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Born This Way?

Actress Cynthia Nixon seems to be making headlines this week, due to remarks she made at a recent LGBT conference, in which she said that being gay/lesbian is a choice. Here's what she told the New York Times magazine:

“I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line ‘I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.’ And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me.”

Honestly, I'm not offended by Nixon's remarks. For one, she makes it clear that she's speaking for herself, and no one else. For another, I do think it's possible that being gay could, perhaps, be a choice for some. Now, before my gay brethren whip out the pitchforks, let me be clear: I believe sexuality to likely be a product of nature and nurture. After all, there are twins who have turned out to have different sexual orientations. And who is to say that whom we favor emotionally and sexually isn't influenced somewhat by our environment?

Of course, homosexuality has been observed in nature, outside of humanity (gay penguins, and what not), and most other animals don't have the ability to consciously decide to be one thing or the other, so that is definitely a point in the "born this way" box. And while that's all well and good, I'm still uneasy with using it as the centerpiece of the pro-gay rights argument.

I think that the nature position (whether true or not) is fraught with peril as it regards a rabbit hole of superfluous arguments. Being gay should be okay because, well, there's nothing wrong with it. Period. That would seem to be a stronger stance to take. Because even if a Christianist were to concede that sexuality is determined from birth, they might still argue that it is a sinful desire that should be quashed, for the sake of virtue. That is how many of the ultra-religious look upon most sinful temptations.

No, if we're serious about engaging folks in a well-meaning discussion on the acceptance of homosexuality, better to argue the point on more cerebral, not biological, grounds. For example: 'Gay people are typically well-adjusted individuals who live, love and endure just like anyone else, and are therefore of no harm to themselves or to others.' One might also add that, since most democracies are not, by definition, theocracies, the opinion of a religious majority should have no bearing when it comes to making laws.

While nature vs. nurture is an interesting aspect of the overall debate about society's acceptance of homosexuality, it should remain the domain of the scientists, geneticists and psychologists. It shouldn't be at the forefront of the main event. So while I can't remember ever making a conscious choice to be gay, and recollect being attracted to another guy way back when I was in kindergarten, I'll admit that, yeah, Cynthia Nixon probably did choose to be a lesbian. Others did not. And that's ok. I mean, most of us who are gay/lesbian probably could choose to be with someone of the opposite sex, but that would mean we'd 1) be unhappy, and 2) still be gay.

And life's too short for that.


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