I laughed reading this account of ex-gay minister Tim Wilkins’ talk to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Apologetics Association, a student-led organization that exists to “promote the literal word of the Bible as logical and reasonable” (a dubious goal, in my estimation, but there it is). It’s pretty funny that even among a group of die-hard Bible believers (who, I presume, accept that Jonah actually dwelt in the belly of a whale) Mr. Wilkins encountered this much skepticism over his ex-gay claims. It speaks volumes about how the cultural debate has evolved–in our favor.
It also reminded me again how gay individuals and organizations ensnare themselves needlessly in arguments over the language of Choice. Once and for all, I wish we would just give up that tactic and concede right up front that we “choose” to be gay. Those words don’t mean what many people think they mean, but saying them aloud will strengthen our position. We ought to begin every argument over gay rights on that footing: Do we choose to be gay? Absolutely! And we love it! Who the hell are you to tell us we can’t be happy?
For context, it might be helpful to separate two entangled notions of “choice.” Do humans have a choice about who attracts us sexually? No, of course we don’t. Attraction is a chemical, biological phenomena, not subject to conscious will. Do we have a choice about whom we have sex with? Do we make choices about our sexual conduct and identity? Yes, of course we do. To say otherwise is silly.
It is the gap between these two different notions, and the lack of understanding most people exhibit about their own sexuality and sexuality in general, that creates the confusion around choice. Time and again, gay rights activists take the bait, bleating publicly about the fact that “no one chooses to be gay.” To counter that, the ex-gay folks need only prop up one professional ex-gay, to create a fake ‘gotcha’ moment. “You said no one chooses to be gay, but see? This guy chose not to be gay…” Producing one ex-gay, of course, proves nothing about any person’s sexuality but that one exgay’s. It’s a pointless PR stunt…but the masses buy it.
In truth, our response to the claim that we choose to be gay ought not to be a defensive one. We have no reason to hide. When asked why we would choose to be gay, we can simply say, “Because we can. It makes us happy. You don’t like it? Fine, you don’t have to, but there’s this little thing called the Constitution…” We have the upper hand every time the conversation goes in this direction.
So exgays exist. So what? The fact that one or two gay people have managed to manipulate their natural sexual attractions into a facsimile of heterosexuality proves Absolutely Nothing about what is possible or desirable for the rest of us.
When it comes down to it, the pressure to conform to heterosexual norms is simply religious discrimiation. Their God tells them we ought not to exist. But we don’t believe in their God, and the Constitution guarantees that we don’t have to. Sometimes it’s nice having the law on our side 🙂