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Is Being Gay a Choice?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Last week, Dr. Ben Carson stepped onto a political mine -- really, jumped onto it with both feet -- when he answered a question from CNN's Chris Cuomo about the nature of homosexuality. "You think being gay is a choice?" Cuomo asked Carson, after Carson rightly stated that being black and being gay are two very different phenomena. "Absolutely," replied Carson. He then went on to explain, "A lot of people who go into prison straight go into prison straight -- and when they come out, they're gay."


Carson's unstated line of reasoning is perfectly logical. When Cuomo asked Carson whether he thinks "being gay is a choice," Carson interpreted that question to mean: "Is homosexual behavior a choice." To that, the answer is obviously yes, since all non-reflexive behavior is essentially a choice. Cuomo, however, took his question to mean: "Is homosexual inclination a choice." To that, the answer is obviously no -- it is either a byproduct of biology or environment. Feelings, in other words, are not choices; it is possible that some feelings can be shaped by behavior, but as a general rule, feelings are not chosen. Behaviors, however, are chosen. Thus, being black -- a non-behavioral characteristic -- is not like being gay or being straight, in the sense that one cannot choose not to be black, while one chooses one's own sexual behavior.

The divide between Carson's understanding of "being gay" and Cuomo's understanding of the same term demonstrates the rhetorical slight-of-hand that has marked the gay rights movement. By conflating behavior with feeling, and calling it all "orientation," homosexual advocates have conflated biology with choice, and called it all biology.

And even they know that such conflation is a lie.

Take, for example, supposed gay spokesperson Dan Savage. He understands that homosexual behavior is a choice. He compared being gay to being religious: "Faith -- religious belief -- is not an immutable characteristic." He also compared being gay to "military service and marital status." This is logically correct. But Savage refused to acknowledge the implications of this line of thought, because doing so would force him to recognize that society often discriminates between those behaviors it finds productive and those it finds unproductive in terms of the law (military service, for example, is a protected class because we all benefit from the military service of others; being a member of Code Pink is not protected, because we do not all benefit from someone's membership in Code Pink). Instead, Savage fell back on his trademark vulgarity, telling Dr. Carson to "suck my d---." "If being gay is a choice, prove it," wrote Savage. "Choose it. Choose to be gay yourself."


That is an insipid argument; were the shoe on the other foot, Savage would have to demonstrate that being gay is involuntary by engaging in sexual behavior with every male he meets. Given his prior solicitation of Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and Herman Cain, that may well be his desire, but it's a rotten argument overall.

But arguments no longer matter. Logic no longer matters. Feelings matter. We intuitively understand that behavior defines us rather than feeling; no one would label a vegetarian a person who deplores meat-eating but chows down on steak every night. But when it comes to sexual behavior, we look to get ourselves off the hook: All sexual behavior is involuntary, so how can we be expected to make decisions about it? Hence the left's absurd lie during the Clinton era that everyone lies about sex; hence the asinine notion that chastity until marriage is an impossibility; hence the morally blind belief that societal pressure for sexual morality is discriminatory in the same sense that racism is discriminatory.

The result: No honest discussion can be had about the extent of human choice, the limits of human choice, and our own preferences among the choices human beings make. We are mere animals, forced by our firing neurons to act on each and every impulse. We have no choice. And those who say we do ought to perform oral sex on us.


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