It makes you look ignorant. It really does.
I understand that it seems to be a great argument, especially to counter the Religious Wrong. It puts the problem back on God’s doorstep: Blame Him. He made us this way
I understand how framing homosexuality as some kind of unfortunate accident of birth might seem strategically savvy, because it takes advantage of some of the (limited) progress this country has made in responding appropriately to people with disability.
And maybe you do believe that God made you that way, and maybe you do wish you weren’t gay, and maybe you experience your homosexuality as some kind of birth defect. Okay, if that’s your truth, then you should say, “I was born that way. I didn’t choose it. I wish I had been straight.”
But stop saying that all of us were born that way. It shows your lack of understanding of half of the human race, including half the population of homosexuals, as well as an abysmal ignorance of global, political, social, spiritual, biological, and economic realities.
I am, of course, talking about the women. Many lesbians do experience our lesbianism as a choice. Many lesbians have grounds to wonder who in their right minds would choose heterosexuality. And many of us find it problematic to make any assumptions about any women being “born heterosexual.”
So… is it a choice?
Here in the US, until the last century, women could not practice heterosexuality outside of marriage without extremely severe consequences. I am talking about the stigma of the notorious “fallen” or tragically “ruined” woman, with the searing rejection of out-of-wedlock children—often relinquished for adoption under economic, or religious, or social, or all-three pressures.
On the other hand, the socially sanctioned expression of heterosexuality—marriage—was a dangerous and degrading institution for women. In an era before birth control, women could not deny their husbands sex, and this could mean serial pregnancies for two decades or more… with the attendant toll on both psychological and physical health. It often meant too many children to protect or provide for. The rates for infant mortality were nearly as high as the rates for death in childbirth. Wives could be raped and beaten with impunity, could not inherit money, could not own their own wages, vote, serve on juries (critical factor in rape trials), could not own their children. Husbands could have insubordinate wives incarcerated indefinitely in mental asylums. This was still true through the middle of the twentieth century. It goes without saying she was expected to do the most low-paid and menial work.
The woman with enough self-esteem to insist on control of her body; the woman with dreams of creative, entrepreneurial, or intellectual work; and the woman whose childhood experiences of male sexuality were traumatic enough to preclude her fulfilling the obligations of the marriage bed had two choices: celibacy or lesbianism. Many women chose lesbianism. And many of these, not surprisingly, were women of achievement. Scratch around under the surface of these thousands of exceptional, historical spinsters, and you will usually find the lesbianism.
Many women have rarely, and still rarely, experience heterosexuality as a choice. It is instituted more as a regime, and a compulsory one at that. It is impossible to know whether or not women are really born heterosexual, since all women’s primary socialization for intimacy is same-sex, i.e. with our mothers; and then we are weaned away from that orientation by a never-ending barrage of aggressive narratives and images teaching us to desire men, even if they are animals (Beauty and the Beast), even if they live in an environment that is hostile to us (The Little Mermaid), and even if they have historically enslaved and exploited us (see above). This lifelong avalanche of propaganda is accompanied by sanctions against lesbianism that play out at all levels, from social censure to execution and incarceration. It is impossible to know if women are born heterosexual, or even if we choose it, when we might just be choosing a living wage, acceptance by our families, membership in our church, a career in the military, custody of our children, or having the career of our dreams. In many countries, women who sleep with men might just be choosing to stay alive.
There have always been women with pride, high moral principles, dignity, ambition, courage, and vision who chose and who still choose same-sex intimacy, because it is an empowering choice in a patriarchal culture.
The world has improved for women in the West… in some ways. In others, it has become a nightmare. Trafficking, pornography, prostitution are billion-dollar industries resulting in the exploitation and literal enslavement of millions of women and children. The entire culture has become inundated with pornography, so much so that stripper poles are used for aerobic exercise, popular music glorifies pimping, and girls’ fashions mimic clothing worn for soliciting sex.
Men in the US still make one-third more money than women. Men still rape and batter. Men still harass in the workplace. Men still outnumber women in media images five to one. Women are wildly underrepresented at all levels of government. It’s still very much a man’s world, at the expense of women’s safety, dignity, and independence.
Lesbianism is a proud and strategic choice for many of us, and we want people to understand that. We want women to know they have options. They can exercise choice over their desire. They don’t have accept their programming. And we want men to know that their violence against us is backfiring, that it is generating a spirit and a community of resistance and solidarity among women.