As a gay person—and, most specifically, a gay man—I am constantly hearing the age-old declaration that being gay is ‘a choice.’ While I can understand much of this can come from a lack of understanding (it happens) or education (this is obvious,) I can never fathom why perfectly-intelligent people who have endured, at the very least, a high-school education, can’t understand the reality behind the situation. Now – before I get any further, I have to say that this was spurred on by a comment I saw from a friend on another person’s wall (I tend to see those things even when they’re not openly posted on their walls.) This is by no means a finger-pointing game at anyone, but seeing as how this ignorance continues to run wild in the adult population, I feel it best to describe what I believe is the most straightforward answer I can manage.
So, without further ado, here are a few bullet points posted below that observe the most common misconceptions about being gay or identifying as LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Insersexed or Asexual.)
A. The Choice of Being Gay
To start this article off, I’ll put it to you briefly: Being gay isn’t a choice. Why isn’t it a choice, you ask? Well, here’s a few reasons why most average and intelligent people would see as ‘deal breakers’ if they could really choose to be gay.
1. Gay people can’t donate blood.
2. Gay people cannot marry in some states.
3. Gay people cannot adopt children in some states.
4. Unless you are legally recognized as their spouse, you cannot visit an ailing or even dying partner in the hospital unless you have explicit permission from family members in some states.
5. Your will can be contested if you are not legally bound to your spouse in some states.
6. You can be fired for being gay in some states (though this is usually masked by ‘other causes’ that the employer uses.)
Off the top of my head, those are five reasons that defy personal interpretation and move to a state-law level. The above are fundamental things most people need in order to exist peacefully in life, yet millions of the LGBTQIA community is ostracized due to these simple ‘laws’ or ‘decrees’ that are put in place.
Now, you’re also probably wondering just why people would choose to be gay when they have to endure
1. Alienation from their families, friends and communities, which then can be turned into risk of homelessness
2. Disapproval from the public as a whole, which can then be turned into isolation
3. The constant torment gay people go through just by existing, which has been proven to drive people, especially young people, to suicide
4. Hate crimes, made either verbally and sometimes physically, which can lead to injury, death or horribly-crippling injuries.
5. The inability to worship at some churches openly just because you identify as an LGBTQIA individual.
So, off the top of my head, there’s ten reasons why being gay is not really a preferred choice. Who, I dare to question, would honestly want to be gay if they have to put up with threats of violence, disapproval, alienation and complete banishment from their friends and community? There’s so much shit that gay people have to go on a daily basis that, for many straight people, would probably be too much to handle, yet here we are, the ‘gays,’ leading our lives daily despite all the torment they experience on a daily basis.
To put it briefly, I realized I was gay when I was nine (after I went through puberty.) During that time, I began to notice my attraction to the same sex (I’ll spare you the details.) Throughout my middle school and what little high school I went to, I was constantly berated with accusations of being gay. I was called names. Rumors were spread about me. I’d get pieces of paper passed to me in class by complete strangers asking, Are you gay? The constant bullying eventually forced me from high school, as I couldn’t deal with all the pain, torment and frustration I had from interacting with my peers. I became suicidal during my early teens all because of this, and to this day, I still have problems interacting with people even if they show the slightest bit of anti-gay rhetoric. Does this mean I’m completely scared of people? No. It does mean, however, that approaching people for friendly conversation is much more difficult.
Now, on to the second point.
B. How do you know you’re gay if you’ve never slept with the opposite sex?
Attraction is ingrained within your psych. It’s not something you can control, something you can manipulate, something you can change or even something you can get rid of. If you are attracted to something, you are attracted to something. The easiest way I explain to people how being gay isn’t a choice is by explaining the color attraction. Say you like blue and hate red. Can you change whether or not you dislike red? No, you can’t. There’s something about the color that throws you off, so you’re more attracted to the blue than, say, the red (if you’re forced to pick between the two of them.) Now, the snarkier version of my rebuttal is the following: How do you know you’re not gay or bisexual if you haven’t slept with the same sex?, but I rarely use that if only because I like to be nice.
Basically put, you just know whether or not you’re LGBTQIA. You don’t need anyone to tell you what you like or what you don’t like—it’s all ingrained in your conscience. You may not know why you’re attracted to a particular color and hate another, but it all has to do with the signatures your brain is sending to you on a day-to-day basis. I like men. That’s because my brain tells me I do. You like women. That’s because your brain tells you you do.
C. Why can’t you just be straight?
Again, this all returns to the idea about the aesthetic that exists in our brains. You like women for X/Y/Z. I like men for X/Y/Z. As I’ve explained with the color example, you can’t choose whether or not you’re attracted to someone or something. It just happens because your brain is telling you to. No matter how desperately you want to like the color red or yellow or orange and green, you cannot make yourself like it unless you brain is telling you to.
D. Gay people spread their ‘gayness’ around.
I’ve never met a single person that has influenced me to be gay. I had no gay relatives, no gay friends, family, etc., so I had absolutely no way to be influenced into ‘being gay.’ With that in mind, you cannot merely spread ‘the gay’ around. It’s not a transferrable condition, and while doctors and scientists have yet to understand why people are gay, the widespread, scientific belief is that being gay is something in your brain that you cannot control even with religious therapy.
E. Gay people want to have sex with animals and children.
I can tell you for sure I do not want to have sex with either of them. Someone who is attracted to animals is a zoophiliac. People who are attracted to children are pedophiles. While the same sort of mental processing of aesthetic and attraction may work in both zoophiliacs and pedophiles, being gay does not mean you are attracted to something that isn’t human or children.
F. You can influence a child to be gay.
No. You can’t. Children come into their own being, conscience and body early on in life. Even before puberty hits children have a predetermined aesthetic that makes them attracted to one thing or another. Telling someone to be something is like telling someone else to like the color red. You cannot force someone to like the color, just like you cannot force someone to be attracted to the opposite or same sex.
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With that in mind, I would just like to say one thing: Please—if you’re not educated in this manner, please do not open your mouth and declare what ‘your’ opinion is. An ignorant, unresearched opinion is just as bad as going into an operating room and performing open heart surgery even though you don’t have a degree.
Before I go, take a second to stop and think over your past misconceptions about gay people. Would you, after reading this, still say it was ‘a choice’ when gay people are denied the most basic rights and liberties? I highly doubt it.