02 October 2008

Is sexual behavior a choice?

As I mentioned elsewhere, an influential minority in my town have openly advocated against religious tolerance. Their rationale is that religion is a choice, and there is no need to tolerate individual choices. In this, they contrast religion with gender, skin color, and sexual preference.

This is ironic on several levels. For one, I dare say all of these people would call themselves “pro-choice”. And yet, they are obviously nothing of the sort.

Their choice of examples is also ironic. Gender and skin color, at least until recently, were indeed not subject to individual choice. But sexual preference? Is sexual behavior not a choice?

Personally, I was born with genetic programming to cheat on my wife. I feel the impulse every day (not overwhelmingly, thank God). If I gave in to one of these impulses, would these people seriously expect me to say to my wife, “I'm sorry, honey, I was born that way. I didn't have a choice”?

The same holds true for sexual orientation. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that some people are genetically predisposed to be sexually attracted to members of the same sex. (This is not implausible, as we have ample evidence of genetic tendencies toward other abnormal behaviors, such as alcoholism.) Does that mean the homosexual (or alcoholic) has no choice? Of course not! They may choose whether or not to indulge those inclinations, just as I may choose whether or not to cheat on my wife.

I have personally met several people who have chosen to leave the homosexual lifestyle. I have a friend who works full-time helping people make that choice. Those who say they have no choice are lying to themselves.

I have another (male) friend who started out heterosexual (and promiscuous), and allowed himself to be seduced by a male friend. The first time his friend kissed him, so he told me, he found it repulsive. The second time, it wasn't so bad. By the third time, he had committed himself to a new lifestyle. He had made a choice.

Homosexuality is clearly a choice. Whether it is a healthy or morally acceptable choice is not so readily ascertained, although the answers are out there for those who are willing to look. One could plausibly argue that in a pluralistic society, government should not interfere in the private choices of consenting adults (unless it has an impact on society). But let's at least be honest enough to admit that what we're tolerating is a choice.

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