If talking about sexuality online is personal, then I’m about to get even more personal. When I came out to my Very Religious Family, I was asked the same things many others are asked: Why are you doing this to us? Don’t you understand how hard your life will be? The barrage of questions from my parents that I faced over a two month period were exhausting. However, one question did make me stop and think: Why can’t you just be straight again?
I identify as queer, meaning that when I came out I couldn’t say “Mom, Dad, I’m a lesbian.” Rather, I struggled to find the words to explain that I wasn’t quite gay, but that I wasn’t quite straight either. My mom understood what bisexuality was prior to me coming out, so she was quick to catch on. However that didn’t mean she accepted it. She asked me one day that if I was still attracted to males, why couldn’t I just date guys and be done with the whole ordeal?
I didn’t have an answer. I tried to explain to her that I was in a committed relationship, and that I wouldn’t want to date anyone else, regardless of gender. However, the question still bothers me three years after coming out. Theoretically, I could be straight. I don’t want to, but I could. I don’t identify with the phrase “Baby I was born this way”, the LGBT slogan that has argued against bigots who claim that LGBT people can be “fixed.” I have dated men, and it caused me no harm. I had crushes on guys and girls…so why should I date girls if I know that my life will be harder?
The relationship I have now is a very healthy one- I wouldn’t give it up for the world. I haven’t given it up for the world. My girlfriend is worth facing criticism, slurs, and fear. Everyday, I actively choose her over living a comfortable (albeit boring) heterosexual life. Using the phrase “Born this way” implies that I have no choice, no autonomy in rising above base sexual instinct, something that many of us know is not true. It’s that same logic that silences discourse on rape when we claim that rapists can’t help themselves. We are more than the genes that we were born with.
When LGBT advocates say that we are “Born this way”, they give rise to the underlying implication that we wouldn’t choose to be LGBT if we could. Though of course many advocates would disagree to this, their slogan inherently harms what the LGBT community stands for, at least in my opinion. Not only that, but it can be very dangerous rhetoric for people who are sexually fluid. Those who realize parts of their sexuality later on in life may feel as if their feelings aren’t authentic since their attraction is something new. This was certainly the case for me. I have had trouble coming to terms with what the LGBT community stands for, since it is obvious to me that I wasn’t “born this way.” I was born, plain and simple.
“Born this way” also leads to rhetoric that is similar to Nazi ideology about biological determinism. Though I know this sounds extreme and absurd to say the least, the fact remains that the Nazis believed that certain groups (Jews, the mentally ill, gays, Romani) were genetically inferior. By touting the phrase “Born this way” and even by searching for a gay gene, we are perhaps pushing our society to a regressive point where gayness is a biological factor that can therefore be changed through genetic experiment.
I’m not a scholar on LGBT issues. I haven’t taken a course, or read a book on how to be queer. However, there are certain things that I know to be true. I was not born the way that I am right now, for better or for worse. Perhaps that’s the point. My life isn’t static- it, and I along with it, change everyday. That, in my humble opinion, is something the LGBT community could advocate for.