The Nature of Being Gay

Question from Adam:
Hi there,

I’ve been an atheist all my life, but as you know just being an atheist does not guarantee a certain set of beliefs. As unpopular as it is, I’m an atheist who has been against homosexuality most of my life.

When I was younger, the concept just seemed gross and perverse. I had thoughts like “well if you would have sex with a guy (as a guy), why not have sex with a goat?” I further thought that it just didn’t make sense scientifically as it opposed the whole nature of evolution and procreation. I thought of it this way: “if everybody became homosexual, humans would stop reproducing and our species would die, it just isn’t right!”. Several years ago I joined an atheist group on Facebook and I mentioned that I didn’t agree with homosexuality. They all hated on me rather big time and claimed I was a christian trolling their site. I eventually left that site, as they were harassing me.

Let me make it clear that I have never harassed a person because of their homosexuality, and that I do have homosexual friends. Growing up I firmly believed that homosexuality was a choice. This was my major concern with it. Now that I’m in my late twenties, I’m both caring less about homosexuality in general, and also leaning towards the probability that it is not a choice for many.

Here is my real question. Since you seem to have a bunch of random knowledge, or a knack for researching subjects, I want to know your thoughts. If homosexuality is not a choice, then that means it would fall under the category of a mental disorder/condition, correct? Like ADHD? I honestly can’t get past this. Why hasn’t it ever been described as a mental condition/disorder/retardation when you look at what it really is if it is not a choice? I’m not saying that this means that people should look down on homosexuals. I’m just saying call it as it is. If it were clearly defined as a mental condition then I think homosexuality would stop getting hated on so much. My family has plenty of people with learning disabilities, so I can understand that people can just be born different. I just can’t understand why homosexuality (not by choice) isn’t classified as a mental condition resulting from irreversible brain chemistry.

My reasoning for it being a mental disorder is that it is a clearly a state of mind that effectively ends the couple’s blood line. our whole drive to procreate to continue our species gets screwed up. The sexual desire is there, but the target of the sexual desire gets swapped, leading to the impossibility of breeding through natural means. Yes, I know there are other options, and even ways to use their actual genetic material to reproduce without having heterosexual intercourse/impregnation. But that is not the issue I’m trying to address.

I just read your post on opinions/beliefs not being a choice. No matter how hard I try I can’t stop believing this.

Please let me know what your opinions are on this. Thank you!

Answer by SmartLX:
Yes, belief is not a choice, but being convinced otherwise isn’t a choice either. You may still come around.

It’s an awkward thing to be “against” homosexuality, practically speaking. One can find the idea physically unappealing, but how exactly does one oppose it? If, as current medical evidence suggests, homosexuality is pre-determined before birth and there’s no way to deliberately change a person’s sexuality one way or the other, then there’s no possible way to have there be fewer gays in the world – short of killing them, which you wouldn’t advocate. Preventing gay marriage and adoption wouldn’t have any effect, except to punish certain people for nothing of their own doing. Self-declared opponents of homosexuality are essentially powerless, unless they have enough political clout to drive it underground by outlawing it altogether. No one’s saying you have to like the idea of gay sex, but that’s not really being against it; you’re just averse to it. That’s fine, I’m averse to licorice. Yuk, I’ll have a chocolate instead. Easy.

If everyone were homosexual, humans would die out, but not everyone is homosexual. Genetic homosexuality is apparently not a guarantee, it’s a tendency, and not a very strong one. When the genes create enough probability to create a just a sprinkling of gays in each generation, they’re almost guaranteed not to breed, so they’re available to help raise other people’s kids. In many of the 400+ animal species where homosexual behaviour has been observed, that’s exactly what happens. The gay male mammal becomes the “cool uncle” figure, for example: because he doesn’t want to fight the alpha male for the females he happily remains a beta, and the whole social group prospers. A gay “streak” can actually benefit a gene pool, so you might think of the gay sex as a by-product of that.

Until very recently, homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder by doctors everywhere. Medical reference books such as the DSM eventually stopped calling it that after researchers such as Alfred Kinsey established (among other things) that sexuality is a spectrum, not a binary choice, and it’s not unusual even for “straight” people to entertain a few gay thoughts. Full-blown homosexuality isn’t debilitating, it’s just different. Gay people don’t need to be made to seem or feel inferior by slapping them with the label “disorder”. It’s definitely not a retardation, because it’s not a progression from gay to straight that’s been somehow retarded (literally, slowed down or stopped). Heterochromia isn’t a choice either, but it’s not referred to as anything but a “difference”.

As you say, you know gay people, and you even like some gay people. Maybe you don’t like what they do in private, but I don’t like that my wife watches Neighbours and I still married her. Homosexual desire is far less of a choice than watching that horrible show, so don’t hold it against the people who feel it. It might even be the result of an evolutionary group survival strategy, so it’s not necessarily a pointless or destructive phenomenon. They’re here, they’re queer, get used to it.

One thought on “The Nature of Being Gay”

  1. Thanks for the reply. I had no idea it ever was classified as such. “Against” would have described my feelings towards homosexuality growing up, like up until early college where I thought it was actually wrong. This was largely because I thought it was a choice. And it was a choice I could not understand. Nowadays I don’t particularly care if a person is gay or not. I still think the acts of male homosexuality are absolutely gross, and try not to think about them if possible. But gay people can be just as cool as straight people.

    It’s interesting to think about sexuality as a spectrum. Similar to that whole theistic spectrum of 1 to 7, eh?

    I try to hold firm the belief that you shouldn’t judge somebody for something they cannot control. Although if you go into the territory of “you cannot control what you believe” that breaks down. Because I definitely judge people with extreme blind faith beliefs.

    A story comes to mind. I was talking to a girl I was interested a few years ago. She brought up the concept of destiny. The conversation went something like this.
    Her: “Whatever happens is meant to happen.”
    Me: “No, I don’t think that’s true. I think you are the master of your own “destiny” and you can work to make things happen.
    Her: “God’s plan will always lead a person to their destiny.”
    Me: “Seriously? You believe everybody’s fates are pre-determined?”
    Her: “Yes.”
    Me: “So, what about when bad things happen?”
    Her: “It’s fate”
    Me: “So a man gets AIDS and dies at 37 and it’s fate?”
    Her: “Yes.”
    Me: “Really?”
    Her: “Yes.”
    Me: “So a 12 year old perfectly innocent girl gets raped by her father, then her legs get cut off and she has to live the rest of her life in a wheel chair. You are a telling me that “god” planned this?”
    Her: “That was her fate.”

    I can’t even remember how the conversation ended, I probably threw a few more examples at her. But I haven’t spoken to her since. It made me angry how she could be so blindly attached to her beliefs, that she could overlook tragedy and call it fate. Even if it’s not her choice to believe that. I definitely judge her for that.

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