Choice: How or Why?

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Despite great progress in the neurosciences, our understanding of the determinants of sexual orientation remains incomplete. The nature versus nurture debate is indeed too simplistic as an approach. Genetics and heredity do seem to play a role, but the environment also induces palpable physical alterations in the brain known as plastic changes (evident for example in learning and memory). This plasticity makes it almost impossible to infer whether environmental factors and cognitive behavioral patterns ‘shape’ the brain and thus sexual orientation or if the brain’s given ‘shape’ induces these patterns since both are actually working in synergy! So this research field faces difficulties in making statements about causality from correlational studies and hence the situation ends up being similar to “the chicken or the egg” dilemma…

What I wanted to address here, however, is not the debate itself, but the implications of those questions; the homophobia underlying them. Why are laypeople interested in such findings? To me, it seems that their approach to this investigation is ultimately apologetic. It serves as a “justification” for any “deviation” from the heteronormative mainstream. It serves as evidence to back up statements such as “homosexuality is not a choice.” But what I call for is transcending this statement itself! So even if we assume for the sake of argument that homosexuality is indeed a choice; what is wrong with that? Why would it be more condemnable if it were a choice? Behaving in accordance with one’s sexual orientation is a choice, and whether the person chose that orientation or not doesn’t seem relevant. If the act itself is morally “condemnable” anyway, then why question the motives? Why does a non-conforming choice need to be justified? I would welcome people seeking understanding but not justification. That is why I am concerned with the fundamental question with which the determinants of sexual orientation are approached: the scientist asks HOW; the bigot asks WHY.

Again, I am not opposed to research on factors affecting sexual orientation, but I would encourage broaching the topic as a module within a much more comprehensive view of how the mind works; including how we make conscious choices versus how much of our apparent willfulness arises out of involuntary biological mechanisms. In this sense, regardless of how much of a choice sexual orientation turns out to be, it would not bear any more moral stigma than any other “choice” or “preference” of food or fragrance.

- Contributed by Emcee

Emcee has always been on a journey of self-exploration, self-discovery, and wonder. Continuously keen on seeing the same landscapes with new eyes, she has repeatedly lost herself in arguments and counterarguments before finally finding contentment in relativity. Emcee has always been a not-so-little miss goodie-two-shoes, but has finally gone astray, joined Meem, and made a pact with Bekhsoos. The floodgates are now open…

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