Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Is it a Choice?

“It’s a choice.”

That’s the response you would hear from a lot of homophobics or other anti-homosexuality individuals, in reference to one’s interest in same-sex partners. And while I am not going to claim a side, I want to argue a side, just for the purpose of debate. For many reading this, I feel as if I’ll be playing the devil’s advocate for the stance that I will argue, so that will make for even more fun…HA! Having said that I think it is important to intro this “stance” with an important clarification note.

[Note: The side argued in this blog is in no way saying that the “other side to this debate” is wrong or even less arguable, nor is it saying that this side that is being argued is the correct side or even what this author necessarily believes to be the correct side. And, finally, the author of this blog is in no way questioning her sexual orientation, so please do not take that thought from reading this entry. This is merely to challenge people to think about the idea behind the thoughts in this blog.]

So recently I’ve been thinking about this topic of homosexuality. I’ve wondered before what I think might drive someone to desire a member of their same sex romantically. I’ve wondered why sexual abuse to a young girl might lead her to homosexuality, as well as why sexual abuse to a young boy might lead him to homosexuality.

As seen in all of the previous statements, they are written as if to say one’s sexual desires for a member of the same sex were “made,” or so to say, “chosen” by the individual. Almost as if they are driven to a point of making the choice to be homosexual.

So, it goes without saying that I have wondered before about whether I think one’s sexual orientation is “a choice,” as so many say, or the way a person was born--“innate” as many others will argue. Yes, I’ve debated that, in my head, as most of me leans toward the thought that it is unconsciously decided for all of us. That’s right, all of us.

I don’t think we are all born heterosexual and then some unconsciously “choose” homosexuality. No, I lean toward the idea that we are born without a desire for either sex. I don’t think there is a sexual desire in any of us at such a young age. I think through our experiences, whether personally with sexuality (such as in child abuse) or through a modeling type behavior (seeing others), we all sort of unconsciously go one way or the other.

Quickly, I want to go into the theories behind what might lead a child who has been sexually abused into homosexuality.

[NOTE: I am COMPLETELY aware that just because a child is sexually abused, that does NOT mean they will be homosexual, but for individuals who are attracted to the same sex, and they happened to be sexually abused as a child, this is in reference to them.]

For a young girl who is sexually abused by a male, it is pretty clear as to why that young girl might develop a hatred or an aversion toward males, especially in a sexuality sense. But for a long time, I couldn’t understand what might drive a young boy who has been sexually abused by a male to be attracted to other males as they grow up. Then it was explained to me and I can see it now. What I was told is that there is a lot of self-hatred in an individual who has been sexually abused, especially as a child. It is easy for that child to think it is their fault (when of course it isn’t). Because of this, a young boy might try to make what happened to him as a child to be viewed as okay. Deep down he needs acceptance for what happened to him, so accepting a male to male relationship as an adult can help him accept his childhood abuse and in a way, allow him to live with the pain that he had as a boy by saying “see, it was alright.” Does that makes sense? I don’t think I explained it as well as it was put to me. But it does make sense.

So, I use those examples to show how I think both that young girl and that young boy probably unconsciously came to those decisions of homosexuality, though neither one of them were to say, “born that way.”

I am attracted to males, though I can’t ever recall making a decision to desire boys over girls for a romantic relationship. That being the case, I still argue that I wasn’t born that way. I believe unconsciously I made that decision. Whether it was because I grew up in a heterosexual household and saw a happy heterosexual marriage, or that I like the chemistry between the male and female bodies, or that I watched a lot of television where boys and girls were in romantic relationships, I don’t know.

But recently I’ve given the, “can I consciously choose to be one way or another” debate some thought. I mean I’ve met several people who will argue it to their grave that “homosexuals choose to be homosexual and if they didn’t want to be, they could change.” And they say it to the point of believing the gay guy just sat up one morning and said, “I think I want to be homosexual and like guys.”

Should this be the case, I bring this argument…

Recently I’ve had a lot of comments from friends that I have probably WAY over thought. I want to share a couple of them now.

The first was a female friend of mine asked me, “Are you seeing anyone?” Too which I replied, “No.” She immediately responded, “Really. That surprises me.” To which I laughed, of course, and said, “why?” Her response was this, “well you are so much fun and have such a great personality that I figured you would be, so it just really surprises me.” HA! Yeah, I laughed again.

So the jokester in me thought to myself, “See, the girls see it, what’s with the boys!?!?!” HA!

But I suppose deep down part of me wants to agree with her and be surprised. Honestly, I too like to think I have a fun personality.

I make this statement to make a point, not to boast: I have a lot of friends. But what’s interesting is that most all my friends are females. So is it that my personality is only attractive to females, or is it what I like to think it is…HA…and it’s that males have personality a lot lower down the list priority-wise when they are meeting women.

So that’s my first comment I’ve recently gotten from a friend. My second comment was from yet another female friend of mine. This one was what she told me she had told a guy, when trying to describe me to him…HA…this is hilarious…

“She is so much fun! She has the best personality. If I was a lesbian, I’d get with her.”

HA! Okay, let that one settle first…HA!

Okay, well, nevermind. I don’t think that one needs any explanation, so let me go to my argument that I wanted to make from these comments I have recently gotten from friends.

I think if one’s sexual orientation was as simply as making a choice, I would make the choice to become homosexual, wouldn’t you think? Especially if you believe in the idea that humans tend to make most all of their decisions, and behave out of selfish desires.

Let’s reconsider the situation. I obviously have a lot more female friends than males, so males are not as interested in my personality as females, REGARDLESS of whether the interest is based on friendship interest versus say a romantic interest. With this being the case, wouldn’t one think I could find a homosexual female that would be interested in my personality as well? Let’s face it, I do NOT have the luck with the gentlemen finding interest…HA!

And then the second comment straight out said, if they were homosexual they would be interested in me. Granted the person is not homosexual, so maybe a lesbian would not see me as she apparently does, as fun and whatever, but still.

So, if one’s sexual orientation is simply one choosing to be homosexual, why have I not done that. Honestly, I believe if I was homosexual, I believe I would be in a romantic relationship, as opposed to me sitting here single as I am as a heterosexual. And also, as much as I believe in the theory that we all behave out of selfish motives, and trust me, as much as I don’t mind single-ism most of the time, I probably would choose being in a healthy relationship over being single any day.

So I thought about it more, and I came to the conclusion that I just can’t make myself CHOOSE to be homosexual. It’s weird, because today in the car it was almost like I wanted to try it as an experiment, but I couldn’t . If you are not drawn romantically to a particular gender, it doesn’t matter how much BETTER it might be for you to be a certain sexual orientation, you simply can’t “choose” to be that way.

I guess there isn’t any going back on that unconscious decision I made years ago to be attracted to the male species.

So, how do I end this entry? Do I say, this debate seems to be saying that one does not simply “choose” his or her sexual orientation (“simply” meaning consciously choosing)? Do I say that once one has made that unconscious “choice” that it doesn’t matter how much “better” it might be for him or her personally to be the other orientation, they can not go back and change that unconscious decision? I mean there has always been that belief that it is “easier” to live as a heterosexual than a homosexual, because of the overall acceptance of heterosexuality in our society, so that being the case, wouldn’t it be “better” for a homosexual to choose to be heterosexual?

I don’t know. I just had these thoughts cross my mind today while in the car, and I thought they would make for some interesting thoughts and comments. If anything, maybe it will make people second think the comment that homosexuals simply “choose” to be that way.


Nicole Ashley said...

This is a great post! I have a few short comments to make, but I may have more after I have more time to think about it. As far as the matter of “choice” goes, I have heard many ideas on the subject. I have many friends that are homosexual, a few that are bisexual, and a lot that are heterosexual.

One of my bisexual friends is of the theory that humans are innately attracted to both sexes. He believes that it is society that imposes choice on us and raises to be believe that sexual attraction to someone of the opposite sex is wrong. This, he believes, is what leads people to be “homophobic” because deep down they know they are attracted to members of the same sex but they are conditioned to believe this is wrong.

I have another friend who believes you are either gay or straight, that there is no middle ground. She believes if you’re bi, you’re either on the way to being gay, or you’re just experimenting.

I have another friend who is gay and only recently “came out”. He spent most of his adolescence and young adulthood hating himself for his feelings, because he was not raised in a society were homosexuality was in any way prevalent or accepted. He was a strong Mormon, went on multiple mission trips and the compulsory 2-year Mormon mission (which he actually wanted to go on). We’ve talked a lot about the “choice” debate and as he puts it: “If it were a choice I would definitely have chosen differently.”

Those are just a few ideas I’ve debated with people over the years. I honestly don’t know what I believe, which is why I enjoy the debate. What I don’t believe is that it is simply a matter of “choice” because I have known too many people that would “choose” differently if they could. I do also believe that environment (nature vs. nurture) and factors like past sexual abuse can play a factor.

So, those are a few of my initial comments. I might post more later. Thanks for the thought provoking blog!

GITCHA said...

Such a good post Kim. I needed something good to read on my lunch break. This is a very controversial topic these days and good to discuss because it is not going away.

I do think our experiences shape who we are and who we may be attracted to. I find it hard to believe that one event can change our oreintation. Mabey a combintation of things along with a significant event can make us think twice.

Also, as I hear you saying I don't think we can choose our sexual oreintatation anymore than we can choose our gender. We are what we are. Some of us are attracted to the same sex and some to the opposite sex or both. I think physiology still plays a part in this more than we think.

Nevertheless, I do think that we choose if we are going to enter into a homosexual or heterosexual relationship. We all have certain tendencies to be attracted to different people. And I believe we do have the final say when it comes to us deciding if we want to act on those tendencies or not. I believe the crux of the matter is the choice of co-habitation rather than oreintation. Good topic of discussion.

julesforstenholm said...

Overall agreement with acu35. I don't think sexual orientation is a choice for most people. The choice lies in whether or not to act on that tendency. Touchy issue. One that I find difficult to understand, since I find guys so very attractive! However, I have rekindled a friendship with a very close friend from high school who is gay, and I feel no differently than I did before. I love him the same.

Of course, when I knew him last, we were dating, so I guess it's a little different :), but we haven't missed a beat in picking up a good friendship.

It all comes back to a debate with nature v. nurture, and I think both come into play in this discussion.

Holly said...

Interesting post.

This will always be an endless debate, of course. I don't really know what the answer is -- and maybe there really isn't an answer. Perhaps it is dichotomous thinking to have to choose whether or not it is a choice. I think that in some cases it may be -- e.g., the "bi-curious". In other cases I think there may be such strongly ingrained physiological impulses and genetic predispositions that it is almost impossible to go against those(whether they be gay or straight impulses). So, I really don't know.

I do think that it is a really good argument when people say "Given how society treats gay and lesbian individuals -- with all the discrimination and lack of civil rights -- why on earth would anyone 'choose' to live such a lifestyle?" Look at the high suicide rates among gay and lesbians, particularly teens. Even if it is a choice, it doesn't come easily to them and it is a lot more complicated than it may appear.

And ususally only one side is argued -- do GLBT individuals "choose" their orientation; people ususally don't ask if heterosexual individuals "choose" to be heterosexual. "Damn them to hell, they've chosen to be heterosexual!" I like how in your post you did seem to address this.

And I think it makes logical sense to say that there is probably definately some predisposition to it but that it's whether or not one chooses to act upon those tendencies that is the ultimate deciding factor a lot of the time. I've sometimes argued this myself. However, I think that saying this can still be used in a way (and I am not saying with ALL people) to make oneself feel better about, and make sense of, something that does not have a clear cut answer. Once someone (namely inquisitive heterosexual individuals) is able to convince themselves that there is some element of "choice" in it all, it might make it easier for them to live with their own negative judgments that, deep down, may have been causing them guilty for previously having without a sound basis. Does that make sense? Oh well.

Good post. I wish I knew the answers to the causes, yet I don't think the causes matter as much as the solutions to the problems society has concerning this issue. I like how in "Brokeback Mountain" it not only showed the troubles the two gay men faced for being gay, but that it also showed the troubles the heterosexual family members faced as well (e.g., the effect on the wife and kids). That's why I think such a movie is very powerful, because it's quite novel and eye opening.