For the past couple decades or so, the mainstream of the gay rights movement has been insisting, as emphatically as they can and in every forum that they can find, that sexuality is determined by a more-or-less fixed
sexual orientation and that
sexual orientations are something innate–that is, either determined by genetics or by developmental factors during pregnancy. I understand how the tendency came about, in the face of bigoted bluster about the Evil Gay Agenda’s plans to
recruit children, the deceptiveness and brutality of
ex-gay aversion therapy programs, and more. But it’s an understandabe error, on any number of fronts. The cluster of ideas involved has any number of problems; one of the most fundamental is that it just bypasses the real argument. Let’s suppose, for example, that it turns out to be true that chemical effects on brain development in early pregnancy do have a major effect on adult sexuality, and that diet pills and thyroid medications really do make children much more likely to be gay if mothers take them during the first three months of pregnancy. What should we say about the discovery?
If you haven’t already got good grounds for saying that there’s nothing wrong with being gay or lesbian, then this discovery might make you less inclined to say that gay people can choose to be straight, or that the cultural environment you encounter in childhood can decide whether you’ll be gay or straight. But it won’t keep you from saying idiot things such as this (emphasis added):
These analyses support the conclusion that female offspring are more vulnerable to alterations in sexual orientation via exposure to a variety of prescription drugs, and suggest that this vulnerability is greatest during the first trimester.
The finding adds to mounting concern over the use of slimming pills by women trying to lose weight. Prof Dornan said:All drugs can cross the placental barrier and, looking back, we weren’t so aware of what was going on inside the womb. Nowadays, the Royal College’s view is that women should not take drugs unless there is a clinical need.
Look, there are good medical reasons to be concerned about how medications taken during pregnancy affect children’s health at birth or later in life. But making your baby
vulnerable to catching
gay is not one of them. It’s not a birth defect, dummy. If there’s nothing wrong with being gay, then the increased likelihood of having a gay child ought to have no effect whatever on whether or not you decide to take pills in early pregnancy. (If it were discovered that diet pills made your child more
vulnerable to having green eyes, would any researcher make comments like these?)
But it’s vital to notice that, even if the inntatist line on sexuality turns out to be true in every single respect, it does nothing to rule out either subtly (and perhaps unwittingly) homophobic comments like these, or stridently bigoted appeals from explicit homophobes. (Imagine Pat Robertson on television urging Christian mothers that taking thyroid medication during pregnancy makes the baby Jesus cry.) The fact is that there is nothing wrong with being gay–if it’s a choice, it’s not a wicked choice; if it’s a culturally cultivated taste, it’s not a pervse taste; and if it’s innate it’s not a congenital disease. But you can only say that if you have independent reasons for saying that there’s nothing wrong with gay romance or gay sexuality, aside from
We can’t help it!
Gay liberation is a demand for the justice and respect that are due to rational human beings, whatever might happen to be under our loved ones’ underwear. Quibbling over whether our sexuality is ultimately up to us or not is an interesting scientific question, but it’s a political diversion. We shouldn’t waste our time on peripheral arguments to get homophobes to think of us as tragic accidents instead of depraved sinners; if we want to win, we need to head straight for the real argument, and we have to go all the way.