Our society places much importance on the idea of choice in sexual orientation. In the Kerry/Bush debates the one question about LGBT issues was “Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?“. This tends to set up the worst answer to anti-gay arguments. Here are 3 popular versions:
- I didn’t choose to be gay, therefore nothing wrong with it
- With all the discrimination, would any sane person choose to be gay? Therefore I did not, therefore nothing wrong with it.
- X from genetics/biology suggests sexual preference is influenced by [INSERT COMBINATION OF NATURE/NURTURE CRAP]. Therefore I did not etc, therefore etc.
When someone provides an answer like this one many things go wrong. Answers like the 3 above:
- Appear to assume that if this were a choice it would be wrong. (Logically this doesn’t follow — but many will get this impression).
- Definitely invoke the naturalistic fallacy, the Dreaded Dark Overlord of Fallacies. The argument that something’s not wrong because the person doing it has no choice is very similar to the argument something’s not wrong because it is “natural”.
- Portray the gay person in question as powerless. This even leads to backlash groups like this. It is this last point that’s most interesting.
- Another insightful view of the problem here
Framing the conversation this way forces you to make a statement about free will and determinism — the Dreaded Dark Overlord of Philosophy. Seriously, there have been few questions with such a verbal diuretic effect. Even the Wikipedia article (meant as a summary), is some 8000 words!
I’ve found people tend to avoid bringing up some “Higher Idea” of choice. With good reason: they know it leads into labyrinths that have nothing to do with the original subject.
It plays no role in their life. (The extent to which it’s our choice to be something doesn’t impact the fact that we follow a certain process in choosing.) Whatever sexual, romantic or emotional attractions you might have, their cause is not somehow different to all your other thoughts & urges. They’re all physical processes happening in your body (your brain obviously being a part).
Imagine how ridiculous it’d be if someone evaluated a person, say (1) being a Catholic or (2) killing someone or (3) producing a great work of art, and referred only to whether or not they “had a choice” to do it. Our next question would be “So what? You still need to discuss the merits of each point without referring to choice.” Why should sexual orientation be any different? The Choice Conversation answers nothing, since other arguments must always follow it. It’s just a waste of valuable time. If you’re talking to an anti-gay bigot and they bring out the choice card, the best response is simply: “This is irrelevant. Next!”