In a certain, limited sense, I agree with the fundamentalists who insist that being queer is a matter of nurture rather than nature; the sense that even as a child, one knows one’s essential “difference” and then must take hints from the environment as to whether they will evolve into a closeted hypocritical bigot or a fully realized individual. It is a matter of evolution. Or, if you prefer, unfoldment, by which I do not imply anything “spiritual,” unless, of course, by “spiritual” one heeds the sage advice of that old dear, Polonius: “…This above all, to thine own self be true.” Or, as that other great traveler, Sir Richard Burton, put it, “He noblest lives and noblest dies who makes and keeps his self-made laws.”
I could not disagree more vehemently.
Among my earliest memories are those of being aware that I liked older boys - very much. I didn't know what it was; I just knew it wasn't the same as the way other guys felt, and I knew that it wasn't approved of. Even as a teen, when I was keenly aware of what stirred my soul - and knew quite well what that meant, I was still not accepting that I was gay - I lived in the delusion that I was merely a bit different, but really like other guys for the most part. But I still knew that I wasn't like other guys in the way I liked guys.
I cannot point to a moment in my life when I was like other kids, but somehow started to change, voluntarily or otherwise. I was always the way I am now.
I have not doubt that there are some - particularly bisexuals - who may have a choice at least to a degree, who may be able to alter their sexual orientation. But for me, it is homosexual. Pure and simple. Always was, and I fully expect, always will be. And based on my experience in the gay community, my experience is more or less typical.
Then what of situations like that presented in the Oscar-winning movie, Beginnings, in which an elderly gay man finally realizes his self-evolved nature as a gay male? Are those so rare they're "anecdotal"?
James, one should never underestimate the human capacity for self-deception and living in denial. As atheists living in a world of religious believers, that should be obvious to us.
I have known gay men who have lived all their lives and gone to their graves, believing sincerely that they were heterosexual, and have, with great determination, attempted to live out that role - but occasionally sneaking a same-sex relationship when they could. That does not change one's sexual orientation; it merely changes one's perceptions of it.
The degree to which people abhor that aspect of themselves, is evidence that they are quite capable of denying what it means. We know from sociology and psychology that sexual orientation of opportunity does occur; for many gay men, especially those living in deeply homophobic societies that they can find themselves having sexual relations with other sexes, and that can lead them to believe themselves to be heterosexual and act out that role, while never finding it particularly satisfying but believing that is simply the way things are. It is my belief that bisexuality is quite common, and this leads to a lot of confusion as to the nature of sexual orientation, especially in the presence of widespread societal homophobia.
In other words, internalized homophobia can lead to all manner of self deceptions especially when a sufficient degree of bisexuality or sexual orientation of opportunity exists.
Well said! I think you're completely right. A more fleshed out explication of your earlier comment, which gave plenty of food for thought.
Of course the creationists feel free to claim, falsely, that homosexuality is rare in the animal kingdom, so it obviously is a choice that is made by a male or female of our species.
Hypothyroidism is the least of their shortcomings.
The nature/nurture argument will go on forever. It's part of our nature. Or is it societal, that we are concerned about nature/nurture? Is it in our genes to discuss whether it's in our genes? Or is it part of our socialization, to discuss whether it is part of our socialization?
Whether nature, or nurture, is there choice? I certainly didn't choose who I am. I also did not chose my IQ, my temperament, my sense of humor, my love of spicy food, my love of lots of food. I did choose to cross certain boundaries of race and religion, I chose to be vegetarian, and I chose to write this response. There is no evidence that a person who is same-gender-oriented can be re-oriented, so does it matter if it's nature or nurture? A person who has a brain injury and can't walk, vs. a person born with the inability to walk, is still unable to walk.
There is some evidence that racist emotion can be reduced with a beta blocker (propranolol) that reduces fear-based neurohormonal responses. Maybe homophobia can be reduced in the same way. As a side effect, beta blockers also reduce libido and sexual response... not sure where that would lead.
And besides, happiness is a warm gun.
James, if I understand your initial post correctly you're not asking if being gay is a result of nature or nurture but rather if a gay individual's outward expression and public identification as being gay is nature or nurture. If that's the case, I believe I understand your statement about agreeing with the fundamentalists. For example: if a gay child grows up in a household hearing constant derogatory and anti-gay remarks from parents/family/church/friends, etc. that person is likely to stay closeted. On the flip-side, if a gay child grows up in a household where understanding and acceptance of gays is taught and encouraged, that gay child is most likely to openly express their orientation.
Back to the fundamentalists: they have the deluded notion that if boys would simply "be boys" and grow up doing traditional boy activities and acting like Wally and the Beaver, there's just no chance of them becoming gay.
As far as the outward expression of being gay, this brings us to a topic that is misunderstood even amongst the gay community and which trumps (I believe) any of my previous statements: the notion of "straight-acting" and "effeminate-acting" gays. The act of criticizing another person's outward display of sexual orientation is just plain wrong. Effeminate men are not "acting." They are not consciously "acting gay." They are being who they were naturally and genetically born to be. How many times have you heard people say, "Why does he act so gay?" "Why does he walk that way?" "Why does he act that way in public?" You hear these questions even from some in the gay community. We are so prone to compartmentalizing people into traditional roles that we criticize others for living within the wide spectrum of "gray" areas. For some, these gray areas are simply the normal and genetically proper place to live. I think most of society needs to realize this fact.
Actually, I think I was talking about all forms of sexual difference; with Dr. Lars Ullerstam, a Swedish authority, I think of LGBT peoples as simply "the sexual minorities." I actually think the Santorumen are ignorant of, or shocked by, nature. Else why would they continue to insist that homosexuality and other forms of what they call "deviant" sexual behavior are not seen in lower animals. (This lends credence to their "choice" argument for obvious reasons. Ironically, the same argument is made about the missionary position, mandated by their Bible; that is, they claim that man is the only species that has coitus in a face to face position, but at least one species of monkey does too.) I slept or talked through most of my biology lectures but I did get enough from them that I think Santorumen skipped class entirely.) I love the word "queer" both because it conveys the same multiversity of life itself and because it can be worn as a badge, at least for now, by the individuals embracing it. With the Buddha, I find categories intrinsically hurtful.
Your other question is much too complex. The reason some folks keep mum about their orientation is in some instances because the individual can get away with it. Some simply cannot. But a lisping person is not a gay or queer person per se. Unless a person announces their orientation -- and in many cases, gender -- one does not know for sure what they may be. One reason why society properly condemns the malum in se of active pedophilia and is in such a hurry to wrongly claim that most of the perps are "homos" is that they are so homophobic they rush to judgment. Of course, within the gay community there are many bigots who look down their noses at, e.g. an African-American trans person, as if saying, "at least I am not a dinge queen," or are those types disappearing these days?
Frankly, I think many queer people are feeling less pressure to come out due to the societal changes of the past decade or so. The recents stats on gay marriage, military service, and so forth indicates public acceptance of things that, as recently as the 1980's (mostly due to ignorance about AIDS) they would have thought "degenerate." The Santorumen are a dying minority.
God* have mercy upon their souls.
*My God is DNA. I not only worship the Serpent of Genesis, I literally worship the two of them. But then I can also talk about God the way atheist filmmaker Luis Bunuel did, and he wrote: "Thank God I'm an atheist."