The public sentiment toward various social issues is by no means concrete. Rather, it's a steadily-evolving discourse that frequently welcomes new perspectives, and those perspectives can very well shift the focus of a such a discussion.
There are relatively recent instances of such a phenomenon — the gradual separation from bipartisanship and the abortion debate shifting its emphasis toward the mother's autonomy (as opposed to fetal personhood) being prime examples — and they're welcome additions to the contemporary public perspective.
That being said, the aforementioned examples aren't necessarily what I'd like to discuss. Rather, I'd like to suggest a particular social discourse would do well to benefit from a shift in perspective: that of the “sexual orientation is or is not a choice” debate held by the public.
It's not uncommon for members of the LGBT or ally communities to purport the notion of choice, or lack thereof, as a crucial element of the gay rights movement. While biological predispositions can be invariably critical to personal identity, by no means should it be used as grounds for discussion in a movement for human rights. Here's why.
The “choice” / “not a choice” binary, for those of you who don't know, is a contentious debate that involves scrutiny into whether sexual orientation is a biological mechanism, a socially influenced decision or a possible combination of the two. To be reductionist, I'll hold that the binary is a classic example of a red herring, a logical fallacy that distracts from the actual issue at play. Indeed, it's not uncommon for people — especially those who christen themselves as “allies” — to commit to the following red herring when trying to argue their point: “Being gay isn't a choice. It's just like being a man or a woman; they can't help it!”
I'm not going to offer my own personal opinion as to the nature of choice because the point is utterly and completely irrelevant. In case you don't immediately see what's off about the quoted sentiment, let me detail it a bit.
LGBT rights isn't a fight fought by genetic apologists. Rather, it's a fight fought by everyday people who opt for the right to freedom of sexual expression, and if you adhere to elementary logic, professing the sentiment “being gay isn't a choice; support it” as cause for argument, then you're effectively stating, “But if homosexuality were a choice, homophobia is completely acceptable.”
To drive the point home, take a social phenomenon that is assuredly an autonomous decision made by an individual: religion. If you're trying to convince an ignorant Islamophobe to not stereotype the Muslim faith as a violent sect, you wouldn't say, “They can't help being Muslim!” On the contrary, you'd say it's within their autonomous, human right to choose whatever faith they please. That's exactly what the LGBT rights movement should be about — human rights, not genetics.
Is that to say identifying with a non-normative sexual orientation isn't a choice? Absolutely not; like I said, I won't offer my personal opinion because I feel as though it's irrelevant. However, I'll readily admit that the notion of choice, or lack thereof, can be crucial to an individual’s personal identity. For what it's worth, the genetic research has driven public sentiment away from ignorance. It's certainly not a malicious position to hold, but in a similar vein, it's not a position one offers when defending the movement or offering any sort of conviction.
At the end of the day, a lack of choice is not the governing issue; if an individual chose to sleep with a consenting individual of the same sex through nothing but their own autonomy, they'd still be well within their rights to do so, genetics be damned. It's high time that we, as a society, recognize the issue is actually fairly black and white. You're either in favor of a cisgendered, heteronormative stalemate or you're in favor of a diverse, progressive union.
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