Out of topic: Sexuality

This is in regards to a post here with Lum. I had made the point that this generation has been the most comfortable with homosexuality as a lifestyle choice, and Joshua, another poster took offense with the wording.

Rather than tie up Lum’s Blog, I’m posting my response here, since not many people view it and it will cause less derail. Please keep in mind that this is not what I intend to cover, I really don’t like discussing my views on it, but I owe a response. Read the link for the context.

I think homosexuality is a choice because sexuality in practice is not cut and dried. A man may be married for years, have a few kids with his wife, and then come out of the closest and divorce her. Or a woman after a divorce may find she would rather seek out women than men. Or some people are attracted to both genders, and choose to settle with one or the other. Or in times where the opposite gender isn’t around, or the culture is different, people change their sexual expression.

Some people even defy genetics altogether and are either sexually attracted to things that make no evolutionary or even anatomical sense (animals) or repudiate their own biology given at birth to change sex entirely  (not gender, the sexual organs are changed too) to the other sex based on reasons  of heir own.

The attraction exists, and the general desire imo. That’s a part of being sexual beings, and that is what is genetic, based on the desire to reproduce. Gay or straight, the plumbing still works for the purpose intended, it’s not like gay men have evolved over time to be able to reproduce with other men. I know thats being a little out there, but my point is that sexual desire can only be said to be genetic when it exists to fulfill sexual reproduction.

It’s the same way with eating. We have to eat, the base biological purpose is to give us energy. However the expression of eating is based on cultural mores, and since the biology is omnivourous, our attitudes vary. The desire can be put into many ways, you can be a vegetarian, or eat too much, or overeat, or even sexualize the eating desire. It’s not perfect, but I’m trying to show that expression and biology are often two different things.

I’m going to have to edit this post for part two, approaching thunderstorm.

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14 Responses to Out of topic: Sexuality

  1. I had a feeling you were going to say that it’s a choice because it’s a decision to act on it, but that isn’t an accurate stance.

    In your hypothetical situation of a man being married for years with kids and coming out of the closet, he was always gay, the only “choice” he made was to suppress that to the point that he was able to marry someone, have children with them, and continue in that relationship until the suppression was more than he could handle and he came out. Why would he choose to end his marriage, potentially jeopardize his relationship with his children, his established circles of mutual acquaintances, for a “choice” to get into a relationship with a guy and all the societal caveats that relationship has attached to it? I can’t really think of anything that would make such a choice plausible, unless it’s not a choice at all but a ingrained imperative that fractures the psyche if it’s ignored or suppressed.

    I don’t know what having sex with animals has to do with this, but believe it or not sexual orientation and sexual fetishes aren’t the same thing.

    You haven’t addressed the pertinent parts of my question on Lum’s site though. If this is a choice, why would I choose to be gay when being straight would be much easier? And if this is a choice, when did you choose to be straight, and why did you choose being straight over being gay?

  2. Dblade says:

    Yeah sorry, I didn’t have time to fully address it.

    The problem with the married man example is that he got married and had kids in the first place. That is a choice, even if you factor societal pressures: I can’t really see many people willingly entering a marriage of convienience and then going the full way to consummate it.

    The animal thing was more that some choices make not even the slightest amount of biological sense, so you can’t really make it a blanket explanation for all expressions. Like some scientists do for things like monogamy or promiscuity.

    The problem is that heterosexuality is definitely not a choice due to our biology-gay or straight, we are all organisms that are designed to reproduce with the opposite sex. You can doubt the expression of it being genetic or biological in specifics, but it’s like having two legs, the human animal evolved to reproduce a certain way, and all of us get affected by it.

    You can’t really extend that to homosexuality though, there’s no reproductive aspect to it. You can argue genetics predisposing to an orientation, but I think you started to recognize the implications of it, to the point of isolating a combo of genes that could predict it.

    So it’s either a choice or some type of compulsion when a person sexually matures. I can’t really see a basis for having an orientation despite of the body itself being set-up for reproduction of the opposite type without some type of external or internal factor, and I think the choice aspect probably is the safer of the two explanations.

    Otherwise you get people trying to treat it as a disorder, which is very wrong and very harmful. I think its safer to say that it was chosen in that regard, and it makes more sense to me.

    If its a genetic disposition, it’s very thorny indeed, because you’d start to wonder why exactly did the genes evolve and for what purpose, and the sociobiology of it. While I doubt the fundamentalists would be the ones (you’d be surprised, I know many and mostly all they want to be is left alone. The nutcases, like in anything, tend to be the loudest) you don’t want the ability of people to screen for gayness like they do down syndrome, sex, or hair color.

    I guess I’m saying that out of the options, the choice aspect tends to make the best sense to me and protects liberty the most, and that the other arguments seem to me not to fit.

    Addressing the “why would i bother?” argument:

    People choose things despite things being a lot of trouble. Strippers and pimps often get more respect than religious fundamentalists in many areas, and I have yet to see any plus to come out as a furry, for example, even a benign one. People have to be true to their own self view, even if it would be nothing but trouble, and I don’t think that invalidates choice.

    Keep in mind though I’m not using choice to devalue it at all, and I really don’t want you to take any negative sense from these things. I also don’t think many choices are open to persuasion or conversion, it’s more I guess along the lines of establishing a person’s identity, which at a core level doesn’t change much or often.

  3. You still mistake sexual orientation with fetishes; there’s a difference between being gay and being a furry, there’s a difference between being gay and fucking farm animals. Nobody gets denied donating blood in the US because they’re furries. Your explanation is extremely shaky and you still didn’t address the explicit question about when you decided you were going to be straight.

    Whether it’s biological or not won’t stop people who dislike it from changing it; in the fifties and sixties it was a mental disorder they used electroshock therapy over. If they find a gene responsible for it parents are still going to attempt to excise it the same way I expect parents to determine their kids’ sex and eyecolor in a decade or less.

    Whether you’re intending the word choice to be insensitive or not– and to be fair I don’t think you are– it still is. You obviously don’t have a lot of experience with this sort of thing, and it is only ever heterosexuals who say “Oh yes, it’s a choice;” so just don’t. Take it from someone who lives this, did not decide to go through life this way, and doesn’t appreciate having the annoyances and harassment I have had to experience diminished to something that essentially reads “Well it’s your own fault. You could stop it any time you wanted to.” It is insensitive, and it’s ignorant, whether you intend to be insulting or not. If you’ve never had to deal with it you’re not in a position to decide that it’s a decision on the part of someone else. So, don’t.

  4. Q. Moongazer says:

    I appreciate Mr. Meadows’ eloquent statements on the matter and I think I can further elucidate the subject.

    First and foremost the only choice that I made as a lesbian was “Do I live a lie or not?” It was not a choice to pick what I was living a lie *about*, that was just there, immutable as the sunrise, and never going away. I couldn’t deny it was there, merely elect to hide it and live a life of heterosexual privilege.

    Therein was the only real choice.

    We are raised in a society that is hetero-normative. Now, let me explain what I mean by “normative” because so many lefty activists bandy the word about without knowing what the hells they’re talking about. Normative is essentially something that is subjectively considered neutral and normal; the standard against which all else must be judged.

    In this case, hetero-normative essentially means that heterosexuality is considered the objective norm and all else is aberrant, ergo a choice. But this perception is flawed. Deeply.

    You say that heterosexuality has purpose and therefore must be considered normal and not a choice. Yet there are gay and lesbian folk who’ve never had a straight encounter in their lives, never will, nor will they ever reproduce. So this is not “unavoidable” as you assert. Secondly, what of straight people who are physically incapable of reproducing? Thirdly, animals who are not really sentient and for whom “choices” are really involuntary instinct, have been shown to engage in homosexual sexual encounters.

    Including and especially, of course, our closest relatives: primates.

    It seems to others like a choice because we don’t *appear* to be ‘like this’ from birth. The reason is because we have the idea that heterosexuality is normal drilled into us due to social mores that religion has handed down to our society. So it’s something we all have to actively fight against as we get older, our growing awareness at last poking through the haze of socialisation like a mountain peak piercing cloud cover.

    This takes time. Lots of time for some. The fear of opprobrium from society means some never come out until they hit a mid life crisis and stare down the possibility of growing old and dying without ever having been their true selves. They don’t just wake up one morning when they’re 50 and say “Hmm… I could buy a Corvette today… or I could have gay sex. I think I’ll do the gay sex.”

    It’s not a switch. That’s been building for an immensely long time and has just burst forth at a weak moment in the person’s life.

    In addition to being lesbian, I’m also a transsexual woman, which is doubly hard. It takes even more to overcome one’s social programming there. I was given the opportunity by dint of my birth circumstances to live as a heterosexual male with all the privilege and rights that would’ve unquestioningly netted me. To be myself, I have put myself in some measure of jeopardy.

    But the pain and loathing I felt as I looked to the future as a male, knowing I was a woman, that was not something I could make go away. Death felt better than living that pervasive lie expressed in every form I had to fill out, every identity document I’d carry, every ‘sir’ spoken to me by a store clerk, every moment of every day knowing I was *wrong* to keep pretending to be male, and how much it stabbed me for others to perceive me as such and treat me accordingly, when I wanted no part of it.

    Looking at my face in the mirror and hating myself, looking ahead at life and dreading it despite my supposedly bright future as a scholar. Envying every female role model I had grown up wishing and praying in the recesses of my mind that I could be as natural as them, thrashing against my existence in an internal turmoil that I knew so little about because I didn’t even know what trans *was* until I was out of high school. Thinking I was crazy and demented for what I secretly wanted, sighing at every M/F choice on every form I ever filled out, wishing to whatever gods there are that I wasn’t legally bound to check the one I knew I truly was not.

    Even now that I am living quite happily as a woman and accepted by many as such I know that the unique circumstances of my birth and growth, the darkest of which I have given you the slightest hint of, likely have creeped you out or left you wondering if I’m not some sort of freak or that I really *am* somehow crazy or touched. That too, hurts. And that too is something I just have to live with, that I knew about when I was getting into this, and that if I were truly male I’d have never considered for one waking second.

    That is a pain few understand.

    I chose to not live with that pain. That was my only choice.

    If you can begin to comprehend this, maybe you can get what Mr. Meadows and I are saying.

    I do not pretend to know the biology behind our situations (and they are indeed different). But I know *very intimately* the vicissitudes of every thing I have ever felt in regards to this, feelings that words have but a poor power to begin to describe. I know how I feel and neither I nor Mr. Meadows should have to justify that to anyone anymore than your heterosexuality and manhood should be accounted for.

    My only choice was life or living death.

  5. Dblade says:

    Joshua, i think you are missing the point.

    Unless you can show me that gayness somehow is genetically derived, it’s not the same as heterosexuality. You cannot decide to be straight any more than you can decide to have two eyes: however until you can prove to me that it’s the same level of event, a biological one that is ingrained to the level of your genes, I will believe it is a person’s choice.

    Your point about choosing heterosexuality i tried to address with this-its not the same because of biology. When I see a person walking on two feet, no one asks him why he chooses to walk on two feet. Yet when I see someone walking on two hands instead, and he asks me “Why did you choose to walk on two feet?” I reply that it’s because human beings evolved that way.

    That’s why “choosing heterosexuality” arguments fail, you are automatically assuming homosexuality is as biologically self-evident as heterosexuality. I mean in a mechanical sense. If you can prove to me it is, I really have no recourse, and indeed it would be silly to even consider the opposite, or it even a moral issue in itself.

    I’m sorry you have had negative experience with choice, but I’m not sure that it would be any better with hateful people if it wasn’t a choice at all. If you believe its homophobia, no matter what you do or how the arguments are framed will change that. If anything, they might be even justified…of course a phobia of cats is unjustified in any moral sense, but you don’t argue with a biological condition, you either accept it and make do or you medicate yourself to deal with it. No one says you are a bad person because of it, but that doesn’t mean people want to deal with someone hampered by something they can’t control.

    Going to split my posts to respond to moongazer to avoid walls of text.

  6. Dblade says:

    Moongazer:

    I think I understand the social argument you are making. However though if the orientation is truly not a choice, it would seem to me to be impossible to camoflauge to the levels often seen that you ascribe to hetero-normative pressures.

    Its not a choice to have homosexual desire, yet they can choose to engage in a heterosexual marriage to the point of intercourse and fathering kids, even if for deceptive reasons? Its putting themselves in a situation that the can avoid by not getting married and has zero plus sides.

    And to be honest, this never was about justifying a person’s homosexuality. Joshua took offense to what I thought, and this whole post is me explaining my view: the comment if anything had nothing to do with my personal view except for the phrasing, and was a point on how even a generation with a very large opportunity for tolerance still engages in ill-mannered behavior, despite being taught to embrace diversity. I chose to explain it here because it really was a side-tangent.

    Whether a choice or not your life is your life, and nothing about my view changes that. If anything I think people are reading in their own experiences an animus that isn’t there, and if you feel such or tie it to an attempt to force you to justify your personal identity, best to stop posting. I think I have explained why my comment was phrased the way it was, and if you disagree, that’s cool. I’m not doing this to convert anyone.

  7. Goedel says:

    You know, there is this thing called science which deals with topics such as heritability and the effects of biology. Here is a paper from 2000 which is actually available without journal access: “http://faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu/JMichael-Bailey/Publications/Bailey et al. twins,2000.pdf” . Most psychologists will agree that sexual orientation has a strong genetic/biological component. Humans do not make decisions as disembodied spirits, they make them as organisms shaped by environmental and genetic history.

  8. This is really the last I have to say about this subject. If you aren’t gay and someone gay is telling you that it’s not something they chose to be, it’s probably best to take their word for it. I’m not transgendered, but if a transgendered person told me that they didn’t wake up one day and decide to be the opposite sex, I’m going to take that statement as something coming from a source that probably knows a lot more about it than I do. I can’t very well get into their head and read their thoughts to claim otherwise, so me asserting that they did, in fact, make a conscious decision to want to be the opposite gender just makes me look obnoxious.

    When religious groups and political parties are basing their entire platforms of discrimination on the presupposition that it was a decision that can be changed through harassment or Jesus, empowering those statements even unintentionally by arguing against people who know better than you do is insensitive, whether that’s your aim or not. Ultimately you can’t answer the question about when you decided to be straight because you’ve decided straight is “normal,” but I advise you to educate yourself on the growing bodies of works that call that into question. You didn’t choose to be straight, I didn’t choose to be gay. If you don’t have empirical evidence on the latter, then take the word of gay people who know more about this than you do, until which time you can conjure some method of mind reading to claim definitively one way or the other.

  9. Dblade says:

    Joshua, the whole discrimination thing is not even relevant. I can believe its biological and unchangeable, and that can still be twisted into a discriminatory argument. If anything, it really could be worse that way. Taking your word based on those reasons isn’t satisfactory.

    As for them knowing better, well I can’t take your word when taking your word raises serious difficulties and doubts beyond just the fact of your experience. It’s not like taking your word that you are meant to be a rock star instead of a doctor: that doesn’t affect who I am, or what I believe to any real great level. It’s not so much your experience itself, but what it means that is troubling.

    Goedel, I’ll read that, thanks for the link. I have seen a lot of popular science tend to be very contradictory in terms of genetic and environmental influence though, often holding cross purposes. So for a lot of us laymen, we are often told that both monogamy and promiscuity are genetically and environmentally derived, each with equal and compelling research that most of us can’t really check.

  10. Q. Moongazer says:

    Dblade, I apologise if you felt I was projecting my experiences onto you, that certainly wasn’t my intent. My intent was to let you inside my head as much as text allows to see the veracity behind my claims. You seem like a genuinely nice guy who means well, so I am also not casting you as The Great Oppressor, but rather as someone whom I can reach by explaining all of this.

    Please do not think I am yelling at you, arguing angrily, or insulting you. I am trying to offer the benefit of my experience as a perspective I hope you can consider. That is all. 🙂 This is a good discussion and I think it’s worth having.

    So let me just clarify what I wrote, hmm? 😉

    “Its not a choice to have homosexual desire, yet they can choose to engage in a heterosexual marriage to the point of intercourse and fathering kids, even if for deceptive reasons? Its putting themselves in a situation that the can avoid by not getting married and has zero plus sides.”

    In short, yes. The distinction is drawn thusly: Social pressure cannot force us to change who we are on a deep, immutable level. But we can feel threatened enough by it that we *try* to suppress it ourselves. Society only works because we are trained since birth to want what society wants. For most things, like a respect for peace and order, that’s an eminently good thing. But when society channels its more subjective mores through those avenues of socialisation, the very phenomenon you described happens.

    A gay or trans person will get into a straight marriage in part because they are trying to suppress their feelings and, like countless straight people, mistakenly believe that marriage has a magical quality that will make people love each other. They closeted person feels, on top of that, that it’ll have a magical quality that’ll make them straight. They want to “correct” this because they were raised to believe it was wrong by everything around them.

    As society grows more openly accepting, and you see more gay people in places of prominence, young ones who feel this way might be far less inclined to suppress themselves when they get older. So I pray this is the last generation where we see so *many* tragic cases of gay and trans people bursting out in the middle of a marriage.

    But the quick and dirty is quite simply that social pressure can make us do things we wouldn’t otherwise feel compelled to do, yet it cannot change who we are.

    Joshua Meadows was right when he said you’re just going to have to take us at our word for this, the same way you unquestioningly take a straight person at their word or a cis (non trans) person at their word. You do so because society teaches us that those people are in “normal” states.

    I’m quite aware that there are people out there who could try to do damage and cause trouble by claiming to be the opposite sex, but they do not define me nor other trans people. There is no harm in taking me at my word with my own life experiences. My own actions as a person and as a woman will bear me out if you allow them to. The same way you allow with anyone else.

    Whatever biology has to do with this… it’s interesting, and a worthy avenue for human enlightenment. But to me it makes no difference. I know you said you’re not asking any of us to justify yourselves. I believe you. But your reasoning is used by others who ask me to justify who I am, which is what makes it irksome. I am different and outside of the norm, thus I have to have “papers” that validate me.

    I feel that until one experiences just how crappy and degrading that feels, they will be in a poor position to comment on whether that is just.

    For others this an intellectual exercise, a philosophical curiosity, points to be scored in a debate.

    For me, this is my life.

    I don’t have the luxury of putting the book away and keeping this out of sight and out of mind when it gets to be too much. It’s with me everywhere I go, every hour of every day. Believe me, if it were a choice, I’d turn it off when it gets really hard. I can’t.

  11. Raelyf says:

    @ Meadows

    I’m not homophobic, but – sorry, I’m kidding.

    Whether homosexuality is a choice or is genetic, I really don’t know for sure. Largely, the question is irrelevant to me – it’s as equally valid a lifestyle as my own, as far as I’m concerned, and the why of it isn’t so important.

    In any case, throughout your posts you make fairly clear your own bias. In my opinion, it seems you reject homosexuality as a choice because, in your own mind, you think it was the wrong choice to make. You want to be a homosexual, but need to feel that you had no choice in order to justify the hardships it has put you through. As any addict will tell you, the human mind will do back flips in order to justify the things it wants.

    Anyway, I’m not convinced in either direction – deep seeded preferences are really impossible to trace the origins of, whether it be genetic, cultural, random chance, individual predispositions and experiences, ect.

    tldr;
    Because you feel, no matter how certainly, that you have no choice does not make it so. The human mind is not reliable, unfortunately.

  12. Dblade says:

    Raelyf, I don’t think that is his intent to say its a wrong choice as the consequences are painful enough to make you wonder why they would choose it at all. You can make a right choice and the same thing happen too, and can go through self-loathing over it, but that doesn’t mean the choice is wrong.

    Moon, I understand your point. However, it’s not just academic to us as straights, and gays really don’t seem to understand this. To you its simply affirming who you are without any real harm to us or society. However, ideas have consequences, and if heterosexuality is reduced to one of many options, it’s going to change society in ways we really can’t fathom until its too late. The personal aspect is an ironclad argument for legal tolerance, but moral acceptance won’t come so easy, because of the implications of the argument.

  13. Zubon says:

    Dblade, you are so close to the point, but bouncing off it. At no point in our lives did you or I really have an option to be attracted to men. Behavior is chosen, but as you say, the preference is as much there as having two eyes. And not having two eyes is as much a biological fact as having them. Your biology went for chocolate or vanilla; it is something about your taste buds and your brain. You realized which one you preferred, but you cannot will yourself to prefer the other. How you express that (behavior) is chosen, but you do not get to pick your genes and early environment.

    That is the other major confusion that may be tripping you up: many people contrast “chosen” with “genetic,” which is just a misunderstanding of “genetic.” Reading an introduction to developmental or reproductive biology can help there. Long before any conscious choice enters your life, most of your biology will have been determined by your genes, prenatal environment, early childhood environment, etc. How tall you are is partly genetic and partly environmental, and you would not say that someone chose to be shorter because he was malnourished as a child. (Many people also get confused about the technical term “gene expression” and “expression” in the sense of how we act upon our biologically determined traits.)

    I’m about 10 years behind on research, but the study Goedel linked is largely consistent with the state of knowledge then. The twin studies are the more interesting ones, and I was disappointed to see that the linked study failed to distinguish between twins raised together or apart. Those are the most compelling cases, although it can be hard to find twins raised apart. Even those studies, however, will not pick out “genetic,” because they cannot control for the prenatal environment, which I expect to be a major factor in sexual orientation and gender identity. We know that the mother’s hormones (like testosterone) affect fetal brain and body development.

  14. Dblade says:

    Maybe we did have an option. I don’t really see how people can be bi-curious for one, and not. I really don’t think it’s as open and shut as many do, and I think it can be harmful to treat it as such.

    I’m really careful about assigning behaviors like that to genes and heredity solely. I think it’s a very dangerous thing. I’m really only making the heterosexual point because it is such at a base level, because we have to reproduce. I’m very much on the side of free will otherwise.

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