Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Religious Wrong: A Theory on the Choice Debate

For the last few decades, social conservatives and religious leaders have held to the opinion that being gay is a choice. It has boggled my mind that anyone could really believe this idea and I have tried to think of some reason why they would still, even after all this time, try to peddle this schlock. Some time ago, a possible explanation came to me. So, here is my theory...

In today's society political correctness is generally important. As such, discrimination against people, particularly based on traits that are beyond their control, is frowned upon. This includes traits such as ethnicity, nationality, gender, handicapability, and so forth. People get fired for doing such things. There are laws all ver the place protecting these groups. On the other hand, when it comes to things that ARE under people's control (or at least more or less so), they are fair game. After all, there are entire films and televisions shows dedicated to the bad and stupid decisions that people make from fashion blunders to "Jackass." And we laugh at these things free of guilt because, let's face it, it's their own fault. 

Having said all of that, here is where the conservative "logic" kicks in. If being gay is a choice, then gay people are at fault for any misfortune that befalls them as a result of them making the choice to be gay. Thus, conservatives can feel free to ridicule, denounce, and discriminate against the gay community; guiltless and to their heart's content. D.O.M.A., Don't Ask Don't Tell, and employment discrimination all all become acceptable. The problem is this: the conservative "logic" that homosexuality is a choice defies actual logic.

Towards the end of 2010, there was a rash of publicized suicides resulting, directly and indirectly, from anti-gay ridicule (it should, of course, be noted that such things have been going on for who knows how long). Saying that being gay is a choice is implicitly saying that it was easier for all of those people, young and old, who have committed suicide over the years because they were gay to choose to kill themselves than it was to choose to be straight. This makes zero sense. It would make far more sense to choose to be straight and not have to worry about homophobic animus. Of course that would assume that there is a choice to be made.

This is only part of why the social conservative thinking on sexual orientation and gender identity does not hold up to scrutiny. Everyone has their share of problems in life. Why would such a large swath of society make the conscious decision to add such a significant complication? Being gay comes with a number of problems from the relatively mundane (such as people whispering about you behind your back) to the down right dangerous (including threats/acts of violence or even death). To think that millions upon millions of people would risk physical harm and "choose" to be gay utterly defies reason.

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