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    Potpourri II

    Speaking of olfaction, a reader kindly sent me the link to this study, and I thanked him by…uh, waiting until everyone else posted about it and then figuring there was no point in my mentioning it.

    There’s no better way to get long blog discussions going than to mention homosexuality, though. Regarding the study, Eric doesn’t entirely agree with Rosemary’s take on it. I agree, though I think there’s at least a partial answer to his comments about the choice element. (Virginia Postrel wrote an article several years ago that was along the same lines, by the way.) Eric writes:

    No “rule” is right all the time. I’ve known gay men who I’m sure were born that way, but I’ve known others who’ve simply enjoyed homosexual acts because they’ve wanted to. The element of choice and the word “choice” are so over-invoked that I almost hesitate to use the word, but I’d like to ask a rather cynical question along the “what if” line.

    There are several reasons that a lot of us bristle at the pat “homosexuality is a choice” formulation, even if we don’t adhere to the opposite extreme of “homosexuality is genetic.” For one thing, many of us spent years working overtime to avoid even considering the possibility that we might be gay. I had my problems with the super-conservative Christian sect in which I was brought up in terms of administration, but I really believed the doctrines (up until I became an atheist, that is) and tried hard to make any seeming interest in a girl germinate. It didn’t work.

    I realize that at this point, I’m setting myself up for responses on the order of, “Well, okay, but you could have talked to your pastor and asked for more prayers, or you could have sought reparative therapy on the off chance that you’re one of the low percentage of subjects it appears to work for, or you could have chosen a life of noble celibacy.”

    Fine, fine, fine. My point is not that my homosexuality is some kind of mind-control beam. I know I’m responsible for the actions I take based on it. My point is that people who say that homosexuality is a choice present it as if, you know, you figured out you’re gay by waking up one morning in college and thinking, Uh, let’s see: breakfast. Cold pizza, or vodka and Apple Jacks? The blue shirt or the red shirt? Oh, and, I guess today I could start dealing with my lack of interest in women by trying to figure out whether it represents some kind of deeper issue or something. But women are kind of scary. And anyway, guys are interested in getting off all the time, just like me! Okay, so that takes care of that. Where’s my econ book?… For most gays, coming out is the product of brutal self-knowledge and hard decisions. It’s the way the world and our place in it makes sense to us.

    In Rosemary’s comments, the Artist Formerly Known as Wince takes down the idea that no one would choose to be an outcast. He’s right, but what I think most gay people are trying to get at when they use such formulations is that we’re not gay for the purposes of getting a rise out of our families or pissing off the larger society. (Of course, there are cases of people with identity issues doing so. There are people who convert to Buddhism out of a desire to be funky, too.) Striking out on your own as an adult, living the best life you can based on your knowledge of your own talents and bents and the needs of others, involves the possibility that you’re going to alienate some people. You can acknowledge that without relishing the prospect.

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