‘Born That Way’? Really?
Now this is interesting:
— Patrick Egan (@Patrick_J_Egan) June 10, 2017
Wait, I thought sexual orientation was innate–born that way, can’t be changed by education, etc. If so, why suddenly 15% young LGB in 2016? https://t.co/dLKmfJkN7U
— Damon Linker (@DamonLinker) June 10, 2017
Wait, so you mean not everybody is “born this way”? You mean that it’s not simply nature, but also nurture? I’m so confused.
Actually I’m not confused at all. The “truth” in this matter has always been “what works to advance the cause.”
But for those who want to grapple honestly with this issue, these data from Patrick Egan show pretty clearly that the nurturing that culture provides does make a big difference. Therefore, for communities who wish for their children to remain heterosexual, to form heterosexual marital unions, traditional families, etc., neutrality on the matter of sexuality will result in five to eight times as many people claiming homosexuality or bisexuality as would have otherwise been the case. (There have also been skyrocketing numbers of people claiming to be transgender.)
Sexuality is a lot more fluid than we think. For post-pubescent adolescents, teenagers, and young adults in their twenties, re-setting the boundaries of what is permissible resets the boundaries of what is thinkable, and for a meaningful number of them will change the way they behave.
Here’s what I mean. It must be that there are young people who experience homosexual desires as teenagers, but who do not act on them for reasons of religious belief or social custom. Later in life — in their twenties, say — their sexual desire solidifies as heterosexual, allowing them to form a stable marital bond with someone of the opposite sex, and start a family. Had they had the opportunity to experiment with homosexuality as a teenager, they might have remained confused and unstable well into adulthood.
Now, to be fair, it is also certainly true that in the past, people who did not experience sexual desire for those of the opposite sex felt compelled by custom or religious belief to marry, and who therefore formed an inherently unstable bond.
The argument (or at least a main argument) for normalizing homosexuality in general and legalizing gay marriage in particular is that it is unjust to compel people who are born with same-sex desire to live by traditional norms — norms that entail withholding from them the possibility to live as they desire. Therefore, the change is necessary as a matter of justice to the small minority.
The friend and reader of this blog who brought the Egan data to my attention writes:
I came around to supporting gay marriage in large part because of Andrew Sullivan’s argument that homosexuality is innate (in about 2 percent of the population) and it’s cruel to force people who can’t help their attractions to deny them, or to try to educate them away from those inclinations. Social conservatives said in reply, “Sexuality is more polymorphous than this; if you stop upholding a normative standard in favor of heterosexual marriage and child-rearing, kids will grow up to be far more confused. You’ll end up with far more ‘innately’ gay and bisexual kids, in other words.”
If nothing else, this seems to be another huge checkmark in the “SoCons” make pretty good predictions” column.
Exactly right. What we have now says there is virtually no sexual norm outside whatever one feels is right for them, right now. If one thinks that one would like to try out being gay, or bi, or the opposite gender, well, why not? One big problem with this, though, is: what about the kids? Social science has abundantly demonstrated that kids need stable homes in which to thrive. If issues of sexuality and gender identity remain fluid, it will be very difficult to create the kind of environment in which these young people can be formed in a healthy way.
Leave LGBT out of it for a moment. For heterosexuals, the Sexual Revolution, and the way it loosened sexual and marital norms, has left subsequent generations less stable. A professor at an Evangelical university told me a few years ago that he feared that most of his students will never be able to form stable, enduring families.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because they’ve never seen it modeled for them,” he responded.
He explained that a shocking number of the students at this Christian college come from broken family backgrounds. It’s not that they don’t want to be married and have children. It’s that they have not been given the social and psychological strengths that all of us need to hold our marriages and our families together against the scattering forces of modernity.
This should not be hard to understand. Marriage is not simply an agreement between two people who wish to formalize (and sacralize) their love for each other, but it is also a covenant between that couple and the entire community, which is expected to support them in the pilgrimage of marriage and family life. What we have been doing in the West for many decades now has been stripping individuals, couples, and their children of the social support they need to thrive. These Egan data, to me, further demonstrate how the project of emancipating sexual desire from traditional norms sets up younger people for lives of great instability.
These data also have implications for the widely held belief that sexual desire is like race: an unchosen aspect of one’s identity, for which one should not be penalized. If this were true, then ending segregation in the 1960s should have resulted in a massive increase in the number of black Americans. It did not, because Rachel Dolezal notwithstanding, there is no way to change one’s race. But the new data show that for a lot of people, it is possible to shift their identity on the basis of sexual desire.
I’m sure that most people who support full LGBT rights see no problem with this at all. If people want to experiment with same-sex relationships, gender fluidity, and so forth — hey, no problem. Individual liberty on this point is sacrosanct. OK, I get the reasoning. If you think there should be no ideal form of family or sexual expression, and that whatever one chooses is justified by the choice itself, this makes sense.
But look: traditionalists and their communities have solid data to bolster an argument against the normalization of LGBT. Greater tolerance — even celebration — in the broader society prompts latency to go active in a substantial number of people. Perhaps this confusion will resolve itself in time with these individuals, but even if so, you can’t get those years back, and you cannot undo the choices you will have made when you thought your true self was something else.
UPDATE: To be clear, I do not support forcing people who identify as gay into reparative therapy, or anything like it. And I also reaffirm my happiness that the closet is no longer a thing. What I object to is the idea that all sexual desire is equally moral. That last line is the orthodox Christian position.
UPDATE.2: Y’all who keep insisting in the comments that I believe you can “pray the gay away,” or otherwise have full control over one’s sexual desires, need to stop lying. I don’t believe that at all. Nor do I believe that one has no control at all over one’s sexual desires. I believe the articulation and direction of sexual desire emerges from some combination of nature and nurture.