Would you agree with this statement? Being gay is a choice.

There is very good evidence now that "sexual orientation" has alarge genetic component. Whether it is genetically determined (orbetter, to what extent) is not clear, but most "gay" people reporthaving known of their "orientation" at a fairly young age. So even ifthere are also strong environmental components, that certainly does notimply that one's "sexual orientation" is chosen nor, for that matter,that it could be changed. There is also very good evidence that "sexualorientation" lies on a continuum, and that "gay" and "straight" arejust the two ends of that continuum, with most people falling somewherealong it. I therefore doubt very much that people who lie at the "gay"end choose their "orientation" any more than do the people at the"straight" end. And honestly: Do those of us who are "straight" haveany sense at all that we chose so to be? If not, why should "gay" folkbe any different?

As you'll gather from the scare-quotes, I have a problem with the terminology I've been using. Let me explain why.

People who fall somewhere along the continuum sometimes do have achoice to make about whether to be involved with a person of the samesex or a person of the opposite sex. I've known several such peopleduring my life, and I've seen several of them in relationships of bothkinds. Typically, they conceive of their choice not as "With which sexperson should I be invovled?" but rather as: With which personshould I be involved? One woman I know, for example, has had severalmore or less serious relationships with men, but only one with a woman.She never thought of herself as gay or even as bisexual before meetingthis woman, but she fell deeply in love with her, and they becameseriously involved. "Sally" spent a long time coming to terms with hernewfound relationship, and she broke up with "Suzy" for a period whileshe worked out for herself whether she could live as a lesbian, sincesociety was sure to identify her that way, even if she did not identifyherself that way. Eventually, Sally returned to Suzy, not because she'ddecided to be a lesbian but, quite simply, because she loved her. Thetwo of them are now married (as they can be here in Massachusetts),have two children, and are very happy.

The simple thing people do not seem to understand is that being "gay" and "straight" isn't about SEX. The question whether someone is gay is not the question with which sorts of people he or she wishes to have SEX.The question is to whom he or she is romantically attacted, that is,attracted in the way that leads one to pursue and hope ardently for anintimate, romantic relationship with the object of one's attraction.The term "sexual orientation" is therefore deeply misleading. So-called"sexual orientation" is not about sex but about love, companionship,and whatever else it is we all seek in a life-partner. For most of us,though not for all of us, that sort of relationship finds profound andvery beautiful expression in sexual intimacy, and that is nodifferent for gay people than it is for straight people. To thinkotherwise is simply to be a bigot.

I'm sure there are somepeople—perhaps there are far too many people—for whom the very idea ofa romantic relationship revolves primarily around sex, but those aresad people, in my book. Frankly, I find the very idea that my marriageis primarily a sexual arrangement offensive. And for that reason, Ifind the term "hetero-sexual" inappropriate in the present context. I'd muchprefer to be called "hetero-amorous": I'm the sort of person who isromantically attracted to, and inclined to fall in love with, membersof the opposite sex. It shouldseem very puzzling what could be meant by "choosing to behomo-amorous". None of us chooses with whom to fall inlove, and I don't myself think it very plausible that we choose what kind of person to whom to be romantically attracted, either.

Beinghetero-sexual is different from being hetero-amorous. Niether form of"preference"—another word that is not obvious appropriate—is likely to be "either-or", but it seems likely to me that amorosity is more either-or than is sexuality: I've known several people who'd describe themselves as "bi-sexual" but who wouldn't be inclined towards a relationship with members of both sexes.

Read another response by Richard Heck
Read another response about Gender, Sex