Up Front by Emma Hart


Choice, Bro

Oh, Colin. Sorry about the delay: I would have replied to your lovely letter earlier, but I was busy over the weekend choosing my sexuality. 

I like to think of you as basically a decent man, who really believes what he says. There is a point, though, at which your choice to remain ignorant becomes very difficult to reconcile with a genuinely caring person. For instance, you managed to find this Cynthia Nixon quote: 

‘‘I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line ’I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.’ And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice’’. 

 It's your sign-off, you must think it's pretty damn significant. Oddly, though, you didn't manage to find this one

"While I don't often use the word, the technically precise term for my orientation is bisexual. I believe bisexuality is not a choice, it is a fact. What I have 'chosen' is to be in a gay relationship.

"As I said in the Times and will say again here, I do, however, believe that most members of our community — as well as the majority of heterosexuals — cannot and do not choose the gender of the persons with whom they seek to have intimate relationships because, unlike me, they are only attracted to one sex.

How did you manage that? One would think, if you were interested in "sticking to the facts", you wouldn't be able to live with just cherry-picking the "facts" (actually, "opinions") that suit you.

I think it's the distinction Cynthia makes between choosing your sexual orientation – who you're attracted to – and choosing your sexual behaviour that you're failing to see. Perhaps it would help if you watched this little clip of some neuroscientists talking about the involuntary nature of sexual arousal.

The odd thing is, I tend to assume everyone knows this from personal experience. You get that kick in the pants from someone or you don't. You can't make your body not do that – and you can't make it do it, either. When you said you thought you could choose to be gay, I think you meant you could choose to have sex with a man, not that you could choose whether or not to get an erection. That would be insane.

Thing is, Colin, even if there were no genetic factors involved in sexual orientation, even if all the factors involved were environmental and our desires are shaped by our childhood experiences and hormone exposure and the amount of tolerance in our lives, by the time we get to marriageable age, it doesn't matter. Whether it was my genes or my three older brothers or my liberal upbringing, my orientation is set. I cannot choose who or what arouses me.

And you know, I did some googling of your quoted sources today (at least the ones that actually exist) and after about half an hour of reading about the Gay Agenda and the effectiveness of "reparative therapy" (a fabulously creepy euphemism for brainwashing) I'd started hating People as a whole. I recommend the whole of the BBC documentary The Making of Me for a balanced look at what science has found and not found, but if you want to rage-cry at your desk, start watching this at about 6:30. It's a man describing the "reparative therapy" he volunteered for.

They put me in a mental institute... so I'm going in as a scared young man... met the psychiatrist, he sat me down, told me what was going to happen... Halfway through the hour they injected me, which made me violently ill, both ends... so for the first hour I'm lying in my own excrement, listening to [a tape of him describing his own sex life], and that lasted an hour, and an hour, and an hour... for seventy-two hours...

And still, he somehow wouldn't choose to be straight. Homosexuallity and reparative therapy: one of these things is disgusting.

And Colin, if there were environmental factors involved in determining our sexuality (and of course there bloody are), what makes you think they'd make us gay, and not push us to be straight? You really think people wake up one day and think, "You know what? I don't think my suicide risk is high enough. It's kind of dull, being bullied and abused this little. I think I'll be gay." Why do you think that's more likely than, "I don't want to lose my family, my church, my friends. I don't want to be beaten up. I think I'll go on pretending to be straight."

We can't choose our orientation. We can't choose what gets our rocks off. But you're right, in a way. We can choose what we do about it. We could choose to deny our desires and live in constant grinding misery. We could walk away from any chance of a truly fulfilling relationship. We could live lives devoid of fire and passion and love. But why the fuck should we?

If I had the choice, tomorrow I'd be here, celebrating Louisa Wall's bill passing its first reading. If you do have the choice, please consider going. For me. And for celebrating all of us being able to be who we are.

      Emma Hart is the author of the book 'Not Safe For Work'. (Click here to find out more)

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