Friday, June 14, 2013

Sexuality: Innate or individual Choice?

This is an article that I posted about six months ago on another site. I friend's recent article reminded me of this one and reprint a seemed like a good idea. If you are interested in reading it, my friend's article is linked at the end of this article.

Some years back I was in the Los Angeles area on business.  The length of the stay crossed a weekend.  I’m from the Midwest.  I consider myself fairly well traveled about the country and parts of the world but I have never been to Hollywood.  Walking about Tinseltown eventually put me in a Starbuck’s Coffee Shop in the community of West Hollywood.

Semi-aware of my surroundings I focused on my coffee and newspaper.  My attention diverted when a man came into the shop and headed for a table with three other men sitting around it.  All four of these men, in their thirties, had athletic builds and were smartly dressed in snug fitting clothing.  With perfectly groomed hair, radiant smiles and glittering eyes, the seated men stood to greet the newcomer and all embraced him.  These embraces weren’t in the manner that I might embrace my sons, brother or father.  For most of my male friends, a handshake is an adequate show of affection.  These embraces that I witnessed were of the type that I reserve for the women in my life that are very close to me.  My gaydar meter red-lined.

It came to me that, in my mouth-agape stare, I could have been mistaken for an over-sized Venus fly trap escaped from the soil of my planter.  I returned my eyes to the page of my newspaper but my mind was too distracted to absorb the print.  The men settled down at their table and continued to enjoy each others' company.  They didn’t seem to notice my rudeness and I really doubt that they would have given me more than a passing glance if they had.

As my mind tried to reconcile this scene against my personal values, my stomach warned of possible nausea.  I folded my newspaper and trashed my coffee cup on the way out.  My stomach settled but the inner battle went on.  These men had not done anything that I would have a given a second look to if they had been a co-ed heterosexual group.  Yet, the scene gnawed at my deepest values.

I considered myself enlightened and tolerant of diversity.  Two of the reasons that I had fallen away from my religious commitment had to do with misogyny and homophobia.  I had long since reconciled in my heart that sexuality was innate, rather than a choice, as many people would have us believe.  Still, this scene, replaying again and again in mind, had me looking deeper into my soul.

Religious arguments are water off of a duck’s back to me.  They can all be summarized simply as; if you don’t believe like I do then you are wrong.  As evidence, the religious person carries two-thousand year-old volumes of fables, parables, tales and rationally unbelievable stories.  Those words have been translated, rewritten and re-authored over the centuries. If interpreted to the advantage of the argument, words can be found in the volumes to prove a point.  The point, in this argument, is without regard to the choice or the innate possibility of sexuality.  The point is that homosexuality is an abomination and not to be tolerated.

There are arguments that sexuality is an indirect choice brought about by an individual’s upbringing.  One notion is that, at critical times in a child’s development, one gender or the other, as a role model, is missing in their development.  That missing influence might be the specific guide to the child in making the “right” choice on sexuality.  Another notion is that sexually abused children have no proper foundation, with which to make the right choice on sexuality, as they come into puberty.  They are sensitized toward same gender sexual interaction by their abuser.  In effect, an individual might be born with the proper wiring and, thus, choose heterosexuality at puberty.  The behaviorally modified child, on the other hand, has been rewired by sexual abuse and, thus, makes the “wrong” choice at puberty.

It doesn’t take a committee of behavioral psychologists to entertain this as a plausible possibility.  One need only look into our prisons to see thousands of people who were desensitized to the difference between right and wrong by lack of properly taught values in their upbringing.  Further, it doesn’t take a team of psychologists to determine that these learned and deeply ingrained behaviors are not easily reversed.  Convict recidivism, in part, attests to that truth.

Ultimately, it seems fair to say that, if sexuality is learned during these critical times in one’s upbringing then it is not easily reversed.  It would require intense psychotherapy coupled with the individual’s very strong desire to change.  Therefore sexuality, as an adult, is not a choice.

Not to be distracted by these theories of modified behavior toward homosexuality; it needs to be clear that sexuality is never a choice.  It is innate and that can be proven without psychologists or ancient writings.

Given the right circumstances, we can all consciously make choices contrary to our desires and beliefs.  Whenever my growing children said that they didn’t like a certain food I always insisted that they try it first.  In that circumstance they always chose to try the perceived undesirable food in order to avoid being slapped senseless (just kidding on the slapping part).  Jesting aside, the children could override what their senses were telling them upon my parental insistence.  Subsequent choices were their own and based upon their palate.  Apply this notion to sexuality.

First, shake off the Freudian ego and superego.  Let only the id motivate your imagination.  Imagine that there are two people before you, one of each gender.  Both have a fit build and possess sexually desirable features.  They are both dressed in snug-fitting tank top shirts and jeans.  For purposes of this exercise both individuals are ready to submit enthusiastically to your every desire.  Now, assuming that you’re heterosexual, choose the gender that is the same as yours and go get it!

Run your fingertip across the lips.  Run your hand from there down to the chest and massage the flesh that comes against your palm and fingers.  Reach around with the other hand and grab a handful of buttock.  Are you enjoying it?  Unbuckle the jeans and reach into the sex that is the same as yours.  Fondle it.  Are you still enjoying it?  Let yourself go.  There is no sin in this imaginative exercise.

I don’t do very well in this exercise.  I must confess that my thoughts keep going to the voluptuous woman rather than my same gender imaginary person.  I expect that, unless one has bi-sexual tendency, everyone else’s reaction is similar.  Do you still want to hang onto the ridiculous notion that sexuality is a choice?  Consider some other points.

If you choose to be homosexual some of your family and life-long friends may disown you out of anger, shame or ignorance.

If you choose to be homosexual you will be ostracized by the religious institution that you grew up believing and trusting.

If you choose to be homosexual you will be prohibited from certain professions.

If you choose to be homosexual you will have to pick and choose your friends carefully because many people won’t be tolerant of your sexuality.

If you choose to be homosexual you and your life-long partner will denied the rights and privileges afforded to your heterosexual counterparts.

If you choose to be homosexual there is a possibility that you could be beaten, tortured and even murdered because of your sexuality.

If you die a known homosexual, especially of a highly publicized and violent death, religious zealots might join in the grieving of those who cared dearly about you with banners reading GOD HATES FAGS and NO TEARS FOR QUEERS.

Sexuality is a choice?  No…  No…  No…


A related article by Rain Stickland is If You're Going to Fight for Equality, Be Real!


  1. When I started reading, I was a bit nervous at first by your reaction to the group of men. I am glad that I kept reading. Great insight, and I wholeheartedly agree.

    1. That is the way it happened. It forced me to look deeper into myself. Hopefully, telling about will help someone else to do the same.
      Thanks much for the read and comments, Kacie.

  2. my house was the one all the kids came to. some were gay. you could tell they were gay by the way they talked and walked=no choice. they would tell me of the bullying and being ostracized and tormented simply because they were born into a way of life that was different than most. none of them would have chosen this "way" had they indeed, had a choice. shows of affection should be limited to the same standards as heterosexuals, provided the heterosexuals no what that way is! neither gay nor heterosexuals should slam their sexual preference down anyone's throats. i believe there are some people who are confused or guided towards either preference, but if one is truly gay-what the hey? are they honest and compassionate and responsible and trustworthy and kind? if so, what does sexual preference have to do with it?

    1. Behavior and gestures aren't always a give away. I once knew a man who I assumed to be gay by his mannerisms, only to find out that he was married to a woman.
      On the flip side, the American public would never recover from the shock if all of their gay pro athlete heroes, who are gay, "acted gay."
      You are a saint for allowing the kids into your home and to be part of your life. That your children were also comfortable around gay children says something very positive of your parenting.
      Thanks for the read and input, Sue.

  3. That's one thing I've never understood about people saying it's a choice. There's no way anyone would choose to be vilified in this manner, unless they were a masochist which is a whole 'nother issue.

    BTW - thanks for the mention!

    1. I like the way one of our common writer friends from the UK puts it. "If it's a choice then choose to blow me just to prove it."
      I also came across a video clip once, in which, people were stopped on the street for interviews on the topic. After they committed themselves to believing that sexuality was a choice the host asked, "When did you choose to be heterosexual?" It was an obvious "duh" moment every time!