Published 07.31.08 at Townhall.com and Crosswalk.com.
It is core doctrine of pro-gay orthodoxy that homosexuals are born gay. Though science has yet failed to affirm or deny this, the vast majority of gays and their supporters are convinced of it. Sexual orientation is seen as something discovered, not chosen. Instead of debating the merit of this assertion, let’s grant the premise that sexual orientation is determined prior to birth by genetic, gestational, or other factors. The question is whether any valid conclusions flow from this. I don’t think so.
Error 1: If I was born gay, my sexual orientation cannot change.
If present at birth, sexual orientation could come from either biology or psychology. If biological, then a medical procedure may be discovered to alter it. Science gushes with the ability to change things we were born with, especially conditions which past generations considered permanent. We can treat genetic diseases, repair cleft palates, perform height-enhancing surgeries, and even change genders.
Similarly, if the issue is psychological, treatments may be possible. Many traits people believe to be fixed about themselves can be adjusted by good counseling or psychopharmacology. Simple induction concludes that if medicine goes looking for a treatment for homosexuality, it might find one.
Many gays will be outraged at this line of reasoning. But why? We’ve been told that homosexuality can’t be a choice because no one would be foolish enough to choose it. Clearly some gays would relish the power to turn their unwanted condition into an optional one. And why shouldn’t other gays be happy for those who would then be truly free to choose? After all, they’re happy for sex-change operations, which make it possible for transgender persons to undo the birth nature they think was mistakenly given them. How can gender be so fixably wrong but sexual orientation so unfixably right?
Error 2: If I was born gay, then I have no choice about how I behave.
There are two kinds of inborn behavioral tendencies: the resistible and the irresistible. Unless we are supposed to believe that homosexuality is so involuntary that every gay sex act is literally a matter of biological determinism, we are left with the more plausible alternative: the desire to have gay sex does not compel anyone to actually ever have gay sex. One may not be able to control who attracts him, but he can certainly control who he has sex with. Consider the non sequitur of a gay man offering to explain last night’s particular sexual encounter by saying, “Well, I was born gay, you know.”
Free will is precisely the capacity to resist a carnal urge. If a gay person can refrain from sex even once, he has shown such free will. Thus, his sexual choices devolve to him, not to his inborn disposition. Straight people deny their sexual impulses all the time. I would be shocked to discover that gay people lack such an elementary capacity for urge restraint.
Error 3: If I was born gay, then acting upon it must be good.
No one denies that gays have extremely strong desires to be sexual with like-minded, like-bodied others. But strong desires do not justify behavior. Otherwise the study of ethics would be nothing more than the articulation of our impulses.
Some men may be born promiscuous (and perhaps most are), but this doesn’t legitimize adultery (or polygamy, for that matter). Since morality involves precisely the question of which desires are good to act upon, gay behavior cannot be justified merely on the grounds of experienced gay desire.
Error 4: If I was born gay, then this is simply who I am.
In gay doctrine, being gay isn’t seen as an important part of one’s identity. It’s seen as the definitive center of it. But why should this be so?
I am a Christian, a talk-show host, a baseball fan, right-handed, a philosopher, red-headed, from St. Louis, and heterosexual. None of these is the sum or limit of my identity. However, the ones I’ve chosen or chosen to act upon define me far more than those I happened to be born with. Thus, though choosing to have gay sex is certainly a key part of one’s identity, being born with the predilection to do so is not.
Error 5: If I was born gay, God must have made me this way.
Of all the untenable conclusions drawn from the born gay premise, this is the most scandalous. Whereas claiming that God has His hand in the creation of every child is uncontroversial, alleging that every element of that child’s physical, emotional, and even sexual state at birth are all intended by God is quite another thing. If this pattern of inference were allowed, we would have to believe that God desires every birth defect, handicap, psychological disorder or behavioral tendency we can trace to early childhood. God may allow such things, but that is theological miles from saying that God wanted them.
Yet there is a much deeper blunder embedded in this particular claim. The idea that people have inappropriate inclinations from birth is not unique to the born-gay meme. In fact, it’s so far from unique that it’s actually a cornerstone premise of Christian theology. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants all agree about this one key concept: mankind suffers from original sin, a polluted condition that makes every one of us desire immorality from our birth.
Thus, in a very real sense, one might say that we’re all born gay, although the historically preferred terminology is that we’re all born sinners. We are surely born with corrupt desires, but that doesn’t mean God intended us to be this way.
Although I have serious doubts about the claim that sexual orientation is determined at birth, the issue is largely academic since nothing important hangs on it. Being born gay doesn’t prevent change, prohibit choice, justify behavior, form identity, or implicate God. It just means your moral challenges are different from mine.