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Back to Square One with Queer Rights

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by Beatrice Smigasiewicz

It might surprise some, that though we’ve been hearing a lot about same sex marriage and gay Showtime dramas, psychologists have only recently removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ; where under the blanket diagnoses, Sexual Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, it could still be considered a mental disorder if it is unwanted. Why it took this long to finally move the discussion to a new level may have more to do with the ambiguous nature of homosexuality, then the religious reasons of the conservative right.

The debate has been centralized around the question of whether homosexuality is chosen, or whether it is biologically determined. It seems that, in a recent poll conducted by Ellen Goodman of the Washington Post , people are increasingly more likely to support same sex marriage, if they also believe that sexuality is genetically determined. Goodman found that “a full 79 percent of people who think human beings are born with a sexual orientation support gay rights and same sex union, as opposed to 22 percent of those who think homosexuality is a choice.”

There is even more excitement in the gay community because a few recent scientists, like Stanford University biologist, Joan Roughgarden, have been putting out hefty books cataloguing numerous homosexual animal behaviors; showing once more, that homosexuality is common and natural. She’s been receiving quite a lot of attention and praise from gay rights activists, to whom justification for same sex marriage comes on the grounds that homosexuality is “biological and unchangeable.”

It’s disappointing to see that people’s comfort with same sex marriage hinges on the belief that homosexuality is biologically determined. At this point, proof of any connection between genetics and homosexuality is still very weak, but it may very well be true, that homosexuality is genetically determined. My point is not to argue that it isn’t, but rather to point out, that if we take this as a justification for why same sex marriage should be legal, we lose what we set out to do, which is to establish homosexual and heterosexual relationships on equal grounds.

So if even the gay community supports biological reasons for homosexuality, we are at a serious loss. It can’t be that the means for justifying homosexual lifestyle stems largely from causes that are predetermined and cant be helped; this leaves little room for personal choice. We may be born homosexual, but we choose to live a gay lifestyle. There is after all more to people than the sum of their impulses and most would like to think that there is choice in how you act on them.

Who would choose to be gay, if it were a matter of choice, wouldn’t it be ridiculous to chose to be discriminated, humiliated etc? Yes, maybe. But that’s why “Out and Proud” has been such a big deal. It’s not the outcome of gays who had no choice but to live out and proud, they did and do, but they made that decision. If same sex marriage is honored, it should not be on the assumption that gay people could not help but be this way, but that in having all the available options, they chose to spend the rest of their lives with a homosexual partner. We should not have to legitimize a union between two people by means of biological necessity, to realize that they are capable of sharing a commitment to one another.

photo courtesy of IMPAWARDS.com

FEBRUARY 2006

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