(Community Matters) I asked one of our best friends (probably the most well read – certainly the most accomplished editor) what he thought of Brandon Ambrosino and his appointment to a fellowship for Ezra Klein’s Vox.com. Kip Keller’s response here and in the immediately below blog post.
My follow up response:
We read “I Wasn’t Born This Way,” differently. I read his point as being we shouldn’t rest our calls for equality on whether or not being gay is a choice, that we have the right to choose to be gay.
I agree he’s sloppy in his argument about the conflating of civil rights for sexuality and race. I like his statement, “Maybe I wasn’t born this way. Now tell me why you think that matters.” I’ve long felt uncomfortable relying on an innateness to justify my right for constitutional equality. If I just want to be queer, even if I could be straight, I expect equality from my governments.
Of Brandon’s other writings, I’m most disappointed in the sloppiness of his writing on transgender activism.
As to Ezra Klein, I admit I don’t read him every day, but I have spoken directly with him and have listened to him enough to be impressed and to like him. In a Facebook posting yesterday, he notes, “Contrary to some garbled reports, before hiring Brandon I read a lot of his previous work. Brandon’s past writing was often quite pointed and personal, and not a fit for Vox — and I told him so. The writing fellowship requires a very different approach.”
I think Brandon shows promise. I remember conversations nearly 25 years ago when I was Austin’s only HRC board member (after Bettie Naylor) and while chairing the Austin-Travis County HIV Commission. A professor from (then) SW Texas State University sought me out to air his concerns about when we did achieve equality – how we’d become a less cohesive community, how we’d have less identifiable enemies. I’ve always looked forward to this time, knowing it’d be a nice problem to have. We’re not there yet but closer than any of us imagined those 25 years ago.
Many thanks for the thoughtful response.
I think we’re not that far apart in our views, but I do disagree fundamentally with the idea that sexuality is a choice, at least for most people. And that’s the crux of my disagreement with Ambrosino. If a man could will himself not be gay, I’d have long since been married to a woman and raising a passel of kids. I did just about everything but that in an effort to convince myself that I could prevent myself from being gay if I just tried hard enough.
But I couldn’t, and I don’t think anyone can.
So the idea that there is such a thing as a right to choose to be gay doesn’t make sense to me. I think that bisexuality is a real thing, and that people can be more or less equally attracted to persons of either sex. But that’s not being gay. A bisexual guy who has sex with a man is expressing one facet of his sexuality, but that doesn’t make him gay. (Maybe Ambrosino is bi?–though I hasten to say that I have no idea and I’m not making that claim.)
And I think that the idea of homosexuality being a choice fails on its face. The gay men and lesbians imprisoned in Uganda, flogged in Nigeria, and hanged in Saudi Arabia–really, they were willing to risk such horrific punishment just to exercise a choice? How many gay men our age or older do we know who got married, raised families, and once the lying and cheating and self-loathing finally became too much, finally accepted who they really were and came out? Something stronger than “choice” drove those actions.
So I don’t have any problem with resting calls for our civil rights on the idea of gayness being innate, because I’m convinced it is. But I agree with you that that rationale shouldn’t be determinative. Religious affiliation, which is in no way innate and is always a choice (at least for adults), has the highest level of constitutional protection–there’s no reason that marriage equality and other gay rights shouldn’t be dealt with the same way.
I wonder if young people today don’t have to wish they weren’t gay.
Sure, still, like us, some who have no choice. But, I wonder if even they don’t have to think about it because not the same incentive to fight it and if even more could go either way but say hey, I want that life.
Unfortunate for those with no choice in places like Uganda, Russia and other countries where still could cost their lives – heck, I’m sure plenty of counties still in America.
Very interesting notation about religious affiliation and equality.
Always enlightening to exchange with you.