In pol­i­tics, the notion of being gay by one’s own voli­tion is like Voldemort—dangerous even to be uttered. Bio­log­ical deter­minism is the new normal, yoked to tol­er­ance claims much as magic hews to Harry Potter. It was not always this way, but a deter­minist ethos began to insin­uate itself into gay pol­i­tics in the late 1980s or so. As soci­ol­o­gist Vera Whisman noted as early as 1996, “the claim of ‘no choice’ is to a pro-​​gay stance as the claim of ‘choice’ is to an anti-​​gay one: a foun­da­tional argu­ment. Anti-​​gay rhetoric uses the term ‘sexual pref­er­ence’ to imply choice, while pro-​​gay rhetoric uses ‘sexual ori­en­ta­tion’ to deny it.”

Tele­vi­sion shows are full of char­ac­ters invoking their biology when con­fronting their queer­ness, and Hol­ly­wood films depict immutability as unas­sail­able truth in movies that present a “tol­er­ance” thesis. In con­ver­sa­tions with friends and family, we cer­tainly hear a lot of “but I always knew some­thing was dif­ferent,” or “I always felt gay,” or some­thing to that effect. These are, unques­tion­ably, very real feel­ings for many (although assuredly not all) gay people, and I don’t want to deny the expe­ri­ence of that “inevitability.”

Believing that one is born gay can also become a handy weapon against the harsh treat­ment by family and society, and an explana­tory tool to combat internal self-​​loathing and doubt. There is clearly some real com­fort for gays—particularly those who have nav­i­gated the waters of hatred—to come to land on the sup­pos­edly solid shores of biology.

How­ever, part of the problem in this whole gay-​​gene dis­cus­sion is that “choice” is ref­er­enced in a narrow way.

Read the article at The Atlantic →