February 1, 2012

Queer Issue: Choosing to be Queer is But an Illusion.

Sometimes, as someone who majored in philosophy in college, there comes a certain times when watching certain debates play out, feels to me like watching two boxers going at but where both participants were heavily drugged and blindfolded. This is in addition to neither ever having been properly taught how to spar in the first place.

One debate which exists within the queer community that stands out in this category above all others is the discussion on whether or not one is "born" gay. The arguments of both sides tend to break down like this.

Pro: Sexuality is not a choice, we can't choose who we're going to be attracted to. The scientific evidence all points to sexuality having a genetic component. Furthermore, if sexuality is not a choice than it would mean conclusively that queer behaviour should not be outlawed at all or discriminated against in any way.

Against: Sexuality is a choice and we should not have to justify our lifestyles by claiming that it is not a choice. Furthermore, discrimination and bigotry have not ended for those groups (people of color, women, etc.) who did not choose their minority status either.

Now let me say that both arguments have flaws. Allow me to break them down.

Pro: Moral is different from natural, a mistake many people make. I have problems with the term "unnatural" as well, anything that is "unnatural" technically can't exist (or exist only in imagination). If one desires something, then that desire is natural. Furthermore, simply because one naturally desires something, does not make it moral. If I desire to kill someone who wrongs me, killing them would still be "immoral", no matter the strength or innateness of that desire. There is also a good possibility that pedophilia itself is also an innate desire. There is good reason for paedophilia to remain illegal, no matter how natural or innate the desire to have sex with children is for some individuals.

If we reduce morality to that which we naturally desire, then anything I desire becomes moral by default. It would create total chaos. I want to kill? Fine! Steal my neighbours property? That's cool! Rape and pillage? Get your freak on! Obviously there needs to be some other criteria altogether for developing morality. I'll get to one later, but that's the gist of why mere desire does not work for justifying one's behaviour.

Against: The argument that we queers should not have to justify our existence by proving that sexuality is innate has one obvious flaw - it is a normative claim and has absolutely nothing to do with the way the world is. Technically speaking, I even agree with it. In an ideal world, people would not need to justify sexual activity based upon how natural or innate their desire, but rather on the consent of all participants. This should be the criteria, nothing else.

However, I have to point out that we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a cruel and arbitrary one. There have been cases where queers have been able to pass legislation by arguing that being gay should belong to a protected class (much like race and gender). In short, there are actual benefits to being able do demonstrate that one's sexual orientation is innate, rather then a product of free will.

Which brings me to the last and most important point to all of this. There is absolutely no reason to believe that free will exists. Granted this is hardly a decided philosophical issue but it is one that is very relevant to this discussion. In order to be able to choose to be queer, then free will would need to exist in order for it to be a genuine choice. If free will does not exist, then all choices are naught but an illusion, including the choice to be queer.

I know this is an idea that most people do not like. After all, we like to think of ourselves as autonomous beings capable of changing the world around us. This desire (which is natural for any sentient being) would of course lead to one believing in that free will exists, even when it does not.

However, I believe in determinism simply because of well, all the evidence points to us living in a world that obeys a few simple rules of physics, which implies a universe with a set future. If the future is set, then we can not affect through mere application of will, it is no more complicated than that.

Add in the mounting evidence that sexual orientation does have it's roots in our genes and it becomes increasingly difficult to see how sexual orientation is a choice. I have no strong evidence to back myself up on this, but I would hazard a guess that bi, pan, and omnisexual individuals, as well as those with a fluid sexual identity, are among those who are most likely to view sexual identity as a matter of choice.

So in summary:
-There is no rule that says a natural desire means that such behaviour is moral.
-In an ideal world we should not have to prove scientifically that we exist or that being queer is not a choice in order for queers to be accepted by society. Only the consent of all participants would matter when determining the morality of a sexual act. Too bad we don't live in an ideal world.
-Given the lack of evidence for free will, therefore it is only logical to believe that being gay is not a choice by default.

All clear? Agree or disagree? Let me know!

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