- Posted June 1, 2009 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Couples on same-sex marriage
Same-Sex Marriage Fight Revives ‘Nature Verses Nurture’ Debate
There has been a lot of controversy lately over same sex marriage (the “Prop 8” amendment in California, marriage equality legislation in Ohio, Nevada override of the governor’s domestic partner veto, etc). It seems that everywhere you turn are protests and counter-protests).
These dust-ups are between same-sex couples seeking marriage equality and those who would thwart them – largely conservative Christian groups. This has brought an age-old debate once again to the forefront: Is homosexuality a ‘choice’ or is it biologically ‘programmed’ into the individual?
A lot hangs in the balance considering that the most caustic anti-gay activists characterize homosexuality as a 'moral' issue. The idea that being gay is a conscious choice is the linchpin of their argument (and the discrimination and vitriol that follows from it).
I would like to preface my thoughts on this subject by way of disclosure (and to provide some context) by revealing that I am a 42 year old gay male. I have been with my partner, Ronny, for 11 years. I come from a large, middle-class family and grew up in the mid-west. These days I am a software analyst in the I/T community.
As a gay man, I have spent many years thinking about this subject. I believe that this is one thing that distinguishes gay people from our detractors. Prejudice does not require much soul-searching, research or rumination – it is almost entirely an emotional, sublimated response.
We learn at an early age (either from the pulpit, friends, family or our cultural institutions) what behaviors (or people) are considered good and what (who) are not. Prejudices are thus often handed down from generation to generation. This is particularly evident in ideologically isolated societies (theocracies, military dictatorships, etc) but no culture is immune. As a young boy I quickly learned that gay people were looked down on by my family, friends and community. It is hard to adequately describe how this impacts the psyche of a young child – knowing that you are secretly a part of a group that is disdained by everyone around you.
In the debate over homosexuality as a choice verses a natural condition, people generally fall into one of two camps. This is the old “Nature verses Nurture” chestnut. The ‘choice’ side of the argument is largely comprised of conservatives who profess a strong religious identity. The biology side is where you will find the majority of scientists, progressives and (not surprisingly) the vast majority of gay people themselves.
The argument for homosexuality being a choice appears largely based on a few passages in the Bible’s ‘Old Testament’ (the books that form the first of the two-part ChristianBible). Passages in Leviticus are often cited. There are serious difficulties with using such religious texts as justification for bigotry, however. The Bible in general (and Leviticus in particular) are often selectively quoted and otherwise ignored. Such texts lend themselves readily to interpretation and misuse. ‘Man to lie with a man’ being called an ‘abomination’ seems like a dramatic charge until you turn the page. Other abominations listed are eating pork or seafood, planting mingled seeds or wearing two types of cloth.
It should give Christians great pause to use the Bible as a tool for prejudice, considering a shameful history of doing just that. The Bible has been used to justify anti-Semitism (the crucifixion of Jesus, Matthew 27:25), sexism (women should wear modest apparel and should not teach men, 1 Timothy 2:9-15) and racism (“slaves be obedient to your masters,” Ephesians 6:5-9). History has not been kind to those interpretations.
On the biology side of the equation is a mounting body of science (from the identification of brain differences in gay men to the many observations of homosexuality in other animal species (it seems unlikely that these animals are making choices about their behaviors).
Most importantly, however, is what gay people can tell you themselves. We know that we did not choose to be the way that we are. I know that I did not. A high school science teacher once taught me that “water always takes the path of least resistance.” People are like that too. Nobody seeks a more difficult life. My early years were fraught with pain, isolation and self-denial. If there had been a choice to be made, there is no doubt that I would have chosen to be heterosexual. The idea that one can choose this is deeply offensive to both my intellect and my life.
For many, condemning and dismissing gay people will continue to be a casual and reflexive act. Religious leaders may continue to misuse the Bible as a tool of bigotry and division rather than union and peace. These are behaviors and truly are a ‘choice.’
These are two diametrically opposed forces - those seeking equality and those that would deny it to them. History has a way of favoring the tenacious, bold and determined over the oppressive, entitled and intractable. Sometimes it just takes some time.