Earlier today I read a post by Natalie Reed on Cynthia Nixon declaring that she chose to be a lesbian.
My first reaction was to be pissed off.
I hadn’t yet watched the video Natalie had posted, but I figured that it wasn’t too important. What was important was that a celebrity had just handed the homophobes shiny new ammunition. I could hear it in my head already; The shouts of “well THIS woman says she could choose, so why can’t you?” Or “here, I have PROOF that homosexuality is a choice!” and other assorted bile, all backed up with meticulously mined quotes. One more headache for us LGBT folks to deal with.
Yet in my anger and annoyance, there was a tinge of doubt. Natalie is an intelligent person and I have respect for her, and my viewpoint clashed with hers. As much as I wanted to cling adamantly to my view that queerness is not something that can be chosen, I felt obligated to turn a critical eye to my opinions. Just a little.
And so I did, and I watched the video that Natalie linked in her post, and I thought some more.
I thought a lot, actually.
I feel like I’m admitting some sort of defeat when I say this, but perhaps queerness can be a choice.
Perhaps choosing is a big part of queerness.
I want to explain why, but first I want to talk a little bit about the nature of choices.
I think my problem with saying that queerness is a choice is the connotation of the word. It sounds flippant- as if on any given morning you might choose to sleep in, choose to eat an apple, choose to be sexually attracted to women, choose to have a hazelnut cappuccino over french vanilla… et cetera.
But it’s not flippant, and there’s no reason for a choice to be considered flippant just because it’s a choice.
Imagine that you’re diagnosed with a terrible disease. There are two treatment options- one will improve your quality of life while drastically shortening your lifespan, the other will allow you to live longer, albeit uncomfortably. Let’s say that you choose the first option. Fast forward to being on your death bed. You’re probably depressed, mourning the things that you never got to do due to your shortened life.
Cue someone telling you that you have no place being sad. You chose to shorten your life. In fact, you should feel guilty, forcing your family to deal with your death so early.
In case it wasn’t obvious, that ‘someone’ is an asshole. They’re right that it was a choice, but it was a choice that was difficult as hell, and you didn’t exactly have that many options. The option you chose had negative sides, yes, but it looked like the best choice, and that choice should be respected. Queerness is the same way if we’re going to assume that it is a choice. You don’t make that choice lightly. You make it because despite all of the hate and all of the discrimination you will face, it makes you happy and it feels right.
And while I was thinking on queerness and choice today, I realized that this tied in a lot to how I found out I was gay.
I was around 11 or 12 when it first was starting realizing it, and it was not an easy process. I did not want to be gay. When I would watch porn and be far more interested in the women, when I would notice that a girl looked attractive to me, when I had no clue how to respond to girls talking about how hot a boy was because I didn’t know what I was supposed to be looking for… all of that bothered me. I tried to deny it, to ignore it. I would search for articles confirming that women can enjoy female-centric porn, or see that another woman is attractive, and still be straight. They were like catnip for me- I could point at them and say “yep, look at that! All of that stuff I do is still straight,” and have my short little bout of euphoria.
But like all short little bouts, that euphoria ended. As much as I could look up ‘proof’ that I was straight, it felt wrong. I tried a new method- I decided that I would be straight, but that I would also be an LGBT ally.
For a while that helped, but it still wasn’t true. Eventually, despite how much I didn’t want to do it, I had to admit to myself that I was a lesbian.
In a way, I suppose you can say that I chose that. First I chose to be straight, then I chose to be a straight ally, and finally, I chose to be a lesbian.
And that final choice made me way happier than any of the others did.
On top of all of this, the accurate term for my sexuality is pansexual. I could choose to only ever date men my entire life, and even effectively choose to be heterosexual, but I wouldn’t. It wouldn’t be right. Lesbian and pansexual are the terms that fit me best. Now, I will certainly still say that I was born a lesbian/pansexual, or at the very least predisposed to be such. But if we’re talking about choice, then sure, I choose those orientations and terms- and I’ll be damned if someone’s going to tell me that I chose wrong.
One last note to think on. Due to my genetics, I have size 8 feet.
Any time I buy shoes, I’ll choose size 8.
If for some weird reason a religious cult were to declare my shoe size to be unholy, I would still choose that size. As much as I could choose a different size, it’d be really uncomfortable.
And if one of these cultists came up to me and attacked me over wearing the size that fit me the most accurately, because I could choose not to…
Well, that would be pretty fucking silly.