Thursday, June 11, 2009

Show Me the Gay Gene

In the debate over gay rights in America, there are two pole positions. One claims that homosexuality is a choice against the will of God, while another claims that it is a genetic part of who a person is. I feel like both positions are absurd.

Let me be clear, I am 110% on the side of the queers, gays, bisexuals, lesbians, feminists, kinksters, trans, and others who are fighting for their rights in a society that often does not tolerate them, let alone accept them.

That said, I feel like the debate over whether homosexuality is a choice or a gene, is a false one. I have yet to see any irrefutable evidence of a 'gay gene,' and yet I feel like the term 'choice' is a loaded one to describe homosexuality.

Christian fundamentalists have chosen the word 'choice' to describe homosexual activity because they hope to marginalize homosexuals by depicting them as deciding to do something immoral. They could choose to follow in the path of Jesus, but instead they have chosen to sin.

This is an absurd argument on so many levels. First of all, there is no god. Second of all, if there were a god, we have to ask, what makes his opinion on what is moral and immoral any better than anybody else's? Third of all, Homosexuality is embedded much deeper into a person than a choice.

The word 'choice' implies a certain frivolous attitude towards the path one takes. As though you could go either way. Even tough decisions, are still things that people are able to go one way or the other on, thus making them difficult. When eating at a restaurant, you could choose one of several choices. Homosexuality is not something people are able to give up so easily.

Which is why I think that Homosexuality is something that is conditioned, akin to how a fetish or musical taste is formed. I just don't see the evidence for how it could be any thing else. Show me the gay gene.

Many in the gay rights movement have argued for the existence of the 'gay gene', in the hope that it would be an excellent argument against the Christian fundamentalist attacks. I'm skeptical. If there were a 'gay gene', Christian Fundamentalists and Homophobes of all stripes would claim it as a mutant gene, and turn to eugenics to stamp it out.

Many trans-people have made similar arguments about a 'gay gene', claiming that the are a woman born in a man's body, etc. I find it hard to believe that there is a gene which predetermines a persons love of feminine make-up. I feel that there is a big difference between a person's sex (whether they have a vagina or a penis) and their gender (style of dress, way of acting feminine or masculine), and that sex is something that genes determine, but gender is much more socially constructed, and thanks to the trans movement, often socially deconstructed. Again though, if there were a 'trans gene', opponents of the trans movement would attempt to use Eugenics to wipe it out.

This use of the 'gay gene' argument reflects, in my view, a fear of fighting the hard fight. Instead of fighting for their right to do what they please as consensual adults, they hide behind an argument that makes no claim on morals. While this might seem to some as a nihilistic and thus atheist argument, I feel like it's avoiding the real fight.

Similar to the legal fight over privacy. I feel like the fundamental issue is that homosexual activity is something that occurs between consenting adults and cause no more harm than any number of legal consensual activities. Yet in many pivotal gay rights court cases, the argument was not made in terms of equal protection of the law, or consent, but was made on the basis of privacy. The implied subtext of this argument to many Americans is that if you have nothing to hide, why do you need such privacy?

While I understand why many homosexuals want and need privacy, to protect themselves from bigots, if the gay rights movement is serious it will turn the legal argument away from privacy and towards equal rights.

Some say that it doesn't matter if homosexual activities are genetic or a choice, either way we should stand for gay rights. I agree, but I feel like that sentiment is not understanding what is at stake if there is a gay gene. If there is a gay gene, what happens to consent?

How can a person make decisions about who or what they would like to have relations with if there is a gene that determines what our sexual preferences are? We are also missing another important point, if there is a 'gay gene' and a 'straight gene' then what hope do we have of creating a society that is gender queer with a fluid sexuality?

Sexual preference is socially conditioned, and through struggle we can create the conditions for a queer society.

One of the major ways this struggle has been taking place is in the debate over gay marriage. I feel that the Legalization of Gay Marriage will fundamentally alter sexuality and marriage in America. Many liberals scoff at this idea. They argue 'what does allowing gay couples to get married do to my marriage?' They point to the many ways marriage is already undermined by adultery and divorce.

Yes, the institution of marriage, as understood in the biblical and feudal sense, has been undermined by the creation of the no fault divorce. A major step forward for the women's rights movement and for all those who oppose domestic slavery. While gay marriage may not impact individual marriages by much, the legalization of gay marriage will fundamentally change the legal structure of marriage and the psychology of Americans who think about marriage. It will take more steps away from the feudal and biblical definitions of marriage, and towards an understanding of marriage based on mutual aid and Enlightenment ideals.

With Gay Marriage legalized, many will come out of the closet, many will grow up to be confident in their sexuality, assured that they can be themselves and make their own choices without facing undue consequences. This is a great thing, but it is only the start. There is much work to be done to legitimize alternative sexualities. There will be struggles over the queering of schools, unions, churches, cooperatives and corporations.

Now that the California Supreme Court has ruled in favor of proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage referendum, the gay rights movement has decided to take its fight to the streets. Instead of trying to convince legislators or judges, the gay rights movement in California will attempt to convince their fellow citizens, their neighbors, family and friends. Groups like the Courage Campaign and Equality California are preparing to bring pro-gay marriage referendums to the ballot. This will require courage and audacity. It will require reaching outside of gay ghettos like Castro street and Boystown and convincing many who voted for prop 8 to change their mind and their vote. It can be done. It will be done.

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