Born This Way?
“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. A certain section of our community is very concerned that it not be seen as a choice, because if it’s a choice, then we could opt out.”
New York Times
Although it’s catchy, from a thoughtful perspective, I’ve never much liked the Lady GaGa anthem “Born This Way”. Mostly because, despite being hyped as this super-progressive tune, she allows it to be chopped up to appease censors for the radio and television, and then talks about LGBT being ok because some “god” made us this way. No thanks. We don’t need some god’s permission to be who we are.
Tabula Rasa and Sinead wrote recently about people who identify as “queer”, and in a lot of cases you’ll find that we do identify that way because the LGBT labels are restrictive (not just to yourself, but also for your partner). I quite liked Michael Urie’s comment on why he calls himself queer.
When asked what letter in LGBTQ he identifies himself, Urie says Q, for queer.
“I’ve been in a relationship for a while now, and if you just met the two of us together we’d be ‘gay,’ ” he explains. “But that somehow means anything that happened before [we met] didn’t count—and I don’t feel that way. I know that some people feel that way. They were with women, but it always felt wrong. But it didn’t for me. It felt right at the time. It didn’t work out, but it also didn’t work out with other men—many times. That’s why ‘gay’ never seemed right.”
There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that sexuality can and does change — not by force or anything, but a lot of people come out late in life, having been reasonably happily opposite-married for years. For years, we’ve ascribed all those to conforming to societal expectations, but it’s possible they all weren’t. They’re not always willing to say that those relationships were lies.
I remember this interview with Glee’s Chris Colfer on a fansite. He was asked when he knew he was gay. He answered:
I think high school, but I find out new things about myself every day.
It seems like it should be a natural fact that we change and evolve in many ways throughout our lives. The fact is, however, that most of our early advocates relied heavily on the argument that gay people are born irrevocably gay. The argument is “How can you criminalise someone for how they were born?”. It’s what they call “biological determinism” and it relies on the argument that somehow, we just can’t help ourselves.
In direct opposition to both the mainstream gay movement and Lady Gaga, I would like to state for the record that I was not born this way. I have dated both men and women in the past, and when I’ve been with men, I never had to lie back and think of Megan Fox. I still notice attractive men on the street and on television. If I were terrified of the stigma associated with homosexuality, it would have been easy enough to date men exclusively and stay in the closet my whole life.
The problem with accepting the “born this way”, or biological determinism argument, is that we are then required to accept all others of the kind. So if someone says they were just born horribly violent and racist, well, we have to accept them too, right?
This is where discernment enters the picture.
You know, if someone turned to me tomorrow and said, “Hey, great news, Jacq, I can make you straight,” I’d punch their fucking lights out. I’m happy being queer. I’m not very happy with the world around me, but I’m happy with me, and my marriage and my life. Why would I change that? I wouldn’t care if they had empirical evidence of an out and out “cure” for the gay. I don’t want it. I’m making that choice right now. Nothing to do with how I was born. Everything to do with not thinking that being queer is a bad choice to make.
So in many ways, I think my queerness is a choice. If I had really wanted to, I could have married a guy and had a samey-wamey life that wouldn’t have made me particularly happy. My job proves that it’s possible to exist in less than ideal situations without entirely losing the plot. So I chose to be happy, to pursue the people I wanted to be with, the culture and subcultures of my choice. And no, I probably wouldn’t have chosen this if I wasn’t in some way predisposed to be attracted to women, but if someone else does, I don’t really mind.
At the end of the day, our message needs to change. No more “oh, poor us, we were born this way and just can’t help ourselves.” How about “It’s a legitimate lifestyle. It doesn’t hurt anyone and makes a whole lot of people really freaking happy.” Can’t we just leave it there? Does it matter if we were “born this way”?