While a number of gay-rights activists might agree that homosexuality is a choice (the actress Anne Heche, Ellen Degeneres' lover, provides a notable and recent case in point), the gay-rights movement has traditionally taken great pains to argue that one does not choose to be gay, but is gay, by nature.
This is far from clear, and in my estimation will never be answered decisively by science, much less a social science like psychology. The issue is simply too value-laden, values that entail deep-seated moral assumptions about human nature, development, and well-being.This leads me to make a point found virtually nowhere in the mainstream media in the wake of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's recent comments about homosexuality being a sin: It is grossly unfair, as well as scientifically baseless, to describe as "homophobic" those who find the gay lifestyle objectionable, especially morally so.
Clearly, the term has a far more insidious connotation than the simplistic definitions found in our respective dictionaries. We all know it doesn't merely mean that one has a distaste or an aversion for gays or the gay lifestyle. It also carries with it the blatantly prejudicial and unwarranted assumption that those who find the gay lifestyle objectionable are somehow or other abnormal, mentally ill, or irrational themselves simply in virtue of their sincere moral belief. After all, the highly presumptuous thinking goes, homophobia is a clinical term, carrying the "objective" weight of psychological research.
Consider that for years the American Psychological Association viewed homosexuality as aberrant behavior, a sign of mental illness. And the APA changed its mind about homosexuality only after gay-rights activists forced a vote on the issue among the APA membership. Think about it: homosexuality going from the "abnormal" list to the "normal" list on a vote.
Lamentably and unfairly, the APA now essentially considers abnormal - "homophobic," to be precise - anyone who continues to view the gay lifestyle as objectionable. On a vote.
As many different polls will attest, this "anyone" involves a decisive majority of Americans who personally object to the homosexual lifestyle. And whatever else gay-rights activists might think of the political, moral or philosophical views of this majority - as well as of high-profile voices such as Senator Lott, the Family Research Council's Gary Bauer, Focus on the Family's James Dobson, or Empower America's William Bennett - they emphatically are not "homophobic" in the prevailing and presumptuously loaded sense of the term.
What they - we; yes, I'm coming out of the closet on this one - sincerely and generally believe is this: Homosexuality, unlike ethnicity, is ultimately a choice. It will never be like race or gender, genetically speaking, for race and gender are entirely genetically determined. One cannot choose to adopt or abandon, for example, her Asian origin.
Having the tendency, much less the right, to engage in some behavior - sexual, unnatural or otherwise - does not make it right.