Debate: So what if homosexuality were a choice?


Well, yea. But is that the best reason why we deserve equality?


This month our community hosts pride parades across the country and the world as we march to bring visibility and validation to our diverse population. Yet I dread each sign I see that says, “Homosexuality is NOT a choice!” or “We are born gay!” or some version of these statements. I see such signs plastered over the web nearly every day.

Please don’t misunderstand. I believe that lesbian, gay and bisexual people are born, not made. I believe that people seeking gender-confirmation surgery are born into the wrong body, but again, the origins of their gender and sexuality are in relation to being born, not in choosing. Please know this is my belief because I mean to question why the argument about being born queer is so important to the LGBTQ community. Truly, the argument makes me cringe.

Here are a few reasons I have a problem with it:

1. Are we saying, “We are born this way, we can’t help it, so accept us with our defective and other-than-normal sexuality”?

2. Are we saying, “All you religious zealots who call us an abomination in the name of your God, we are born this way, so you can’t change us to suit your homophobia”?

3. Are we saying, “If we can prove to the mainstream that we are born this way and didn’t choose it, won’t they have to accept us and give us our rights”?

In each case, I feel as though we are somehow admitting we aren’t “normal.” You can’t discriminate against someone born with a defect, right? God wouldn’t hate someone born into the “wrong” body, right? The government can’t deny the right to marry to people who were born with a messed up sexuality, right?

I know some people are afraid of the born-queer argument, fearing that bigots will try to find a way to genetically wipe us out of the human race. That is not one of my fears. I don’t believe the bigots are that intelligent. Go read some of the comments conservatives made when the Boy Scouts let in gay boys (as if there had never been a gay boy in the Boy Scouts). Their comments are so stupid they would be laughable if they weren’t so insulting.

Bigoted conservatives aside, why can’t we say, “Even if we were not born this way, so what? If we were not born this way but chose this life or were led there through other influences, so what?” Is the “born this way” argument the only one that keeps us from looking like sinners or as if we are mentally ill?

I hope not.

There is a sexuality continuum theory, documented by Alfred Kinsey. He hypothesized that we are all on a spectrum of sexuality, with homosexuality at one end and heterosexuality at the other. The theory, developed decades ago, may not include the “born this way” argument, but if the continuum theory is true, it would help to explain all the shades of sexuality and gender we find in the world. The theory also raises additional questions for me:

When someone dabbles in homosexuality but ends up living a straight life, was that a choice, or is that person on a certain place on the continuum: more straight than gay?

When a homosexual person dabbles in heterosexuality, say in his college years, but ends up married to another man, is that a choice, or is that the man coming out as he was born, finally, after dealing with so many years of oppression that kept him closeted, even to himself?

And when a bisexual goes from man to woman to man, for example, is he or she choosing? Or is this person on a different place on the spectrum of sexuality, because of the way he or she was born?

As I said at the outset, I believe we are born into our sexuality, which may be more than theory, as some scientific studies have suggested, yet it bothers me as our justification for existing.

Loving another human being, regardless of gender, hurts no one. And so, if it were a choice, it shouldn’t matter. It would not be a sin unless you choose to believe in such things; it would not be the end of civilization unless you choose to believe it is; and it would not make the relationships any less valid unless you choose to view them as less valid. You know who you are.

This born-into-our queer-sexuality argument has a dangerous subtext — that if we weren’t born this way, obviously, we’d all choose to be normal heterosexuals. I think that’s the crux of why this argument irks me: that in making the argument that homosexuality is not a choice, we are in some way validating what society calls normal.

I hope you can convince me otherwise and explain to me how this argument is positive and not just a reaction to homophobic attitudes. Can we update our slogans and arguments to always include a rider, so they read, “We are born this way; being queer is not a choice. But if it were a choice, so what?”

This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post Gay Voices Blog

7 Responses to “Debate: So what if homosexuality were a choice?”

  1. Angie

    I think it all depends on your way of thinking. To me, being born any way validates who you are. We have a variety of traits that we are born with. Sexual orientation is merely one of those traits and if it’s present naturally from birth, it doesn’t mean it’s a defect. The same people who say “if it’s a choice, why wouldn’t you choose being straight” are probably the same bigots who assume all non-White people want to be White. We don’t. I like being a Black woman and if I were a lesbian, I would like being a lesbian because it’d be a part of who I am. It isn’t a flaw any more than being straight is something to be proud of. Now just to say “born this way” to justify it to bigots is silly, but to say it for yourself, I see no problem with it.

  2. Cindy Zelman

    Hi Angie,

    Yes, absolutely, I agree with every word you say, and it was all so very well said. Thank you.

    I think it’s an important distinction for the LGBTQ community to be aware of, which I’m not always sure some of them are — the distinction you make so well between feeling validated because you are born as you are versus using “born this way” to justify one’s existence to bullies.

    Several people on Huffington got very upset with me when I raised these questions. I got the sense that some members of this community are afraid to expand their argument to say “so what?” It almost felt as if they were afraid they’d have no way to justify themselves if they couldn’t rely on this argument of birth. I think that’s what bothers me, the pandering to bigots rather than telling them to “eff off…”Born this way or not, there is nothing wrong with who we are.

    Thank you, too, for your very intelligent and relevant comparison to being born Black and white people assuming you’d choose to be white if you could. Ridiculous.

    Thank you especially for reading and taking the time to comment. 🙂


  3. lol_girl

    What really annoys me is that while I believe some people may be ‘born’ homosexual, many MANY women CHOOSE to be homosexual. The dominant discourse of ‘born this way’ is hurtful to the many that choose. People don’t believe me now when I say i choose to be homosexual. They assert I MUST have been born this way. Placards displaying this dominant discourse of ‘born this way’ is not helpful for me and many others. Please recognise this everyone. I choose. Many others choose. Some because they realise that men aren’t compatible with what they want or lesbianism is a political choice.

    Don’t drown out the ‘I am homosexual by choice’ people.

  4. Cindy Zelman

    Hello LOL_girl, Thank you for taking the time to read my post and to comment. Your perspective is not one I hear too often, so I appreciate your expressing the issues here in the comments section. It’s important for us all to understand the diversity of our community. People’s experiences and their interpretations of those experiences can be quite varied. Thank you again for sharing yours! 🙂

    • lol_girl

      May I add – it’s not one you hear too often for exactly the same reasons – because choice is not taught or seen as usual or acceptable. This discourages potential choosers because they now must have been biologically ‘abnormal’. This type of identity shift is too essentialist for many, (discouraging choice) or results in them reinterpreting themselves as biologically destined to make it far easier for themselves to be accepted in a world which can’t understand sexual choice that is created from social experiences. Where’s the articles, the books or the people telling us that you can choose? Well, there isn’t. Is it any surprise we grow up in a world where they are so ‘few’ choosers? Of course not.
      You’re quite right as you say, the born this way argument is also a convenient and easier way to be accepted in a homophobic world. I understand that. But it’s a dangerous and damaging notion implying abnormality.

  5. Jan Lee

    Cindy: love this article. No “pandering to bigots ” whether it is birth or choice. love is love. I lived a straight life …always so attracted to women….before I became totally aware that I’m home with women, one in particular! Does that make lesbianism my genetic makeup or choice or both. I don’t really give a flying f….!


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