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Opening Arguments

Born this way

Hoo, boy, here's a topic I'll bet 90 percent of the people in polite society don't won't to go near:

In recent years, scientists have proposed various speculative biological bases for homosexuality but never settled on an answer. As researchers draw closer to uncovering an explanation, however, a new question has arisen: What if in some cases sexuality is caused by an identifiable chemical process in the womb? What if, in other words, homosexuality can potentially be prevented? That is one implication of one of the most widely accepted hypotheses thus far proposed. And if it’s true, it could turn out to be a blow for the gay rights movement.

[. . .]

If homosexuality is truly biological, discrimination against gay people is bigotry, plain and simple. But if it’s a birth defect, as Blanchard’s work tacitly suggests, then being gay is something that can—and presumably should—be fixed.

That’s a toxic view, and one that must be abandoned. We might not yet understand the exact biological mechanisms underlying sexual orientation, but we will one day soon. And if, at that point, homosexuality is seen as a disorder, the next step will be a search for a cure. That would be a tragedy—for society and for science. There’s nothing wrong with being gay: You know it; I know it; the Supreme Court knows it. But so long as large swaths of the country believe otherwise—places where homophobic families still ostracize their gay sons and brothers—any research into its biological origins is fraught with peril for the cause of gay rights.

"I was born this way" has trumped "lifestyle choice" and "sexual preference." If something is biologically inherent, we can't hold the person with that trait responsible -- would you try to make a hemophiliac feel guilty? So there's no reason to be ashamed of who we are? (Of course, thre's no reason to be proud of it, either, but it's probably a little late in the day to go there. Yes, I mean you, Deaf Rights people.)

But that only gets us so far. We have learned in recent years that there is a genetic component to everything. But knowing that doesn't really tell us how we should treat something -- that's social verdid, not a medical one. Our genes government everything from left-handedness to addiction proneness to sociopathic tendencies. You want to argue that we should be equally tolerant of left-handedness and sociopathy?

If we discover that homosexuality is cause by a simple genetic straying that can easily be fixed, so that fewer and fewer gays are born and eventually there are none? I'd suggest not -- as long as we're not bringing people into this world who are dangerous to others, the more diversity we have the better. You'd want to keep your babies from being born with a mental disorder, I take it, or a fatal medical condition. But would you want to guaranteed one who is straight, or for that matter, blonde or smart or with musical ability?

These are really not theoretical questions anymore. We might not want to think about them right now, but the time is coming when we'll have to.