All Points

Get Used to It

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By William Deresiewicz


 

Is homosexuality innate? The correct response to that question–the one I wish the gay rights movement would give–is “What’s the difference?” Yes, I believe our sexuality is something that we’re born with, not a choice we make. In fact, whenever I hear someone deny as much, some ordained bigot or family-values pusher or right-wing political hack, I want to ask them, “Really, when did you choose to be straight, and was that a tough decision for you?” (The answer to the second question, in a lot of cases, is clearly yes.)

But I still don’t think it’s the best argument for gay rights. It gives away too much, almost sounds apologetic. We can’t help it, the implication is. We were born like this; don’t blame us for something that we can’t control. How about this, instead? We do it because we want to, and if you don’t like it, too bad. How about asserting the proposition that having sex with someone of the same gender is a perfectly valid decision (it is a decision, of course–the act, not the orientation), just like, say, being a Mormon. We’re not allowed to discriminate against people because of their religious choices, and sexuality is equally central to our sense of self.

Speaking of Mormons, what about polygamy? If two men are allowed to get married, the anti-rights argument goes, why not one man and two women? To which I say: indeed, why not? Or one woman and two men, for that matter. I’m not talking about the historical institution of polygamy, whether in Utah or Canaan a form of female enslavement. I’m talking about the contemporary practice–largely hidden but more common than most people probably think–of consenting adults maintaining stable, committed relationships with multiple partners. (See the recent New York Times op-ed for a fuller discussion of the phenomenon.)

Not your cup of tea? Well, you don’t have to do it. People have a right to create domestic arrangements that embody their deepest affections, and to have those arrangements recognized by the state–to secure visitation rights, survivor benefits, and all the other prerogatives that gay couples are seeking when they fight for the right to be married. That’s what it means to enjoy the equal protection of the laws, and no one should be shy about demanding it.

William Deresiewicz is an essayist and critic. His book Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life, which will be published in August, is based in part on his essays “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education” and “Solitude and Leadership.” To read all the posts from his weekly blog, “All Points,” click here.


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