Saturday, October 23, 2010

Choose Life

While working on a long and difficult post about the gay-teen-suicide issue, I found this passage from Jennifer Terry's book An American Obsession: Science, Medicine, and Homosexuality in Modern Society (Chicago, 1999, pp. 393-4).
Gay scientists and some gay leaders argue that homosexuality is an immutable characteristic, which they liken to race or skin color. Thus the reasoning follows that homosexuals, like African Americans, ought to be protected from discrimination. In the first place this way of thinking ignores the scientific consensus that clear-cut or mutually exclusive racial differences do not exist at the genetic or biological level; race, it is agreed, is primarily a social or demographic concept that at best describes cultural groups with arbitrary and varying boundaries. But in a larger political sense, the use of race as an analogy to sexual orientation relies on a strange and limited reading of the civil rights movement as well as of the current status of racial minorities. The civil rights movement, after all, focused its anti-racism efforts on grassroots actions, public marches, demonstrations, and the courts. The main goal was equality and respect for all people, regardless of race, religion, or creed; arguments valorizing the biological immutability of race were by no means central. The civil rights movement was most effective through championing social diversity and promoting humane respect for cultural differences, not by African Americans beseeching those in authority to see them as biologically different. In the 1960s, biological arguments about race had long been seen as the handmaidens of racism, just as those about gender were identified to be a central part of the architecture of sexism.
Those gay people who think that proving or claiming that we are born this way and can't help ourselves, whimper whimper, will win over bigots, are forgetting that no one doubted that black people are born that way, but that didn't deter racism in the slightest. The same goes for women, as Terry indicates. It says something about how little most people think through important matters that "not a choice" has become the mantra of the gay movement today.