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Author Topic: is it a choice?
nelesmile
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Hey!

I've been talking to my mom and for the first time actually used the words "I am gay" with her - even though I had been talking about my girlfriends to her before and she obviously knew I was and I didn't hide it either.
But the reaction she gave me kind of surprised me - she said people aren't gay but they chose to. I mostly agree with my mom's thoughts on sexuality, relationships and morals in general but I'm not sure about this one. She had always been with women before she met my father which should maybe make her a trustworthy source about this topic ..

What do you think, is it a decision you just make at some point in your life? Why, then, do people that really suffer from being gay, make this decision? I have a feeling that this is kind of a dangerous thing to say - it'd mean it's gay people's fault to make themselves vulerable for homophobia and not actual homophobic people's fault? Then again it'd seem just as "dangerous" to say it was genetics (that'd mean you could say it's an illness that can be treated) or to say it's cause of how you're brought up (which'd mean people could "blame" parents). What DO researches say about this topic? Am I missing something?

I told her I was really happy with my "decision" and wouldn't want to change it, and she said I should say hi from her to my girlfriend - so I'm really fine with my mom, but still a bit confused.

xx

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Heather
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Here's the thing: anything like this someone says about ONE sexual orientation has to be true for another in order for their assertions to have any merit.

So, when someone says being gay is a choice, a good response is to ask them if being straight is a choice. If they say no, then you can ask them why. If they say yes, and it's about their personal experience, you can bring up study or ask them about people who have not experienced orientation that way, including people who have tried very hard to change their orientation, only to discover they can't change how they feel and to whom they are attracted.

It sounds like your mother, however, may be bisexual, not gay or straight at all. I don't know how old she is, but believe it or not, a lot of people may age or older didn't grow up with that term to even know it existed and could describe them. I didn't hear it myself until 1985 when I had been bisexual already for at least a few years.

Really, if orientation was a choice, I think we'd find very few people choosing any orientation which either puts them at risk of, or assures, harassment, violence and/or discrimination.

When it comes to research, what we have so far shows that for all orientations, some of orientation is clearly fixed, while some of it is more mutable. In other words, with the study we have to date, we can't say it IS a choice, but we also can't say all of it is NOT. The data also supports that the ways in which it is mutable are not so simple as "choosing" to be otherwise. In other words, that our orientation can shift, but does not seem to be something we are able to change by force of will. Make sense?

[ 07-02-2010, 11:22 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Djuna
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Hi there, nelesmile! I think it's always good to explore sexuality like this, but I just want to comment on one thing you've said:

quote:
I have a feeling that this is kind of a dangerous thing to say - it'd mean it's gay people's fault to make themselves vulerable for homophobia and not actual homophobic people's fault?
I don't think that's what that would mean at all. I would say that homophobic people are always the ones at fault for whatever discrimination they dish out. There's a choice on their part to discriminate, if you see what I mean.

Whether a person's orientation is a choice or not, for example, they have a choice whether or not to be "out" at work or at home - and if they choose that they will be openly gay in that way, they have a right not to be discriminated against.

Also, I don't much like the expression "suffer from being gay". Although I'm guessing, since you're saying you identify as gay, that you didn't mean that in an offensive way, the word "suffer" suggests homosexuality to be a disease or disorder, which it very much isn't.

As for the point you were making, I think sexuality is mutable in a lot of ways. I don't think it's as simple as a choice, but I think it's possible that any one person has the potential to experience sexuality in many different ways, and it's there life experiences which in some way influence the expression of that sexuality. It's an interesting topic whichever way you look at it. [Smile]

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mma
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quote:
Originally posted by patrickvienna:
Also, I don't much like the expression "suffer from being gay".

I read this as someone who is gay and is suffering because of outward events and circumstances imposed on them by others because they are gay. The implication being that if they could choose, why would they choose a way that brings suffering on them? I didn't read it like "suffering from the flu." [Wink]

Oh! Just thought of a less ambiguous way you could say it: "suffering because you are gay." Maybe?

[ 07-02-2010, 03:30 PM: Message edited by: mma ]

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Djuna
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Aaaah. That makes a lot more sense - sorry, nelesmile.

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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Honky Cat
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quote:
Originally posted by Heather:

So, when someone says being gay is a choice, a good response is to ask them if being straight is a choice. If they say no, then you can ask them why. If they say yes, and it's about their personal experience, you can bring up study or ask them about people who have not experienced orientation that way, including people who have tried very hard to change their orientation, only to discover they can't change how they feel and to whom they are attracted.

That's an approach I've used. I've had a few male friends who have tried to argue that homosexuality is a choice. I asked them, "Okay, when did you decide to be attracted to girls?" Not one of them ever had an answer. They would hem and haw for a while, and I think that pretty well proves the point.
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PenguinBoy
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I also agree that who we're attracted to is rarely something we're able to change; even if we were to try. And most everyone does at some points in their lives... like anyone who's ever tried not to have a painful crush on someone who doesn't reciprocate.

But I also kind of cringe when queer people are forced to use that as a defence against homophobia and the implications of it being the "fault" of queer people that they suffer judgement because of a choice rather than ok because of being a certainty.

Just as Joseph says, even if it were a choice, that wouldn't make discrimination ok. I believe in the right to make choices freely, like being out, or wearing the clothes or whatever that step out of straight normality.

I'm glad, by the way, that your mum is really cool with your sexuality, and gf, no matter how she thinks it came about; it's so cool for you to have her support, that is especially great.

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Cesario
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I wonder how much the idea of "choice" on this topic is hold over from before the concept of bisexuality entered the lexicon. Bisexuals experience a choice in terms of their behaviors if not their attractions, and with the cultural assumption that you are either one thing or the other, they naturally assumed that heterosexuality or homosexuality were both more about choices of behavior, and treated them that way in their language.

A lot of the way this "choice" idea comes across sounds a lot like someone on the outside looking in, someone who's never experienced a gender exclusive sexual attraction, so they don't understand the idea of "girls just don't turn me on". Combine the cultural assumption that you're either one or the other with a lot more bisexuals than are popularly believed, and it's not so much of a stretch that a lot of the people using and coining these terms might simply not have had experience with gender exclusive attraction.

Of course, bigots are always looking for a way to put the blame on their victims, but I wonder how this might have contributed to our current discussion.

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Heather
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EVERYONE has a choice in their behaviors.

Those of us who are bisexual/pansexual have no more of a choice in whom we are attracted to than anyone else. I don't know about you, but I don't choose who I'm attracted to. Would that I did, since I've been romantically and sexually attracted to some people who I really wish I had not been, because they were not kind people. As well, it sure would have saved me a whole lot of grief in my pre-teens when a lot of this awareness about being queer wasn't out there and I couldn't make heads or tails of my attractions.

[ 07-04-2010, 08:27 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Cian
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I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to choose who I'm attracted to, I would never had had to try and stop being attracted to people since I'd only been attracted to people I wanted to be and I'd never have gone through the "no-don't-want-to-be-bisexual-so-I'll-just-choose-not-to" period. Which didn't go down very well, because apparently choosing to deny you're something you ARE is not the healthiest thing to do to yourself mentally. [Smile]
And I think I've been "bi" since I was 6, considering I had girl crushes as well as boys, and I don't think I had the mental capacity to choose anything of that proportion at that time. So I don't think I chose anything regarding my sexual orientation.

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