Not that there was ever any doubt, but once I ran across the quiz over at Scientific American Mind, I took it as an opportunity to just check in. I was led to the quiz by a post at the Gay News Blog about the SIAMind article “Do Gays Hae a Choice?”, in its most recent issue. I haven’t read it yet (to do so requires buying the issue online), but the Gay News Blog post offer’s this interesting tidbit.
According to the articles author, Robert Epstein, a Harvard-trained PhD, sexual orientation is not a black or white matter; rather, he concludes that sexuality falls on a continuum with heterosexuality and homosexuality at opposite ends. People may be attracted to members of both sexes, but with varying degrees determined by both genetics and their environment. Epstein explains that genes determine where we start but society exerts tremendous pressure on the individual to conform. Because the majority of people are “straight,” most of us become heterosexual.
The article also discusses the possibility of an individual changing sexual orientation. Whereas some people have asserted that genes alone determine sexual orientation and that changing from gay to straight is not possible, others have argued that homosexuality is a learned behavior and thus a choice. Epstein writes that changing orientation is possible for people whose sexuality lies toward the middle of the Sexual Orientation Continuum, but for most gay people such a switch would be very difficult if not impossible. [emphasis added]
Sound about right to me. When I first heard of the Kinsey Scale, back when I was in college, I knew right away where I’d end up: a full-fledged “Kinsey 6.” It’s always been the case. Ladies, you’re beautiful and I love ya. I’ll be your best friend, your shoulder to cry on or ear to rant into, your shopping buddy, your “safe date”, and dance partner you can always count on. It just ain’t ever gonna end up in the bedroom. I’m not wired that way.
But seriously, I’ve always thought of sexuality as a continuum with lots of little points between the ends. Different people land in different places on that continuum. Unfortuntely, our culture requires people to fit — or at least pretend to fit — into neat little boxes when it comes to sexual orientation.
Score 5 to 0 on the quiz, and the “path of least resistance” opens before you: heterosexuality or some semblance thereof. You’ll probably be able to function well and find happiness in some form of heterosexuality that mostly meets with societal expectations. Score 6 too 13 and there is no “path of least resistance. It’s uphill both ways. Go the way you’re wired, and you’ll meet with some resistance. Take the opposite course, and chances are you’ll short circuit somewhere along the way.
It funny to me that people can’t see that, and can’t see the misery caused by forcing people into boxes or setting up roadblocks when it comes to sexual orienation. I just finished reading the short story “Brokeback Mountain” in preparation for seeing the movie, and the overall theme of the story seemed to be just that. It’s a story of how the love between the two men — who would probably have scored in the 8 to 9 range on the quiz — was essentially doomed because of the times and the culture they lived in, how it wore both of them down and left them with pretty distorted lives. And it was because there wasn’t a “box” for them; at least, not one that fit.
Of course, the obsession with why some people turn out to be gay still worries me a bit.
What worries me is how society will respond if or when a “cause” or multiple “causes” for homosexuality are pinned down? Will the response be a reinforcement of the idea that people shouldn’t be discriminated against becauseof inborn traits? If the discovery includes scientific efforts to reverse sexual orientation biologically or genetically (if something so strongly engrained can be reversed) will the impetus then be on gays and lesbians to remove themselves from a discriminted class by “taking the cure”?
Ultimately, I don’t think arguments for gay & lesbian equality should hinge on whether sexual orientation is inborn or accquired. It doesn’t matter why we’re gay. It matters that we’re gay, and how we’re treated. Equality should stem from the simple fact of being citizens. Nothing more or less. Let science do and discover what it will, but don’t muddy the waters of civil rights issues by injecting something that promises to raise at least as many questions as it may answer.
Maybe I need to go ahead and get that SIAMind article and give it a good read.