Let’s Get Gay!

September 30, 2008

Ben Smith on Palin on homosexuality:

I’d written earlier that Palin said she “respects gays and lesbians.” That was surely the gist of her saying that one of her “absolute best friends for the last 30 years” is a lesbian.

But a couple of readers objected to the characterization, and to this line of Palin’s in particular: The friend, she said, “happens to have made a choice that isn’t a choice I would have made.”

The question of whether homosexuality is a choice is, of course, a very politically fraught one. Democratic primary contenders were pressed on the question at a gay and lesbian forum in Los Angeles during the primary, and all (eventually) said they considered it innate, as a consequence of which gay and lesbian couples should have equal rights. Some conservatives argue that homosexuality is different from race and categories that carry legal protections because, they say, it is a choice.

Most people I know are with Smith’s correspondents in being offended by this stuff, but it’s always seemed pretty obvious to me that the two sides are talking past each other on this issue. I suspect that there aren’t really two theories of how people become gay here, but rather two different definitions of ‘gay’ being used. I have always been taught that sexuality is essentially about one’s mental states; homosexuals are people who generally want to have sex with others of their own gender. But, not to put too fine a point on it, fundamentalists don’t give a shit about who you want to have sex with, because everyone’s sexual desires are pernicious. What matters is what – and who – you actually do, and the people that they really hate are the ones that do people of the same sex.

Only the craziest folks on either side of this debate would deny either that who you have sex with is a choice, or that who who you want to have sex with isn’t. So cool it, everybody.

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