There is one central question underlying every debate about homosexuality going on in our country today: Is being gay a choice or is it innate? Is there a gay gene? Was I born a lesbian? These are things I think about all the time, but have shielded away from addressing. Why? Because my take on it is not the norm. Most people who fight for gay rights cling to the it’s-not-a-choice argument. For them, people are gay from day numero uno, regardless of whether they embrace it at age 7 or 70. If you argue with someone who believes this, they’ll say, “Why would anyone choose to be gay?” It’s a compelling argument because gays and lesbians do not have equal rights and are looked at as second class citizens in many areas of the world, including, at times, right here in the United States.
But, somehow, I’m not convinced. I’ve kept my mouth shut for a long time because the moment you start suggesting that environment, upbringing and experience play a role in one’s sexuality, ignorant people start arguing against things like gay couples’ adoption, as if “abnormal” sexual preference could spread like a disease. But that said, I do actually believe that external factors play a huge role in sexuality for some people. I am one of those people.
I have talked to and dated women who never had sex with a man, and have never wanted to. I’m pretty sure they were gay from the get-go. But my story is different. Despite questioning my sexuality from the age of 14, I dated men in high school and throughout my first year of college. Eventually, sex with men became unbearable. But why? Was it in response to the bad relationship I stayed in for years? Was it because I was having sex with men I wasn’t interested in? Or, did it have something to do with my undying fear of being “just like everyone else”?
There is no right answer to this question and when I first came out, thinking about it kept me up at night. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that I would have tried to overcome my blossoming dislike of heterosexual sex if I didn’t enjoy being different so much. Would I have been successful? I don’t know. The point is, my upbringing, personality and experience led me to embrace homosexuality.
For me, coming out as a lesbian was my own little way of rebelling. I am progressive to the point where no politician in Washington is ever going to satisfy me. I have a fear of mediocrity, of living a “normal” life and of settling down. I was raised in a family of hippies and atheists in a town where I couldn’t relate to most people. I think women should do everything men do and refuse to believe that we are weaker, even physically. In short, I hate “the system” and being a lesbian was just another way to go against it. A friend of mine said it best when he wrote: “non-hetero sex is sometimes used as an act of political agency or defiance. It’s a yet another way of expressing liberty, free will and sexuality.” I know it sounds juvenile, but I’m not above admitting that I, like everyone, have juvenile tendencies.
Before you think I’m a complete poser, let me tell you: I absolutely love women. And that’s the only thing that should matter. How I arrived at this conclusion is and should be irrelevant. I am not naive enough to think that choices like this are simply made because of a gene. I think environment plays a role and I’ve done a lot of thinking as to what environmental factors, for me, affected my sexuality.
Unfortunately, I think the it’s-not-a-choice argument is necessary because it helps convince those who think gay parents are going to spawn broods of little gays and lesbians that we are, in fact, harmless. However, I also worry that, in the end, this argument could do more harm than good because saying that it’s not a choice implies that heterosexuality is better than homosexuality. “It’s not a choice” could easily be turned into “it’s not my fault!” Or “Forgive me, I was born this way,” as if gays and lesbians suffer from some strange mutation or disorder.
Hopefully, someday everyone will accept that people who are gay are just gay and will stop questioning how and why.