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LETTER: Attraction isn't a choice; lifestyle and identity are

Friday, November 5, 2010 | 2:26 p.m. CDT

First, in response to Corey Motley's column ("Being gay is not a choice"), I want to say that I agree with Motley on many points and have personally experienced much of the same frustration against society and narrow-minded people as someone who is also attracted to the same sex. That being said, I want to expound a little on the question of choice and homosexuality to ensure that we ourselves are not becoming shortsighted.

According to the American Psychological Association, when talking about sexuality, there are three important distinctions psychologists make: attraction, identity and behavior. Attraction is simply what gender an individual is attracted to — homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual or asexual. Identity is what an individual believes and acknowledges about himself — gay, straight, lesbian, transgender, etc. Behavior is what an individual chooses to do with the above — dating, closeting, marriage, abstinence, etc.

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Humans are extremely diverse. A man may identify himself as straight, have homosexual attractions, marry a woman and have secret encounters with other men throughout the course of his lifetime (we see this in the news time and time again). Which of these were choices? Which were not? He had homosexual attractions, but he never chose to be gay. Being gay and adopting that lifestyle and identity is as much a choice as dating and marriage are. 

This may seem like nitpicking, but it’s a very important distinction to make. Personally, I have exclusively homosexual attractions, yet I do not take that on as my identity. I believe that my primary identity is being a follower of Jesus Christ, which offers hope for people with unwanted same-sex attractions, especially through programs like ReachTruth. However, I know that most people aren’t thinking of these distinctions when they say being gay is a choice, so I side with you in saying that no, it is not a choice to be attracted to the same gender.

On the gay gene: no study has released conclusive evidence. Virtually all researchers and psychologists agree that there is not a “gay gene,” but there are genetic influences that will increase the probability of developing homosexual attractions — a propensity, but not a guarantee. By “gay brother study,” I believe Motley is referring to a study done in 1993 on gay brothers where researchers found the same genetic markers in the brothers’ chromosomes. Dean Hamer, the scientist heading the study, never said he found a gay gene, yet the press publicized it as such. I’m not saying there will never be proof for genetic linkage, just that Motley should check his facts a little more closely.

I in no way mean to attack or bash Motley’s column. In fact, I agree with Motley: People need to stop being ignorant and realize that we don’t have a choice about whom we’re attracted to. We’re on the same side even if most of the time Christians and gays are pitted against each other. But I stand on my point: homosexual attractions are not a choice; what you do with that, including being gay, is.

Barclay Bell is a senior physics and education major at Texas A&M University.


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Comments

Robert Partyka November 7, 2010 | 9:55 p.m.

Here's the kicker Joy. The same people that you quote in the beginning of your article, The American Psychological Association, strongly discourages programs such as "ReachTruth". http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/06/health... Ex-gay therapy does not work. Period. That fact that your even bring it up in your article sickens me to my stomach. You claim that "people need to stop being ignorant and realize that we don’t have a choice about whom we’re attracted to," yet the rest of your article makes you seem as ignorant as the rest. I pray for the children that you will teach after you graduate Joy, my only hope is that you show them compassion and love, as any "follower of Jesus Christ," would do. Even if they "act" on those "homosexual attractions."

(Report Comment)
Robert Partyka November 7, 2010 | 11:29 p.m.

Replace Joy with Barclay. I have no idea where I got Joy from...

(Report Comment)
Barclay Bell November 9, 2010 | 12:38 a.m.

I am aware having same-sex attractions and believing that they are wrong puts me in a very small minority. I do not expect people to agree with me, and certainly not the APA. Programs like ReachTruth are based entirely on supernatural therapy as a result of a relationship with God. Can you see the APA accepting that as an explanation? You seem very confident that ex-gay therapy doesn't work, yet I have seen people change in front of my very eyes. Have you had experience with it yourself, or are you taking the NY Times word for it?

And yes, showing love and compassion is more important to me than anything in the world. I love everyone, even those that don't agree with me. -Barclay

(Report Comment)
lacinda florez November 9, 2010 | 2:12 p.m.

Why would you want to go to ex-gay therapy? I don't think theres anything wrong with being attracted to anyone. Why would you not just accept who you are and who your attracted to? Why would you try to change that? If you truly are okay with yourself why would you not be okay with your sexuality? I happen to be attracted to men but I keep my sex life behind closed doors and if everyony does why does it matter?

(Report Comment)
Kristina Houser November 9, 2010 | 8:07 p.m.

Barclay, I appreciate your honesty. I think you and Corey both showed courage in writing these pieces. You make a logical argument and I think it would benefit everyone to consider your point of view and not just write it off because they don't agree. I'm proud of you for speaking up and not just staying quiet in fear of the inevitable backlash.

(Report Comment)
Gregory Brown November 10, 2010 | 8:40 a.m.

I agree that both articles are well done and present their author's viewpoints in an even-handed way. Personally, I agree with Corey's conclusions more than with Barclay's. If the conversion therapy worked for him, great. But it hasn't worked well for many others, especially those who were coerced or misled into thinking that some miracle cure could be achieved without pain and sorrow. The "best" outcomes I've read about produce a situation in which the basic same-sex attraction remains, without acting upon it. Chastity is a gift, my clergy friends tell me, and not everybody accepts gifts well or uses them wisely. Those who choose to try to lead "normal' heterosexual lives may be setting themselves and their spouses up for a bad fall. But humans live such varied sexual lives that anything is possible. Whatever path of action people choose based on their innate feelings is fine so long as they don't expect or demand that everybody follow the same way. And having different experiences aired honestly and without rancor is highly desirable.

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