Friday, March 13, 2015

Revisiting the Problem of Born This Way

So last week Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon, state on CNN that being gay is a choice and that those who are sent to prison and then "come out gay" are proof of that.  There are many ways to refute and argue with Ben Carson but what came to mind for me was the problem with the "it is not a choice, born this way" argument.  While it is effective on moving the middle, it is also problematic leading to questions such as "does it need a cure" and that being heterosexual is preferable.  So I thought in light of Ben Carson it is time again to revisit my 2013 post The Problem with "Born This Way."

Maybe our Human Rights should not depend on questions of biological traits, after all religion is a chosen aspect of our lives and we vigorously defend the right to worship as we choose to or not do so at all.

The Problem with "Born this Way"

Now please don't get me wrong, I love Lady Gaga and the song "Born this Way." (don't worry this is a lyrics only video)  I know that "Born this Way" is very persuasive to the movable middle and that is why groups like PFLAG and HRC use it.  I also know for many individuals that literally knowing that their children were "born this way" allowed those parents to love and accept those children for who they are.  Parental love is strong and powerful, parental acceptance can be harder won as Andrew Solomon so eloquently expresses in his TED talk.

If we are born this way, then we didn't choose to be this way (because after all no one would choose the horrible life of being born gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgender) and therefore you must love us or at least not deny our basic human rights - you know like to work, to be free from violence and keeping a job.  After all, God might just forgive us if we are born this way and then we might just be allowed in our faith communities - maybe even they will ordain us (particularly if we opt to be single and chaste) or if they are really progressive they will not require celibacy for ordination and will welcome our partners and families.

Well I don't buy it.

Now this is not to say the sexual orientation and gender identity are choices or that people are not "born that way." The problem with the argument "born this way" is that somehow then it is a less than - less than the ideal of heterosexual, less than the ideal of female or male.  Somehow if you are "born this way" then your parents have to love you because "you can't help it." I think as those who are people of color, women and people with disabilities will express - simply because one is "born this way" does not lead the way to tolerance, acceptance or even basic human rights.

The other dark side of "born this way" and the quest for scientific evidence to prove what LGBTQ people have been telling us for years is what will be done with this knowledge.  Do we think that if we discovered the "gay" gene or the "trans" gene that somehow there will be rejoicing throughout the land and that parents will welcome their "gay" or "trans" baby with open arms from day one?  Well apparently PFLAG does based on their latest ad campaign in Australia.  I think not.  What would actually happen in that room is that after being told they are having a lesbian they would be asked if they want to terminate the pregnancy or if we get really advanced, if they would like to undergo treatment to "cure" their child of being "lesbian."

Think I am being over the top and using scare tactics?  There is already at least one evangelical minister out there who has said that pre-natal hormonal treatment to "cure" gayness is permissible and another who said that Christians would be obligated to accept a "gay cure."  So while activists may believe that the discovery of the biological basis of sexual orientation  would lead to greater tolerance and acceptance in reality there would be a quest to "cure" children of the horrible disease of being gay, lesbian or bisexual.  How long before the obligation would move beyond "Christians" to everyone?  For the record, I do not have a disease and I do not need or want a "cure"!

To use a pop culture analogy let's look at the movie X-Men: The Last Stand. In the movie a cure has been found to treat the mutants.  Far from being celebrated for being born with extraordinary gifts and powers, mutants are feared, hated and often forced to live underground.  Now that a cure has been found, the "benevolent" government offers it to all mutants - in fact demands it.  What would happen to those of us who are LGBTQ if we refused the "cure" offered by our "benevolent" society? Would we too be hunted down and forced to take the cure?

Being LGBTQ is not a curse, it is not a birth defect.  It is a gift.  It is a gift that yes we are born with and should be celebrated.  I think it is pretty clear if we look around at creation that life desires diversity.  Being LGBTQ is part of the  amazing diversity that is life!  It is the recognition of and celebration of being LGBTQ that is the "cure" to what is wrong.  What is wrong is hatred, prejudice, and violence against LGBTQ persons. What is wrong is losing your job!  What is wrong is being subjected to violence!  What is wrong is how LGTBQ people are viewed and treated - not being LGBTQ!

In this month of Pride let's celebrate being LGBTQ!  Let's celebrate the right to be different, the right to be ourselves, the right to be proud of who and what we are!

or to say it as Andrew Solomon did:
Let Us Love No Matter What
Happy Pride!