Who cares if sexual preference is a choice? Well, obviously plenty of people do or the media outlets and cyberspace wouldn’t be so obsessed with the debate. Recently CNN’s Dana Bash asked republican presidential candidate Scott Walker the question in what triggered a political dance where the governor responded, “…that’s not even an issue for me to be involved in…” And while I may agree with the governor’s response, I’m not sure we both share the same reasoning behind his conclusion.
Nonetheless, my goal here is not to chastise the republican candidate but to understand why our society is so desperately seeking an answer to the question. It would seem to me that centering the debate on this question implies that an answer in the affirmative somehow justifies criticizing those choosing such a lifestyle. While an answer in the negative suggests we should accept the behavior simply because “it’s beyond one’s control;” a refrain used to rationalize John Malkovich’s character Valmont’s sadistic behavior in the 1988 movie Dangerous Liaisons. Regardless of the answer though, the question seems to imply some kind of undesirable behavior that we accept or reject based on one’s ability to control it.
Underlying this question of choice, there is a much more important and meaningful question that is really at the crux of all the debates surrounding homosexuality — do we as a society accept a loving relationship between two people of the same sex? This answer would make the question of choice inconsequential. If as a society, we accept homosexuality then naturally, we must afford all individuals with equal rights and privileges regardless if they freely choose a homosexual lifestyle or if they are compelled by genetic disposition. So why do we continue to avoid answering the fundamental question in favor of the question of genetics?
Well the question of choice is a much simpler and easier one to answer. The supposed “gay” gene could provide a scientific panacea that would offer evidence that would unequivocally confirm that sexual preference is genetic. This discovery would provide us with an answer that would allow us to enact policies based on scientific fact. Many could adopt the rationale of accommodating the behavior rather than condoning the behavior as a more palatable and less controversial stance. Excuse me while I sigh in exasperation. Illogical policies such as “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) provided just such rationalizations that placated those opposed to homosexuality while feebly attempting to accommodate those for which homosexuality is a reality. Let’s not go there again.
I know there will most likely never be a universally agreed societal stance on homosexuality. Whether it’s a religious belief, a homophobic sense that the behavior is unnatural or just plain intolerance, there will always be those in our society that disapprove of the lifestyle. For many the ability to accept a behavior in others that they don’t approve of, fear, or just don’t understand is something that is just too difficult. That is the crossroads we are at and the place in history we find ourselves. We must answer that profound and important question if we want to end intolerance and the political dancing that we witnessed in the Dana Bash interview.
If as a society, we could conclude that homosexuality is perfectly acceptable we could render the question of sexual preference meaningless. We would no longer need a supreme court ruling on same sex marriage or heated debates around the leadership policy of the Boy Scouts of America. We would simply accept and treat homosexual relationships no differently than heterosexual relationships. Some may believe that this utopian scenario is just idealistic rhetoric reminiscent of John Lennon’s optimistic and beloved ballad Imagine. I know it’s far more than just that. I know as a society that we are aching to be more accepting because I know that I’m not the only one who feels this way. The Boy Scouts of America lifting of their ban on gay adults as employees and volunteers is a step in the right direction and a sign that change is happening. I just look forward to the day when everyone will respond to the question of sexual preference in unison and with a resounding, “Who cares?!”