By Jerry Javier
One day, shortly after school let out, I walked up to a table full of high school, and middle school students all waiting to get picked up. As I gathered by belonging from the crowded table I caught the end of a conversation which, at first seemed to be of no interest to me. I listened as a boy from the junior class informed everyone else at the table about how little he actually knew about human sexuality. He stated, “Well, gay people choose to be gay.” At that moment I was hit with the sad reminder that some people still think that being gay is a choice. Stunned, I asked, “Do you honestly think people would choose to be treated like second class citizens?” He replied, “Well, I don’t know how gay people think.” Not wanting to spend the next few minutes arguing with ignorance, I called over a young middle schooler who I knew had gay parents. I asked him, “Alex, do think your two dads both chose to be gay?” He replied with a confused look on his face, “What? Of course not. My dads were born gay. Duh!” After that nothing more needed to be said.
I am sometimes astounded when I remember that some people still think being gay is a choice. It’s like a slap in the face. When you are surrounding by people who are fairly progressive it can be easy to forget that there is an outside world that is full of people who are ignorant, and/or hateful. To anyone who is gay, lesbian, transgender, using their ability to understand others, or anything in between, it is obvious that being queer is not a choice. After all, who would deliberately become a target for hate? Who would deliberately put themselves in harm’s way? If being queer is a choice, then why aren’t there more straight people converting to homosexuality (that’s the gays’ ultimate agenda, right?). Many parents of LGBT children will tell you that they knew their child was queer, or “different”, from a very young age, long before our young minds could comprehend the ideas of human sexuality. My mother must have known I was gay when I insisted on spending $100 on makeup sets when my birthday finally arrived. How could the natural intuition of so many parents be so wrong about their own children? There are those who feel that the parents’ natural instincts amounts to nothing. It’s a choice after all. Unfortunately a greater understanding among everyone in our society takes time.
Some people might wonder why it even matters that some people think being gay is a choice. In fact, the ideology that teaches that gay people choose to be gay is very dangerous. It allows people to persecute the LGBT community based on the belief that their sexual sin, and queer ways are a choice. It enables people to justify their bigotry and hate with the belief that the “sin” LGBT people and all queer people commit isn’t a result of the way they were born. And if someone is choosing to do something “wrong”, then their actions are punishable. If those who use religion to justify bigotry acknowledged that LGBT people were born gay then they would have to entertain the idea that the LGBT community deserve equality, and civil rights, because the person they are is no a result of choice. How can you persecute a group of people for something that is innate? In the mind of the religious followers the beating, and bullying of LGBT people is justified because the gays are choosing this way of life, they are actively choosing to sin and go against God’s will, and that makes punishment okay.
While some people feel that being gay is a choice punishable by cruel beatings, others view it as sickness that can be cured. This view sometimes spares LGBT people from violent reactions. It can spare LGBT people from a punishment just like we spare mentally ill killers from the electric chair, because both are considered to be sick. Both are considered to have done something that was out of their control. But when you treat something as a sickness it isn’t any better. Those who are convinced that you could some how pray the gay away, and “cure” someone, are sadly mistaken. You can’t pay the gay away like a terminal illness. You can’t cure someone if there is nothing wrong with them. What’s worse, and it is very sad, is when an LGBT person begins to believe that the way there were born is a sign of sickness. It was very disconcerting when gay people stood up and testified against the legalization of gay marriage in Hawai‘i. It is saddening to see people who have been told so many times that their being is wrong. And it’s even worse when other LGBT people actively try and deny other their rights because they believe the horrid lies that have been fed to them.
When it comes down to the plain and simple, saying that people are gay, or queer, by choice is a way of justifying the harm that is done to these people. If they are doing something wrong by “choice” then it’s okay to punish them, right? People may not understand that people like myself were born this way. But, one day people will acknowledge that being gay isn’t a choice. LGBT people will no longer be in a panopticon that promotes scrutiny of a person’s being. They will no longer be able to justify hate. They would no longer be able to call those who are different sick, or evil; because there is nothing wrong with us.
Jerry Javier, an LGBT teenager born and raised in Puna, is a senior at the Hawaii Academy of Arts and Science. He is also an aspiring advocate for LGBT youth.