Thanks to everyone who’s asked whether I haven’t been blogging because I fell into the East River or something. No, I haven’t. I’ve mostly been busy, but I’ve also been somewhat burned out. I keep up with politics because I consider it my responsibility as a citizen, but I generally only post about things that I think would be part of an interesting discussion. Lately the political stuff I read tends to snuff out my good-humored enthusiasm for debate rather than firing it up, and I don’t see why I should become yet another pissy, ranty guy on the Internet.
For example, there’s this malarkey about Valerie Jarrett. She referred to some gay kid’s gay-kid-ness as a “lifestyle choice,” and naturally after some lefty queer media types told her to GET BACK IN LINE, BITCH! she explained that she was very sorry and that her colorist and her interior designer and her personal shopper and her niece’s softball coach and her dog walker are all born-that-way queer and she loves them all and far be it from her to imply that anyone anywhere ever at any time has a choice about anything. Might lead to libertarianism:
The comments were made to Jonathan Capehart, an editorial writer at the Washington Post, in an interview Wednesday in which she discussed the recent spate of teen suicides linked to bullying because of sexual orientation. Jarrett praised the parents of Justin Aaberg, a Minnesota teenager who killed himself, for “doing a good job” supporting their son, but she inadvertently stepped into the highly contentious debate about whether homosexuality is innate or a conscious decision.
“These are good people. They were aware that their son was gay; they embraced him, they loved him, they supported his lifestyle choice,” Jarrett told Capehart. “But when he left the home and went to school, he was tortured by his classmates.”
Blogger Michael Petrelis slammed Jarrett for the reference, accusing her of taking “talking points from Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council,” a socially conservative organization that condemns homosexuality.
Personally, I’d like to slam Jarrett for keeping the silly word lifestyle in circulation, it being favored by the sorts of philistines who think it snazzy to “reach out” to you instead of calling or writing like normal people. (Of course, being a philistine puts her in good company in the current administration, but that’s a topic for another day.)
Ann Althouse has posted about Jarrett’s apology, and she recounts this story, and her commenters run with it:
I remember back in the 1980s, in the radical enclaves of the University of Wisconsin Law School and similar places, when it was heresy to say that sexual orientation was inborn. I remember getting snapped at by a very prominent left-wing lawprof for referring without scorn to research that showed some evidence that sexual orientation was innate. It was all about choice back then, and the choice model was deemed to be the framework upon which gay rights would be built.
(If it was inborn, I was told, then it will be perceived as a disease that might be cured, and therefore there can be no talk among decent people about the possibility that it is inborn. But what about science? What about discovering what is true? The official left-wing answer to that question, I learned, is: shut up.)
Sure, but in my experience social conservatives only like to consider the two less-likely extreme possibilities (innate vs. a conscious decision, as the Politico piece put it) also. They’re clearly emotionally committed to seeing homosexuality as a choice, because then they don’t have to address sticky questions about upright Christian parents who somehow end up having gay kids. (I’m not saying they don’t sincerely hold the considered belief that it is a choice, only that they get worked up over it in a fashion that strongly suggests they have an emotional investment in it.) And they raise the hypothetical possibility that some gene for homosexuality will be discovered when they want to tweak leftists over the abortion-related dilemma that would presumably cause.
Neither of those seems to be the direction the research I’ve read is heading, though. It’s doubtful that a doctor will ever be able to say, “Your fetus has the gay gene.” What’s more probable is that a doctor will someday be able to say, “See this marker? 30% of male fetuses with it turn out homosexual. See this other marker? When it’s present, too, the probability jumps to 53%. Postnatal environmental factors will determine the rest, but a lot of them aren’t things you can consciously ‘do’ if you’d prefer your son turn out to be a heterosexual architect rather than a homosexual interior designer. While orientation is pretty much fixed by age ten or so, it’s evolving based on all kinds of stimuli up until then.” Scoring cheap political points off your opponents with that little scenario isn’t so easy, which may be why neither the left nor the right appears to discuss it much.
It fits the observations of most of the gay people I know, though, which may be one of the reasons the “lifestyle choice” locution tends to set people off. It makes the choice involved sound quick and easy, when what actually happens is that most people really take to heart their parents’ desire for grandchildren and (at best) ambivalence toward homosexuality, so they fight and fight and fight and fight and fight and fight every longing they have until they’re exhausted. Then, at some point, they adjust to reality and figure out that it’s better to be a good, honest homo than an unnatural, dissembling hetero.
That’s a choice, certainly, but it’s not like waking up one morning and deciding to become a vegan. Jarrett probably didn’t realize that she’d implied that gay people make choices entirely driven by preference. But she did, and since she signed on as part of the lefty-PR program, she has no one to blame but herself when Mike Petrelis barks from the telescreen that she’d better touch those toes when she’s told to.
(And no, you’ll never see a title that quotes Steve flipping Winwood here again.)