Ryan's Blog

Ryan Ebersole

Ryan Ebersole
Hattiesburg, Mississippi,
March 16
I'm Ryan Ebersole, and this is my first blog. I am a graduate student at the University of Southern Mississippi, studying counseling psychology. So far, I've managed to survive down here in Mississippi, although I've lived in Indiana, Texas, Illinois, Florida and Puerto Rico. Hopefully I add another state to that list soon! I'm hopelessly idealistic when it comes to my world view, although I try to approach it from a pragmatic view. However, I'd rather be wrong a lot then to give up my faith in humanity. As a gay man, I take the rights of my community very seriously. I hope to be a little mini-advocate; I want to spread news about my community in the hopes of growing support for our full equal rights. I also help to shed light on what ignorance can foster: anti-LGBTQA violence and pain. Ultimately, I'm a happy guy, with an odd sense of humor and a sense of ridiculousness. In the end, I just hope you read my blog! :)


Ryan Ebersole's Links

FEBRUARY 19, 2012 12:20PM

The "Choice" Myth of Human Sexuality

Rate: 3 Flag


Since the advent of the gay rights movement, gay and lesbian people have been bombarded by a myth: that their non-heterosexual sexual orientation is nothing more than a "choice" that they made. This myth promotes the notion that sexual minority people are either disordered or sexual deviants. It is propped up by rhetoric from arch-conservative politicians and religious leaders who use it to oppose equal rights for gays and lesbians. However, it flies in the face of scientific truth (and logic).

The myth that sexual orientation is a choice has been promulgated by right-wing Republicans and social Christian groups for years. This includes GOP candidates like Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. Santorum has referred to homosexuality as a "behavioral thing" that goes against "Biblical truth." Gingrich also views sexual orientation as a choice, saying that gays and lesbians should choose to be "celibate" if they can't be heterosexual. In their defense of the Defense of Marriage Act, House Republicans allege that homosexuality is not "an immutable characteristic; it is behavioral."

The right-wing Christian group "Focus on the Family" claims that gays and lesbians can change their sexual orientation, claiming that Biblical teaching holds homosexuality to be a violation of "God's intentional design for gender and sexuality." The Church of Latter Day Saints contends that while homosexuality or bisexuality may not be a conscious choice, it may be "treatable." The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops states that "homosexual inclinations" are "disordered."

The choice myth also fuels a pseudo-scientific practice known as "reparative therapy," which seeks to change a person's sexual orientation via methods such as prayer, medical treatments and counseling. Exodus International, a "reparative therapy" Christian ministry, promotes these efforts around the United States and the world. This group promotes the notion of "ex-gays," gays and lesbians who they claim changed their sexual orientation.

The American Psychological Association (APA) has thoroughly condemned these efforts as without any scientific support. The APA states that such practices are at the very least ineffective and futile, and can often cause harmful psychological distress for the victim.

Former leaders of the "ex-gay" movement have admitted that "reparative therapy" does not work. Some have apologized for their hateful and dishonest rhetoric and actions. They also acknowledged that none of their "clients" ever actually changed their sexual orientation. Alan Chambers, one of the leaders of Exodus, admitted that Exodus International was a fraudulent institution.

What do actual psychological and medical organizations say about homosexuality? According to the American Psychological Association, homosexuality is a normal variation of human sexuality that does not indicate any disorder. The association goes on to say that sexual orientation is a romantic, emotional, and physical attraction to members of the same, opposite, or both sexes. The American Psychiatric Association opposes any "reparative therapy" because it has no record of efficacy, and is based on the incorrect premise that homosexuality is a disorder.

What does scientific research say about sexual orientation? Brain image scans have yielded distinct, observable differences between the brains of heterosexuals and the brains of their gay and lesbian peers. Positron Emission Topography scans have indicated that the symmetry between brain lobes of gay men resembles those of heterosexual women. Researchers have also found that the amygdala (area of brain responsible for emotional learning) of gay men and straight women are similar, while the amygdala of straight men and lesbians are similar. According to Dr. Qazi Rahman, a professor of cognitive biology at Queen Mary University of London, these differences can only be formed during the fetal period, which indicates "if you are gay - you are born gay."

Another interesting distinction that has been observed is in finger digit ratio. The ratio between the index and ring finger has been linked to differences between homosexuals and heterosexuals. Lesbians and gay men tend to have observable differences in this ratio from their heterosexual counterparts. Digit length and ratio is determined in the womb by prenatal hormones. This evidence points to differences in prenatal hormone environments between gays, bisexuals and lesbians, and their heterosexual peers. Basically, there is nothing that can be done after a child is born that can alter these outcomes.

In fact, scientists have noted several inalterable physical differences between gays and lesbians and straights that cannot be explained by calling homosexuality a "choice." These include direction of one's hair whorl, pheromone preference, hypothalamic volume, and even penis size.

There is also something to be said for using logic when it comes to answering the question, "Do gays and lesbians choose their sexual orientation?" What would motivate such a choice? Is it exciting to be able to be legally fired for one's sexual orientation in 29 states? Is it cool to risk alienation and rejection from one's family and friends? How about the condemnation of many major religions? How about being bullied in school? When one applies logic and critical thinking, the answer to that question is a very easy and obvious "No."

So why, in the face of overwhelming evidence (and logic), do conservatives continue to spread the falsehood that sexual orientation is a choice? That is easy; it is for the same reason many of them compare homosexuality and bisexuality to negative behaviors like bestiality, incest and alcoholism - it helps them justify their opposition to basic civil rights and dignity for sexual minorities. It is much harder to blatantly discriminate if the characteristic in question is immutable, such as race or gender.


Photo: A couple exchanges civil union vows in Chicago, June 2, 2011, the first day that same-sex civil unions became legal in Illinois. PW photo.

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Or, it could be that they are at least having bi-sexual leanings which they choose to ignore and feel that if they can do it, so can everyone else.

Idiots abound. I am going to look up that finger ratio and hair whorl thing.

More people every day are admitting that love is love. Here's to more progress.
I'm totally with you here. I'm hetero, and I don't remember choosing that. I also can't imagine choosing something that goes against my natural feelings. I have to assume that the gay man or the lesbian woman is answering the call of nature just as I am when feeling attracted to women.

The religion intoxicated and the homophobes are so utterly wrong on this issue, just as the racists were wrong. History will give them the same wrong-side status that it gave the slaveholders and that it gave the Jim Crow anti-miscegenation anti-integration bigots.

I remember in my college days when California had a ballot initiative called the Briggs amendment, which was aimed at preventing homosexuals from teaching in public schools. This measure was opposed by non-other than Ronald Reagan, former governor and soon to be President. Mr. Reagan worked for decades in hollywood and must have known many openly gay people. And this is key it seems. I don't see how people can live and work and study and shop and play around gay people and still regard them as immoral or alien or unnatural or perverted.

I used to live in San Francisco, and when your neighbors are gay couples and when you sense the freedom of openly gay people in cafes and restaurants and grocery stores and shops and other daily interactions, you come to understand how many ways your daily life depends on and is enhanced by interactions with people who are gay. You can no longer deny that if gay people are anything, they are ultimately unavoidably absolutely human, and their skills and creativity and imagination and energy contributes to the social fabric as much or more than any straight person does.

I now live in a red state stripe along the eastern border of New Mexico, where we suffer from a substantial spillage of Texas culture across the border. This is Red State America, and I find my self occasionally noticing a waiter or waitress, or store clerk or other persons with whom I interact with publicly and who seem perhaps to be gay. But there is a reserve, a sense that any explicit sign of gayness is unspoken or understated or even intentionally hushed. I'm not claiming to have infallible instincts of so-called "gaydar", but I do feel that having lived in San Francisco I'm more sensitive to it and also more open to it than most people in this conservative area. I wonder how many of the social conservative majority around me actually know how often their daily lives depend on gay people, and how frequently they have positive and constructive interactions with homosexuals without even knowing it.

For many conservatives the bachanalian glittery celebration of flesh and sensuality that one sees in a pride parade is frightening or offensive. They just don't understand how much fun it can be if they let down their guard. But the more subtle forms of pride, the simple unaddorned everyday openness and the courage that requires is probably the strongest force behind the rapidly increasing acceptance of homosexuality as "normal" and human and real.
Wow this is pretty neat, I never really thought of it on a scientific level. Personally I always say love is love and who are we to get in the way of it.