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    I’m the same boy I used to be

    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.)

    7 Responses to “I’m the same boy I used to be”

    1. Sarah says:

      Sean,

      I’ve been sure it’s a combination of factors for ages — just like ANY sexual “turn on” that is strong enough seems to be, in anyone.

      Yeah, I know, anedoctal evidence, but I’ve noted that everyone in my dad’s family — male and female, even those who were raised away and by adoptive parents — is attracted to a certain type, with gender variations, of course. OTOH each person has personal twists on it. Also, growing up in a village (cue Miss Marple, but really knowing a small set of people and back for generations does give a unique insight) “Gayness” seems to run in certain families (even when tightly closeted, so probably not immitative.) Curiously too, it runs in both genders when it does, so it might be “when this gene is found, your child has a thirty percent chance…”
      I’ve been meaning to blog on this anyway, because there was some scientific American or New Scientist (or something) saying “little girls who like to play with guns and do woodwork are likely to grow up to be Lesbians” and it brings up the same issue as your hypothetical test. I wouldn’t be so worried about parents aborting as about parents driving their kids insane to “conform” to gender (whatever doctors said)or not, depending on how crazy the family was. As one of those girls who was a tomboy and who is so heterosexual she would be dangerous if that quotient were increased 😛 I am so glad my family didn’t read that article when I was two or three. Bad enough my younger kid’s preschool teacher informed me when he was three that he had “Dangerous gay tendencies” (I wish I were joking) because he liked to wear bead necklaces.

    2. Julie says:

      Mmm, I’m a totally hetero tomboy, too, but maybe we’re oddballs. My parents did ask me once if I was gay when I unwittingly rented a series of movies that had gay “themes” and characters (I don’t remember what all the movies were now, but one of them was about Leopold and Loeb, but I hadn’t even been aware that there was a gay angle to that). People have insinuated, too, that letting my son wear fancy stuff in his hair or put a lot of glitter on his craft projects was going to “make him gay” or something to that effect, but I doubt it very much, and even if it does, I don’t really care, I guess (although I do really, really want grandkids and lots of them).

      I don’t think most people–and, of course, there are always fringe exceptions–believe that orientation is the “choice” involved. I know Huckabee got slammed for saying that it’s “choosing to act on it” or whatever that was the choice he was concerned with, but what I found concerning is that so many left-wing types don’t seem to think that having sex or not or living with someone or not is a choice. There are certainly many people throughout history who have chosen not to have sex (I have no idea how many nuns, etc., were homo or hetero) and many more who have chosen to only have it under a very narrowly-defined set of circumstances (e.g., only after marriage and then only in the marital bed). In that sense, I can see his point. In some sense, the moment you choose to have sex with one person or another, you’ve made a choice that is either homo or hetero (obviously, if more people are involved, we could have a continuum rather than a dichotomy).

      If you are a person who believes strongly that sex outside marriage or sex for any purpose other than procreation is wrong (as Huckabee does, poor fella), then you are always going to think that the choice to have homosexual sex is immoral, even if you don’t think “being homosexual” is immoral. But lefties almost certainly don’t think any conservative is capable of making this kind of distinction or that this kind of distinction could be made honestly–that is, they believe strongly that Huckabee and everyone like him actually hates gays and only makes this distinction in public to sound less bigoted. I can’t really comment on the latter, because I have no idea if people who claim to believe this kind of thing actually do or only pretend to do. I have a feeling that many of them only think they believe it until they find out one of their relatives or friends is gay and only then do they find out what they really believe.

      Anyway, welcome back. I have missed you. I have apparently not learned the art of brevity in your absence.

    3. Eric Scheie says:

      I don’t see why I should become yet another pissy, ranty guy on the Internet.

      You never have been, and you never will be.

      Which is why I hope you never quit blogging!

    4. Flea says:

      I am here to represent pissy, ranty guys on the internet. Have you heard the good news about the Dark Side of the Force?

    5. Leslie says:

      So nice to read you again, Sean! But before you say goodbye forever to Steve Winwood, could you please do me a favor? Explain the meaning of “… the sound of the low spark of high-heeled boys.”

    6. Sean says:

      Sarah:
      “I’ve been meaning to blog on this anyway, because there was some scientific American or New Scientist (or something) saying “little girls who like to play with guns and do woodwork are likely to grow up to be Lesbians” and it brings up the same issue as your hypothetical test. I wouldn’t be so worried about parents aborting as about parents driving their kids insane to “conform” to gender (whatever doctors said)or not, depending on how crazy the family was.”

      I remember that, too–a few weeks ago, and Instapundit linked it, maybe? I think you’re right that that’s the chief worry, though (as I may have said before) I’m not sure how much worse that is than the other ways parents drive their kids’ berserk trying to get them to fulfill their own wishlists. Lots of us went to college with a slew of people who were fighting their parents over what they were going to major in, what city they could relocate to after college, how quickly they could get married, and all that kind of stuff. Gay kids aren’t the only ones to suffer. On the other hand, it’s worth pointing out that parents who want their kids to become doctors don’t usually tell them they’re sick in the head if they want to become poets.

      Julie:
      “People have insinuated, too, that letting my son wear fancy stuff in his hair or put a lot of glitter on his craft projects was going to “make him gay” or something to that effect, but I doubt it very much, and even if it does, I don’t really care, I guess (although I do really, really want grandkids and lots of them).”

      I don’t understand how you’re making him gay if the glitter is his idea to begin with.

      Eric and Nick:

      I wish I could be pissy and ranty without just being tiresome, actually; but I don’t seem to be able to manage it. :(

      Leslie:

      Thanks! I was never a big Traffic fan (though my father liked them when I was little), so your guess is as good as mine. In my experience, though, a lot of rock/pop lyrics scan really, really badly line by line, even if they kind of work as a whole. :)

    7. Sarah says:

      Flea,

      Yeah — it has the good chocolate chip cookies!

    Leave a Reply to Sarah