Sexual Orientation and Choice
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In the various and sundry debates about gay rights, the question of whether sexual orientation is a choice comes up with almost irritating predictability. And when it does, one of the things I've noticed is that bisexuality -- as it so often does -- gets completely ignored. So I want to talk a little about bisexuality, sexual orientation, and choice.
Because, speaking as a bisexual person, in my experience I do have something of a choice.
Of course it's true that I don't have a choice about who I'm sexually attracted to. And I didn't have a choice about who I fell in love with. I don't choose that, any more than anyone else does. But back when I was dating, I did have a choice about who I dated and who I socialized with. At the time that I fell for Ingrid, I was dating women, and socializing in the lesbian community, a whole lot more than I was with men and in the hetero community. And I was doing it out of choice.
On the whole, I like women more than men. Sexually I like both roughly the same (with something of a preference for women on the whole, but with that preference varying a lot over the years). But personally, emotionally, I tend to like women better than men. Not as friends necessarily -- I have plenty of male friends -- but as romantic partners. The personality traits that, in my experience, women tend to have more than men -- cooperation, empathy, emotional expressiveness, good listening skills, yada yada yada -- are traits that I like, and traits that I find central to a good relationship.
Now, of course, that's a generalization, and a very broad one at that. Not all women are like that, and plenty of men are. And if I'd happened to meet and fall for a man who was cooperative and empathetic and expressive and a good listener etc., then that would have been just ducky. But back when I was dating, dating women just seemed to make more sense. It was the smart way of playing the odds. It was loading the dice.
And it works the other way, too. I've known other bisexuals who date and socialize more heterosexually -- again out of choice.
Whatever It is, IMO, one of the differences between being bisexual and being monosexual (hetero- or homosexual). You can, in theory, be happy being sexual and romantic with someone of either gender ... and so you have at least some degree of choice about which gender you get involved with. Indeed, if your relationship preference is very strong indeed, you can actually flat-out refuse to get involved with potential partners of one gender or the other, even if your libido or your heart is temporarily pulling you towards them ... and unlike homosexual people who refuse to accept their homosexuality, you can still have a happy and satisfying sexual and romantic life. And even if you don't go that far, you can still generally date and socialize with the gender and the community you'd prefer to end up with. You can't choose who you get the hots for ... but you can hang out with the kind of people you'd be happy to hook up with if lightning strikes. You can load the dice.
So when I hear people defend gay rights by saying, "Of course it's not a choice, who would choose to be queer, who would choose to be oppressed and vilified and discriminated against?", my reaction is to raise my hand and say, "Me. Over here. I would." Of course I'd rather not be oppressed, etc. -- but even with all of those drawbacks, I'd still choose to be queer. And I'd still choose to be in a queer relationship. I did.
And this is a big part of the reason that I think the "choice" issue is a red herring in the gay rights debates. After all, you could argue that pedophiles don't choose to be attracted to children, and still think it's profoundly immoral to act on that attraction. The important question in the gay rights debates is not whether being queer is a choice, but whether there's any reason whatsoever to think that being queer is harmful. And by now, the evidence is overwhelming that it is not. Whether it's a choice or not is irrelevant. It is still, flatly and unequivocally, none of anybody else's damn business.