marriage, is coercing people to not be homosexual. If I missed that in your comment, please help me see where.

Perhaps because what others think of me means very little (which is why it is cute to watch people like JanieBelle try so hard to make her view of me something compelling to me).

You can read my previous comments here, I believe that homosexuality already has dignity and freedom in the USA. I know of no government agency or program out to coerce people from being gay, nor do I see any government campaign out smearing homosexuality.

If I'm mistaken, and you see marriage as just such a program, please clarify.

John said...

This is not that hard to understand.

Until gay relationships are treated identically under the law, LGBTI people are denied their dignity as full citizens.

JanieBelle said...

Well, as long as we're playing cut and paste ad nauseum...

"You have two choices.

Choice One: Marriage is a religious contract.

If this is the case, then under the first amendment of the Constitution, the government of these United States and the various governments under the American flag, cannot give any preferential treatment to married couples, and that contract can have no legal force whatever.

Choice Two: Marriage is a secular contract.

If this is the case, then your religious opinions can have no bearing on who can and who cannot be married, because all Americans are to be treated equally under the law, and allowing your religion to decide who can or cannot be married is an establishment of religion by the government, again under the first amendment to the Constitution."


It's really that simple, whether sexual preference (or lack thereof) is by biology or choice.

On Lawn said...

Until gay relationships are treated identically under the law, LGBTI[QQA] people are denied their dignity as full citizens.

The argument is not whether or not you feel this way, or have reason to feel this way. But that government is not in the "dignity" brokering business.

I added three other letters to your designation, because that is my current understanding of the composition of that alliance. But I think that if you want a government to operate the same way as as that alliance (compartmentalized branded identities of sexual orientation that are then equalized) that you are asking for a society that is also compartmentalized and seperated.

Equality comes from realizing we are all one race, one collective humanity. Not by branding people and then trying to make their "dignity" equal.

And JanieBelle, marriage is a secular contract designed around the core role that procreation and responsibility for procreation has on our collective humanity. The role it plays for each of us, whether we wish to be married for ourselves or not. It does not require religious conviction to note just how the human species was designed with children with very social familial needs, who are created by the integration of two different sexes. Evolution, or a supreme being, the answer is the same.


But for both of you, do you then not agree, or do not have a supporting argument for Jane's claim that people are saying that marriage means gays have to sacrifice and become heterosexuals?

John said...

"...Jane's claim that people are saying that marriage means gays have to sacrifice and become heterosexuals?"

I don't think Jane said that. I don't want to speak for Jane, but I know what she meant and I think you do, too.

Anyway,

Don't you know any gay people? Don't you see or read their testimonies? Don't they tell us practically every day what they want, what they need from their government?

Really this is simple.

There is only one reason to deny marriage rights to gay couples, and that reason is to deny the equality and dignity of their relationships.

Jane Know said...

John,
You were correct in "translating" what I said to OnLawn. I usually don't argue with him because he is "one of those Intolerants" who focuses on semantics and word-play than the actual issue. He can do that all he wants on his Opine Idiotorials, but I don't play his game here.

Fannie said...

"Equality comes from realizing we are all one race, one collective humanity. Not by branding people and then trying to make their "dignity" equal."

Is the irony of that statement coming from On Lawn not lost on anyone else?

[I'm guessing it'll be lost on On Lawn so here: The crux of our SSM arguments is the idea that WE ARE ALL EQUAL and therefore, we deserve the same rights that YOU have. That is, we are trying to convince YOU that we are all equal.]

JanieBelle said...

Disingenuousness and Deliberate Obtuseness are two of On Lawn's favorite schticks in my experience.

Perhaps he feels it's endearing. I find it trollish and boring, personally.

Fannie said...

"I find it trollish and boring, personally."

Me too, which is why I usually ignore him.

Tom Lang said...

Great post!

Rachel said...

I can't bring myself to read this entire thread. "I have neither the time nor the inclination," so forgive me if this has already been said...

Re:
"1) if marriage didn't exist, why would gays "need" to invent it?

If you had a reason gays needed to neuter marriage, you would certainly be bringing something new to the table. Please share..."

And then he goes on to it not being the responsibility of the government to mandate dignity.

If so many of the anti-ssm-ers are simply protecting themselves from being bullied into having to use mandated language for fear of persecution and prosecution and believe in equality (as they have so often claimed) then why not propose the opposite of what has been discussed? Why not remove the word marriage from legal language and use civil union and leave marriage to be a term used in religious ceremonies performed to symbolize a life-long union between two people? That way all of the anti-ssm-ers who are SO committed to the idea of allowing gays to share the same rights as heterosexual people can rest easy. They will no longer have to face the internal grapple that I’m sure keeps them awake at night when trying to figure out how to give the gays the rights they know they deserve and not have to worry about getting sued for using or not using the improper/proper words. We would have not a leg to stand on if trying to force churches to marry us and you'd be protected by OUR constitution and the religious freedom within it. After all, it is JUST a word, right?

Jane Know said...

Rachel,
Thanks for your comment. I agree completely. Civil unions should be the State equivalent of marriage, and "marriages" should be left to the churches. That way, straight couples could still say they were "married" AND have all the legal protections under civil unions.

And gay couples could have their protections, too. (and get married at certain churches if they want to).

Rachel said...

Well, there now. Eureka! We’ve found it! It looks like we can now team up with our buddies at OpEd and “protect marriage.” It’ll be kept safely in churches and other religious bodies and not be tampered with by the government. We’ll take it away from the feds to that they can never again even debate handing it out to anyone who wants it. That’ll be at the sole discretion of the church. That sounds fair. I can live with that. We’ll all have civil unions. Alright OpEd—MOBILIZE! We’ll be right there beside you…except Cultruroligist. That guys a real asshole.

Christian said...

I applaud your recognition that gay rights do not depend on the popular PC brainwashing that homosexuality is innate. Might I suggest religion as an analogy? Our constitution firmly protects religion, and yet religion is not innate.

Jane Know said...

Christian,
I don't know that it is an attempt at PC-brainwashing. Not any more so than uber-intolerant people say it's a "choice" or something that needs to be remedied. I have no doubt that some people's homosexuality IS, in fact, innate. But for a lot of people it is very fluid.

The point of my article is that it is different for everyone, and it shouldn't matter why people are gay.

Christian said...

"I don't know that it is an attempt at PC-brainwashing. Not any more so than uber-intolerant people say it's a "choice" or something that needs to be remedied."

I agree. Both are examples of brainwashing -- attempts to use repitition and mindless appeals to sanctimonious authority in order to persuade the masses of an unproved claim. I honestly do not know whether homosexuality and/or heterosexuality is innate, a choice, something else, that I haven't thought of, or some combination of the above. There's evidence that goes both ways, and I don't think that any of us are in a position to make honest and sure conclusions.

I await what the real scientists have to say on the matter.

That doesn't mean that we have to defer the issues of gay rights, or the entirely separate issue of ssm until the scientists get back to us with an answer. Gay rights should be defensible on the basis of privacy and human dignity. And marriage as the union of man and woman for life, increases the proportion of children raised by a mom and dad, regardless of whether homosexuality is a choice or innate.

Legally, it should make no difference to gays at all.

Founding civil rights only on innate characteristics would deny freedom of religion, and would give legal protection to pedophilia, for which there is much stronger evidence of a genetic cause.

And no, I'm not equating homosexuality to pedophilia. I'd like to see gay rights based on an argument that DOESN'T end up creating that pedophiles could exploit.

Christian said...

"The point of my article is that it is different for everyone, and it shouldn't matter why people are gay."

I absolutely agree with what you just said.

The difference between us is that I see a huge dangers both to gays and to society in general if we base civil rights on whether a characteristic is innate or a choice. Private choices that don't hurt other persons should not be the basis of depriving a person of civil rights, or of allowing them to be the target of a hate crime.

Religious converts and former religious persons who become atheist, are very often the targets of hate crimes. I've seen people argue that hate crime laws should only protect "innate" characteristics. I think that's a monstrous argument. Using violence to punish an "apostate" or "heretic" is and should remain a hate crime. And using violence to intimidate the gay communities should remain a hate crime regardless of whether homosexuality is innate or a choice.

Jane Know said...

Christian,
I am glad we agree on that then. Contrary to what some of the Opine people think, I am interested in recognizing each other's common ground and going from there.

If a few more people see that we aren't demons (on both sides of the discussion) then maybe we can get somewhere civilly.