The recent tragedies of Mike Brown and Eric Garner shed light on an increasingly prevalent social divide present in American society: the inability of those in the majority to fully comprehend and understand the struggles and hardships of those in a particular minority. As a white male, I cannot speak about the experiences of my black peers at Boston College; I do not understand their struggles, nor should I pretend to.
However, an experience for which I do fall into the minority is that of a gay male, and as such I feel compelled to comment on several issues and topics mentioned in the Feb. 15th piece, “On Choosing Homosexuality,” written from the perspective of a straight male who will “never truly understand” the homosexual experience.
The column is centers on recent comments made by GOP hopeful Mike Huckabee, the former pastor turned governor of Arkansas. In a recent interview with Time, Mr. Huckabee equated being homosexual with partaking in gambling and swearing, remarking:
People can be my friends who have lifestyles that are not necessarily my lifestyle. I don’t shut people out of my circle or out of my life because they have a different point of view […] I don’t drink alcohol, but gosh, a lot of my friends, maybe most of them, do. You know, I don’t use profanity, but believe me, I’ve got a lot of friends who do.
The author of “On Choosing Homosexuality,” however, vastly misinterpreted what Mr. Huckabee was implying; he was not saying that choosing to embrace one’s homosexuality is a choice, but that being homosexual itself is a choice. The author states that he knows “the science, I know how genes work, and you probably know a bit of it too. But that doesn’t really change anything. It’s one thing to be sexually attracted to the same sex, but it’s another to be a homosexual individual,” a point with which I could not disagree more. Though the issue of what makes an individual gay or straight is not my primary concern in writing this letter, I feel it is important to note that the current scientific understanding of homosexuality is extremely inconclusive.
Therefore, I cannot grasp how you know the science and the way in which genes work differently in those who are gay as compared to individuals who are straight. However, my primary motivation for writing this letter is my concern for your suggestion that one can separate being gay from being sexually attracted to an individual of the same sex, for they are one and the same. Though many individuals suppress their sexuality and true feelings, they are not any more or any less gay than someone such as myself who has come out and fully embraced their sexuality. Your argument is akin to saying that a tree falling in the quad makes a sound only if I actively choose to recognize the noise produced; sexuality is not equitable to selective hearing. So to answer your question, yes, a woman who lives her life hiding her homosexuality is a homosexual. Furthermore, by your interpretation, I chose to be homosexual by choosing to be open and authentic about my sexuality.
Let me make this as clear as possible: I did not choose to be gay; I chose to live my life on my terms rather than be controlled by fear and homophobic bigotry.
Though you have reflected on the issue of homosexuality in modern society, no matter how much you “really think” about it, you can never truly understand the experience. Your article highlighted several important issues that we as a society must address, and for that I commend you; however, your overall argument falls far short from hitting the mark.
There remains an enormous amount of work to be done until we as a society can overcome the heteronormative narrative that defines our culture. Every time someone claims that, “gays choose to be gay,” they are not making the perceived choice more of a reality, but rather the misconceptions regarding homosexuality.
Similar to the way in which I can never understand the connotation carried by the n-word, even if my intentions were good, you cannot understand the implications of saying that homosexuality is a choice. You are not gay; you are not allowed to make such an assertion. My hope is that in reading this letter you will realize the immense privilege you possess; you never have to face coming out and the fear and uncertainty that accompany such a decision.
Nonetheless, a topic on which you are very qualified to speak, and one I would have liked to have seen more addressed by your article, is the way in which homosexuality is perceived and treated at BC, in the United States, and throughout the world.
Heterosexual individuals are so easily allowed to identify as straight because they do not face societal constraints condemning that label. Conversely, homosexuals are biologically born gay, the same as you were born straight, but are forced into hiding by ignorant members of society who perpetuate misconceptions about an experience to which they cannot relate.
I have always been gay, much the same as you have always been straight; it is who I am, not just something I choose to be. Being homosexual does imply an acceptance to the self, as you note, but it goes so much further than that in ways you will never understand.
Featured Image by Eric Gay / AP Photo
While you took the time to read his article, you have vastly overstepped. Not only do you limit his ability to comment on the coming out process by saying “You are not gay; you are not allowed to make such an assertion.” While the original author’s assertion is bold, he is not saying that homosexuality is a choice. Instead, he is arguing that social constructs make it seem as if homosexuality is a choice. While you are clearly entitled to write a response to his article, you cannot make it seem like the original author is not allowed to have an opinion on a topic that he does not pretend to understand: the coming out process. He makes it very clear that by “choice” he means the choice to accept oneself and one’s sexuality. He is not saying that a person chooses to like a certain sex. Instead, he argues that every time someone tries to say that homosexuality is a choice, they build up a wall that makes it harder for someone to CHOOSE to come out. The original author equates choosing to come out to choosing homosexuality. Thus, I reiterate: He does not say that you choose to be homosexual. He argues that society makes it a choice to live a lie or come out. I think that is an argument that everyone at least can see the merits of. It is not fair for you to shun someone for starting a dialogue on a topic he is grappling with. To simply say that he cannot talk about it because he is heterosexual is to further distinct groups in society that stagnate real discussion. I hope you will consider that before you write your next letter, bashing yet another member of the Boston College community.
so, basically a 200-word faux-fairness argument, blindly caped in a vague notion of journalistic integrity/freedom of speech… lol
“and while we’re at it, how come there is no white history month right guys???”
He does not have the right to comment on the experience of homosexuality because not only does he not know that experience, but he explained that experience wrongly. It’s the straight version of mansplaining. I am glad that it has sparked a conversation, but I agree with the author of this LTE that his perspective as a heterosexual person would be better served in an article about how homosexuality is perceived.
he explained the experience wrongly? How so? I am gay and I disagree with you. I think his description of the coming out process was pretty accurate.
People comment on experiences they are not a part of all the time, it’s part of being human, and they shouldn’t shy away from it. Observation and judgment make up life each and every day. I don’t know the first thing about you, so I don’t want to wrongly assume that you are just “womansplaining” away, maybe you are gay and the other piece referenced by Frank’s struck some chord for some reason. But, regardless of not wanting to assume wrongly, I am going to make assumptions about you without a complete set of facts. Because I have to.
What amazes me is the disconnect that you leap without a backwards glance — that you think that because someone is straight they cannot understand anything about what it is like to be gay. They are, according to you, confined to writing about how others perceive homosexuality. And that is academic laziness, but I don’t blame you for it. It is the same current that runs through all liberal arts institutions these days by students and faculty alike, an incessant need to avoid all confrontational, controversial, or difficult conversations as means to dodge any possible toe-stepping.
Take that thought process to the extreme, because if you want to play the group identity game you have to, and ask yourself: if we cannot understand people that are not exact mirror images of ourselves, then what in this world can we understand at all? Nothing. We couldn’t have a conversation about morals, literature, or even whether Gasson is a moderately tall building — because perhaps from my perspective it is morally okay to spit on people I do not like, that 50 shades of yellow is the closest modernity will get to Shakespeare, and Gasson is actually a school for ants. And then, who would you be to refute any of those things? You aren’t Brett MacDonald, so how do you know those things are not true in my world; central to my identity?
(This subjective reality/nihilism will probably be supported by some.)
I am not a Muslim American, but that doesn’t preclude me from being able to research, observe, and reflect on what it means to be one. I am not trapped within the academic boundaries of having to comment on what other non-Muslims think of Muslims. That’s utterly useless. I do not care about what they think of them, what’s more important to me is figuring out what Muslim Americans are, regardless of who is providing the analysis. Anything else is a waste of time. (on this topic, many times it takes someone outside of a group to objectively comment on the generalities of the group itself)
This is absurdity; this distinction between perception and reality has gone on long enough. Frank perceives what it means to be gay through his self-identification and observation as a homosexual man. But he does not speak for all homosexual men — case in point, the other response below clearly had a different experience — no member of a group can speak as an authority for the entirety. Likewise, Christophe perceives what it means to be gay through his own identification and observation as a heterosexual man. He can’t speak for any particular gay man, he can’t speak for any particular straight man. And he does not have to. He shared his views and his observations, and to some extent Frank disagrees.
Everybody has to make decisions and observations about things they do not understand completely. That’s life. It’s uncomfortable, sometimes we’ll get it wrong but to tell people they shouldn’t be part of a specific conversation and that they should go stand at the periphery of it is ridiculous and, while I hope that people listen to you, I hope they dismiss what you are suggesting too.
Great response. I disagreed with the point that homosexuality and being attracted to the same sex are one in the same.
My definition of homosexuality is an identity that an individual chooses, whether that individual is open about it to others or not. Sexual attraction is a desire. Sexual attraction to the same sex occurs in many that identify as heterosexual. Suppression of desire is part of many choices we make. If we do not suppress an action, we can make a choice to engage in it. There is nothing wrong with identifying as homosexual, but to call heterosexuals who have an attraction to the same sex, but do not act upon it, homosexual is misidentifying. A salesman is a salesman, but one who dreams of being a great salesman is not a salesman. We chose certain identities through what we accept to be true of ourselves.
Whether our choices are in our control or a matter of circumstance and prior circumstance is a bigger question. Sure we want accountability for choices we make, but forgiveness for poor choices is extremely important too due to the role of circumstance in choice. Homosexuality, IMO is a choice, but I don’t think choices can be controlled. I don’t consider it an evil thing either, so it does not need forgiveness. Hate towards homosexuals is the greater evil. That’s a choice too imo, but hate is not something that should be tolerated it forgiven
I’m curious, are you the the Christophe that Frank references?
I don’t make the same distinction you make between suppression and action only because I don’t see how that line drawn is useful.
I think it is great that you took the initiative to be a part of that conversation though.
A question: by your definitions, a man that is only attracted to other men but suppresses it and instead dates females is not homosexual. This seems problematic to me. I would possibly consider him bisexual but I am not sure I could declare that as heterosexual – unless speaking strictly from a observational/biological perspective. Why make the distinction?
I am not the Christophe Frank references. The line of suppression and action is a metaphysical line, relating to how we act or suppress action based on our situation (simply choosing between do and do not). It is useful in understanding how we make a choice.
As for the man attracted to other men who instead dates females, I mean that everyone atleast has the thought cross their mind of what would it be like to have sex with another man (or woman). Even if their reaction to this thought is that the act would not be pleasurable, comfortable, or leave them fulfilled, they thought through a possible scenario. They then decide to suppress action on fulfilling this fantasy for either the reasons above, or for another reason. This fantasy, they may even enjoy, or find stimulating, but if their final decision is to refrain from action, how can they be considered homosexual. If their final decision is, yes I do want to engage in this behaviour, then they may become a homosexual (or they could even change their mind later, there are many examples of this). The suppression means that other factors (maybe homosexuality will cause social problems in their life, they want to have kids of their own, they want to get to know a women, and the list goes on) override the pleasure that they derive from the attraction or pleasure that they felt during a fantasy. That is the way I think about it. If you fantasize and take pleasure in the thought of scoring a touchdown as a football player, does that make you a football player? No. The desire and thought is unfulfilled and acton is suppressed.
So that’s where I lose you: with the football example. Not every republican or democrat will make it to office, some won’t even run. They can still be party members. They might not tell anyone they are, they might lie to people, pretend to be something else… For example I bet many conservatives pretend to be more liberal on campus. That doesn’t change what they are inside.
What these party members who cover their identity do is have a strong enough conviction within themselves to self-identify as democrat or republican. They may not identify in front of anyone else, which is akin to being in the closet. Having a homosexual fantasy or thought is akin to trying to put yourself in the shoes of a homosexual, trying it out in your mind for yourself.
What occurs to me is that we differ in our definitions of sexual attraction. People think about sex and attraction in very different ways. The way I see sex, I don’t find that a homosexual fantasy distorts my heterosexuality in any way, because I have a strong sense that I am heterosexual. It’s like I’m 97% certain of my heterosexuality, and 3% uncertain. Someone defining me as bi or gay because of this uncertainty would hold no water for me. That’s lumping me with other’s who I have very different sexual preferences then myself. Mine are much more accurately defined as straight. To actually have sex with another man would be unfulfilling for me. I have no desire for it to actually happen. I’m not comfortable with being a homosexual myself. The “sexual attraction,” that I am talking about is momentary attraction, not sustained. It’s akin to exploration and nothing more. When I engage in fantasy based on attraction, it actually reaffirms my belief of my identity. I think everyone has sexual desire and curiosity, but how they define it could be more accurately defined by a sliding scale. By a rigid definition, straight people are 100% straight, without a thought or fantasy about homosexuality ever entering their mind. Could an individual actually be 98% straight and 2% gay within their thoughts and feelings?
Going back to your republican and democrat example, don’t politicians switch parties, choosing to identify with another? And when they do this, are they hiding what they really are on the inside, or may simply be uncertain how they stand in regards to the world? Having sexual attraction to the same sex, but not identifying as gay or bi, but straight, is akin to having a healthy amount of uncertainty in your identification. I observe that other straight individuals are comfortable with homosexuality, and may empathize and occasionally feel a sense of attraction, but feel no need to identify with it. By saying, “no they are atleast bi” is viewing sexuality in completely certain terms. I view sexuality in uncertain terms, whereas I believe you see it in certain terms.
The author was making a subtle differentiation between being gay as being attracted to the same sex, and being gay as embracing the social status and identity of it by coming out. He never said that Huckabee was making the same differenciation. He simply subtled it himself and ended the article with a nice kind of plot twist, showing that Huckebee had in fact a point in saying people choose to be gay, just not in the way he understands it himself: people do not choose to be attracted to the same sex, but they choose to come out, and by coming out, they actively embrace the social stigma and identity that is attached to being homosexual. Moreover, choosing itself is not a choice: you are either closeted, either out with all the stigma it implies. Whereas heteros simply have to be themselves, homos don’t have a choice but to choose: remaing closeted or embrassing the identity with all the downsides it carries. Of course this doesn’t make outed gays any more gay that closeted ones, the guy never said it did. He was basically pointing out how sad it is that living your sexuality freely nowadays still has to be a choice, because both sides of the balance weight (the security of not being judge/discriminated against/excluded, versus the liberation of being true to yourself/not having to lie anymore,etc). Hence the idea that the more people say “gay is a choice” (as in “being attracted to the same sex is a choice”), the more “gay is a choice” (as in coming out still is a choice poeple have to face and decide on) becomes true.
You know, also kind of like when you actually name something, you feel like you are giving it existence? It’s more of a philosophical way to look at it than a factual one.
And those points were extremely clear throughout the article, let me quote:
“It’s one thing to be sexually attracted to the same
sex, but it’s another to be a homosexual individual.
The former consists of chemical reactions happening in
the brain. The latter, though, is more social and anthropological”
The author just defined his terms. He isn’t saying “homosexual always means that”, he is simply announcing how he will, in his article, differenciate the actual state from its social implications. Therefore you need to understand “homosexual” in the way it was just described when you read the following quote:
“Being homosexual implies an acceptance of the self, an
acceptance of the person that you are. If a woman lives her own life hiding her
homosexuality, is she really homosexual? I know she’s attracted to women and
she fits the Webster definition, but she’s not allowing herself to be herself.
(…) Let’s face it: She has to choose to accept it. Because it’s
a choice. And it’s one of the hardest choices a homosexual will have to do in
his or her life.
(…) homosexuals have to choose to be whom they really are.”
(note that he is referring to all gays as “homosexuals” in the one-before-last sentence; because he is using the term in the “attracted to the same sex” sense. Some people will choose to come out and “become” homosexual in the sense that the social status will be put on them and some won’t. Ok it’s subtle but not THAT subtle and it is legitimate to believe college students can see the difference)
Then, you are reproaching him to talk about this as a straight guy, saying that because he is straight, he will never understand. First of all he doesn’t pretend to:
“As a straight man,
I’ll never truly understand. I can simply imagine.”
Second, I, as a gay person, find his description of the coming out process to be pretty accurate:
“Imagine a young high school boy, 16 years old, and
gay. But he hasn’t told anyone yet. He hasn’t told his mother, father, best
friend, or even his dog. His most recent Internet searches have been about
coming out—how to, whom to, when to. He’s scared out of his mind. He’s scared
of rejection. He’s scared of disappointing his right-leaning father. He’s
scared people will think less of him. Every day he switches from, “I’m going to
do it,” to, “There’s no way in hell I’m going through with this.”
This goes on for what seems like an eternity. He can’t
think of anything else. He realizes that once he decides to do it, there’s no
So, I do not understand your problem with this article. I feel sorry and bad for the author and I can’t help but wondering if, had he been gay, the response would have been different. I would like to thank him for it, I especially apreciated the fact that it was, for once, an ally who adressed the issue, and not someone from within the community. I believe you either have read it too fast, either possess “political corectness radars” which are so powerful that you
automatically reacted to the phrase “homosexuality is
a choice” without even bothering to understand what it meant in the
context of the argumentation it was taken from. Honestly I am a little worried about the latter, because this would mean that we have reached a level of political corectness that is taking over critival thinking, and
I find it scary.
Those were my two cents, and once again, I’m gay too (and I could have written that article myself.)
is this copy pasted from a previous women and gender studies assignment?
no…not sure how I’m supposed to take this!
I completely agree. Instead of jumping to conclusions or twisting words, the author of this letter should have realized subtle nuances. It is completely uncalled for to say that someone cannot comment on social issues because they are not marginalized in the same manner. To pursue blanketed, complete political correctness in this sense is to eliminate all forms of open communication on a topic. I think the article suffers from a classic Facebook click bait title. People react to what they clearly know is wrong (believing homosexuality is a choice) instead of actually understanding an argument. This letter suffers from being overly harsh and over-correcting to punish someone simply because they are not gay. That is truly a shame and something that should not be taken lightly. To twist someone’s words and rely on a knee-jerk reaction of others to shame a member of the BC community is reprehensible.