Sunday, May 1, 2016

Nature or nurture?: Embracing choice

James Hormel wrote, "As a young boy growing up in Austin, Minnesota, teachers forced pens into my right hand in the futile hope of correcting my left-handedness. If they had known I was gay, they might have tried to fix that, too. They would have failed."

And why do we try to change each other? Whether we can succeed at changing someone else's personality, character and drive seems a secondary question to why we would want to do so in the first place. Instead of trying to control each other, could we try to protect each other from injury?

Simon LeVay wrote: ”The true moral issue in the area of sexuality is not to establish or refute 'naturalness' – a slippery concept if there ever was one – but to make difficult decisions that balance respect for individual freedom against protection from interpersonal or societal harm.”

Meanwhile, in exercising our individual freedom, we can elevate our behavior from unconscious impulse to conscious choice. Nicholas Fearn wrote: ”If we take a repressed homosexual as our thesis, the antithesis is when he or she realizes that sexual desire can be suppressed by will-power. The clash between desire and self-control leads to a synthesis, since with the power to control oneself comes also the ability to liberate oneself – to express desire deliberately rather than as a response to instinct. All being well, the result is new self-respect in which sexual preferences can be acted on without shame. This is probably not what Hegel had in mind when he conceived of the dialectic, but his method is nothing if not flexible.” Kate Bornstein described a similar process in coming to accept one's gender: "There's a myth in our culture that defines transsexuality as rare, and transsexuals as oddities. But nearly everyone has some sort of bone to pick with their own gender status...We're most of us – whether "transsexual" or not – dissatisfied. Some of us have less tolerance for the dissatisfaction, that's all. I accept the label transsexual as meaning only that I was dissatisfied with my given gender, and I acted to change it. I am transsexual by choice, not by pathology." In both cases, moving past the assumption of fatalism and embracing the idea of choice leads to a new self-respect.


"Being gay is not a choice." James Hormel. Special to CNN. Nov. 16, 2011.

Simon LeVay, in his book review, "'Evolution's Rainbow' by Joan Roughgarden." Accessed February 24, 2004.

Nicholas Fearn, How to Think Like a Philosopher. New York: Grove Press, 2001. p 120.

Kate Bornstein, Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us. NY: Vintage Books, 1994. p 118.

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