Yasmin Nair

"The Gay Gene Will Not Protect You"

Filed By Yasmin Nair | March 13, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Born This Way, Exodus International Ministries, gay gene, Lady Gaga

In the wake of Lady Gaga's new song "Born This Way," there have been several online discussions about the worth of arguing whether queers are biologically determined or not.

I think it's a pointless issue. Whether or not science supports one view or the other, it seems far more imperative to ask: why should biology be the determinant of anyone's right to live, have health care, gain citizenship, get and keep a job and so on (note that I don't include marriage on the list - that's not a right, it's a cultural prescription to which the state has added essential benefits because that is simply the easiest way for capitalism to function via the family unit. Read: taxes and sundry other benefits).

As some here have pointed out, making the argument for rights, however one frames them, on the basis of biology is politically expedient. It's an easy hook, and it allows us to tug at straight heartstrings.

But it has always struck me as a particularly heartless move even as it relies on pathos. The biology argument, taken to its logical end, suggests that we turn around to the Right or, for that matter, many on the so-called Left who also grant rights based on "nature," and tell them that it's okay to discriminate against, kill, maim, brutalize those who might be seen as "choosing to be this way."

What are we saying about those in our queer ranks whose lives defy prescriptive ideas about choice vs. nature - the genderqueers, the transgressives, the bisexuals, the polymorphously perverse, the polyamorous amongst us? Are we explicitly and implicitly saying, "Oy, see these ones over here? It's okay to beat the crap out of them. Just leave the rest of us chosen and biologically determined ones alone, okay?"

Relying so much on the argument of biology is also bound to bite us in the ass. Even hypothetically speaking: what would happen to us if science, one day, decided that queerness was chosen or that, at the very least, we operated on a sliding scale where neither choice nor biology were fixed and immutable ways of being. I suspect that the carefully constructed house of cards built up by mainstream gays and lesbians who run around earnestly assuring so-called "allies" that really, truly, we really just can't help ourselves, we're really born this way, would come tumbling down around their ears. And they would be left trying to come up with yet another way to prove themselves worthy of the most basic protections.

I don't see straights, who are fine with dipping their toes and other parts into experiments with sexuality, having to defend themselves on the grounds of biology. So why are we so obsessed with the idea that we deserve basic rights only if we can first prove that we were just "born this way"? Why can't we see that talking about being "born this way" also implies a deep and lingering shame about who we are, as if there's something dirty about being "this way," and that we should be merely tolerated? How is it that we place so much emphasis on the (mostly Western) ceremony of "coming out" - which is an enactment of choice - but refuse to even consider that maybe, just maybe, being a particular way isn't permanent or even entirely unconscious or biologically driven? What if desire were really some combination of biology and volition? What if we simply surrendered to the possibility that sexuality is a happily mad and maddening vortex of impulses that we will never really trace to some basic, biological instinct?

It also seems peculiar that gays and lesbians, of all people, should be so eager to embrace a biological explanation of who we are given the dark history of science trying to cure us through institutionalization and/or forcing and ripping apart our physical, biological brains and our minds. The efforts to reverse gayness continue today, with organizations like Exodus International trying to cure us. Instead of either laughing in the face of such idiocy or simply refusing to engage with them and instead ensuring that none of us are subject to their machinations, we choose to get down to their level, get on the defensive, and scream that we are, in fact, "born this way." Why does that even matter? Aren't we simply giving such groups more fodder for their hare-brained campaigns? Don't we have bigger and better issues to fight for? Like, you know, labor rights? Health care? Citizenship that's not simply based on whom you fuck and for how long in a "committed relationship"?

I was reminded of all this when I recently revisited a document I've read a few times in the past, and which seems especially relevant today. "The Gay Gene Will Not Protect You" can be found on the ACT-UP NY website, and it points out that "[e]arly sexologists supposedly proved 'scientifically' that there were genetically based physical differences between the sex organs of homosexuals and heterosexuals that justified - among other things - incarceration in mental hospitals" and that "[b]y 1914, to prevent the inheritance of disabilities, 12 states had laws using genetics to justify the sterilization of the developmentally disabled, the blind, the deaf, the 'deformed.'" None of this is new information, yet today's mainstream gays and lesbians persist in turning to scientific explanations to justify their very existence, wilfully forgetting that science has, in the past, chosen to try to obliterate us and other vulnerable populations. And can do so again.

I can't locate authorship or date - I'm guessing this was written sometime in the mid-to-late 80s and probably written collectively (if you know better, feel free to say so in the comments section). The piece was written for a booklet distributed anonymously during the 2005 NYC Pride. I don't agree with everything in it, especially the part about how "[q]ueers are the final front of unrestricted discrimination in America, prejudice everyone can agree on." I'm tired of this argument that queers are the most loathed minority; it assumes that racism and misogyny, for instance, have magically disappeared from our landscape, or that queers are always just queers and not raced or sexed or classed. - but I'll forgive the unfortunate words as borne of their time.

Overall, I find the document bracing and a necessary corrective to the bland rhetoric of "born this way" spouted by mainstream gays and lesbians and echoed in the vapid, do-nothing politics of Lady Gaga. On the latter: I think she's fine to dance to, and I wish that both she and her little monsters would realize that she's a pop star, and a highly manipulative and media-savvy one at that, not a revolutionary.

I want to be clear: I'm not against science per se, but "science" is not an essential and immutable, ah, science. Its history is riddled with the worst kind of exploitation of "scientific" facts and has led to the systematic and persistent torture of the most vulnerable among us: the mentally different/disabled, children, women, queers, racial and sexual minorities. When it comes to the issue of sexuality, I think it's time we stopped caring about whether or not people think we're born this way or not.

I suggest an alternative slogan: "I chose to be this way. And I don't give a fuck what you think."

My thanks to Ryan Conrad for reminding me of "The Gay Gene Will Not Protect You."


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I could not agree more, and I have been saying this for years. Why are people gay? It doesn't matter. Why do we feel compelled to search for scientific justification for our right to exist? And personally, I prefer to think of my love and marriage as a matter of the heart, not biology. I don't feel that my love is a choice, but I do regard it as a gift. And as the old adage goes about gift horses....ours is not to question why.

Thanks for posting.

"We Will Not Protect You" was made for NYC Pride in 2005, in a similar vein to the "Queers Read This" that was printed in the early 90's.

;)

Thanks, Ryan - my fault for missing that info (and I should have asked you that directly, ha).

:-D

Which then makes me think: that bit about the "final front of...discrimination" is even more indefensible in 2005.

...And the intersectionality fail Yasmin points out seems pretty similar to the one Cathy Cohen called out in that document.

Leigh Anne | March 13, 2011 4:53 PM

Two points:

Marriage existed before capitalism, and exists outside capitalism -- and in many forms.

If they ever found a gay gene -- or a trans gene -- and could test for it, elective abortion would be the way to go these days, not sterilization.

Oh Yasmin, you always know just what to say.

Paige Listerud | March 13, 2011 7:04 PM

Back in 1990, at the first North American Bisexual Conference, a lot of older, experienced (in activism) bisexuals were ready and rarin' go to on going beyond biological essentialism to defend open ended, non-monosexual desire. However, younger, more conservative or just out bisexuals who attended the conference were not comfortable with going beyond "born that way" defenses of sexuality. "I didn't choose to be bi" was the plaintive cry of those who emotionally and psychologically depended on it to feel good about themselves and couldn't see the downfall of relying on essentialism. I could see at the time that there was going to be a downward slide into the older, more conservative defense, mirroring what the lesbian and gay community had been saying for years. Sadly, I was right.

That's what happened to the radical promise of bisexual activism in the 90s. It's not that you can't find radical, confident and mature bi/pan/queer/fluid people who don't need to defend themselves that way anymore, it's just that the discourse from mainstream bi organizations pretty much follows the same mainstream LG strategy.

Basically, what I find distasteful is the method's inherent and overriding sex-phobia. It does nothing to disrupt the "choice=evil/choicelessness=innocent victim" on sexuality. I think Frank Kameny had it right the first time, "Gay is Good" and it's good even when you have other options, like opposite sex, intersex, transgender and genderqueer people to become sexually involved with. Even if 99.9% of lesbian and gay people didn't consciously choose to be gay, it's good to choose gay because there's nothing wrong/unnatural/evil about gay.

But the less radical LGBT don't want to go mainstream with that statement--it puts at risk everything they, and we, have fought for. Or so they believe. I have to say that I think mainstream America likes"innocent" victims, it doesn't like happy, proud, secure and shameless queer people asserting their rights. And like Carol Queen says, "In this culture, sex is guilty until proven innocent." Transforming the culture means transforming that nugget of toxic shame.

Very good. As usual Yasmin you are hitting the nail just right. I certainly have never seen my sexuality as victimizing me or as something with afflicted me. I am who I am. I would say that I am bi by birth and choice.

Overall I agree with you. Our rights ought not to depend on whether we were born this way, whether it was childhood conditioning or even whether we made a conscious choice at age...well...whatever...that being heterosexual was boring and it would be way more fun to subject ourselves to constant persecution.

One quibble: while you are certainly entitled to your opinion, and you needn't agree with me nor with anyone, the US Supreme Court, in Loving vs Virginia, opined that the right to marry is indeed a fundamental one. One should likewise have to right NOT to marry but the choice of marital status would seem like a fundamental right, regardless of which choice one makes.

Yasmin, I, too, have been saying this for years. You, of course, said it more articulately and with some wonderful support. Thank you for your voice and your eloquent response to this community issue. I have reposted and sent to all of my friends. This counterpoint must be expressed. Thanks again!

YES! You expressed how I feel about this concept much better than I've heard anyone else do. I wrote the following a few months ago. It echoes your "I don't give a fuck" statement.

This may sound strange coming from an ally, but I don't give a rat's ass whether gay people were born gay or not.

I love sixteenth century Mediterranean history. I don't know whether I was born to love sixteenth century Mediterranean history. I don't know whether there were aspects of my upbringing that *made* me love sixteenth century Mediterranean history. I don't CARE why I love sixteenth century Mediterranean history; I just love sixteenth century Mediterranean history.

There are no groups of people dedicated to proving that people like me love sixteenth century Mediterranean history because of some aspect of their upbringing. There are no organizations churning out reports purporting to prove that love of sixteenth century Mediterranean history is not genetic. And there are no Kool-Aid ranches dedicated to curing people like me of their love for sixteenth century Mediterranean history.

It's about as unreasonable to judge a gay person for being gay as it is to judge me for liking sixteenth century Mediterranean history. It's a non-starter. I'm relatively new to the advocacy game, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the whole argument is a distraction. Let's talk about something important, like why on earth anyone would abrogate a person's rights based on their sexuality. And don't come at me with religion, because this is a conversation about civil rights.

BornThisWay | March 13, 2011 9:26 PM

I can't speak for everyone, but I know damned well that I was born gay. And why does it matter? Because for decades, centuries possibly even millenia homophobes have been stating that we Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgendered folks choose to be who we are. While we might choose to accept who are, no one in their right mind would wake up one day and WANT to be part of the most hated, most discriminated against minority in America if not the world.

"As some here have pointed out, making the argument for rights, however one frames them, on the basis of biology is politically expedient. It's an easy hook, and it allows us to tug at straight heartstrings"

Exactly. Since Gays(I don't use the slanderous hate word "Queers") are born gay, much in the same way someone is born blonde, ginger or red headed, laws based on the assumption of choice need to be changed. Most gays know and most in the scientific community believe that someone's sexual orientation or gender identity is in born, something that is immutable and unchangeable. It's not like a light-switch one can flick on and off. In your case, you may have chosen to be whatever you define yourself as, but the overwhelming majority of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and transgendered folks didn't choose to wake up and endure endless hatred and stupidity.

"The biology argument, taken to its logical end, suggests that we turn around to the Right or, for that matter, many on the so-called Left who also grant rights based on "nature," and tell them that it's okay to discriminate against, kill, maim, brutalize those who might be seen as "choosing to be this way.""

Sorry but this is complete and utter BULLSHIT. Noone in the gay camp is suggesting that one's nature or one's choice gives liscense to discriminate, maim, brutalize or kill. Religion is a choice, for most people, noone is suggesting to kill them either for their choice of religions.

"What are we saying about those in our queer ranks whose lives defy prescriptive ideas about choice vs. nature - the genderqueers, the transgressives, the bisexuals, the polymorphously perverse, the polyamorous amongst us? Are we explicitly and implicitly saying, "Oy, see these ones over here? It's okay to beat the crap out of them. Just leave the rest of us chosen and biologically determined ones alone, okay?""

Who has said "leave the rest of us chosen and biologically determined ones alone?". YOU did, no one else. You're the one trying to divide the greater gay and lesbian community. To be honest, sexual fetishism, lifestyles, being perverted or polyamorous is NOT in any way shape form or fashion the same as sexual orientation or gender identity. It's like comparing being Black to being Communist, it's just not the same.

"Relying so much on the argument of biology is also bound to bite us in the ass. Even hypothetically speaking: what would happen to us if science, one day, decided that queerness was chosen or that, at the very least, we operated on a sliding scale where neither choice nor biology were fixed and immutable ways of being. I suspect that the carefully constructed house of cards built up by mainstream gays and lesbians who run around earnestly assuring so-called "allies" that really, truly, we really just can't help ourselves, we're really born this way, would come tumbling down around their ears. And they would be left trying to come up with yet another way to prove themselves worthy of the most basic protections."

"Queerness" is a choice, but one's homosexuality, bisexuality or gender identity is NOT. And contrary to your hypothetical scenario, psychology, pediatricts and medicine are all coming on board the nature camp in the nature vs nurture argument. It seems that the only folks who actually believe sexual orientation is a choice are either religious homophobes or extremist Queer theorists. Most gay people, including myself, KNOW that we didn't wake up one morning and choose to be gay. It's an absurd notion that anyone would wake up one day wanting to deal with life as a second class citizen.

" The efforts to reverse gayness continue today, with organizations like Exodus International trying to cure us. Instead of either laughing in the face of such idiocy or simply refusing to engage with them and instead ensuring that none of us are subject to their machinations, we choose to get down to their level, get on the defensive, and scream that we are, in fact, "born this way." Why does that even matter?"

In a perfect world it shouldn't matter, but it DOES MATTER. Exodus International and a host of other anti-gay concentration camps, do actual harm to their "patients". Children are forced by their parents into these mind fucking camps, and they're scarred for LIFE. Your twisted notions as of the rationale of why gays challenge these groups, is as perverse as any of the homophobic bigots we endure.

"the bland rhetoric of "born this way" spouted by mainstream gays and lesbians and echoed in the vapid, do-nothing politics of Lady Gaga."

Go FUCK YOURSELF. Who the hell are YOU to criticize Lady Gaga, you pathetic asshole?!?! Lady Gaga's song "Born this way" has saved lives. A young gay kid in Alabama, Mississippi, Utah or Saudi Arabia hears this song and hears the message of hope it contains and refrains from killing him/herself because of it. Lady Gaga might be a fleeting pop culture phenomenon, but who the hell are you to criticize? Who the hell has heard of Yasmine Nair? What is your contribution to keeping young gay kids alive, other than post-modernist, post-intelligent, post-Gay dribble?

"I suggest an alternative slogan: "I chose to be this way. And I don't give a fuck what you think.""

You might have chosen to be whatever you define yourself as, but I didn't. And even if you are among the worst possible writers, even if you choose to be "Queer" or "genderqueer" or polyamorous", you still have and should have your basic human rights respected. Yet your intention of trying to say that gays choose to be gay, fails miserably. Science has shown this to be dead wrong, whether it's the homophobes and ex-gays or the Queer Theorist crowd. Furthermore, your attack on Lady Gaga is way off base, as she has done more by bringing light to the strugles of young gays who are on the verge of killing themselves.

"No Matter Gay, Straight or Bi, Lesbian or Transgedered Life, you're on the right path baby, you were born to survive."

That line saved lives, and this is far more than anyone case say about any of your rants and writings.

I think the author's intent encompasses a much larger issue. That of choice versus nature and the inherent issues in relying on nature as the sole basis for ANY group's rights. That there needs to be more of a rationale/objective based approach to activism than I can't help it.

Paige Listerud | March 14, 2011 2:12 AM

I just want to include this little quote from Josef Meisinger, the Nazi head of the Third Reich office in charge of eliminating homosexuality and abortion when Hitler took over Germany:

"No one says to the police: you shouldn’t arrest this thief because he might have acquired kleptomania. Similarly, once we have recognized that a homosexual is an enemy of the state, we shan’t ask the police—and much less the Political Police—WHETHER HE HAS ACQUIRED HIS VICE OR WHETHER HE WAS BORN WITH IT. (emphasis mine) I should mention here that experience has shown beyond doubt that only a vanishingly small number of homosexuals have a truly homosexual inclination, that most of them by far have been quite normally active at one time or another and then turned to this area simply because they were sated with life’s pleasures or for various other reasons such as fear of venereal diseases. I should also say that, with firm education and order, and regulated labor, a great number of homosexuals who have come to the attention of the authorities have been taught to become useful members of the national community."

The far right fundamentalists of this country could care less whether you were born gay or not. They want your gayness to end, they want all evidence of it wiped out. They've explicitly said that how you feel is one thing, but your sexual activity is another. The ex-gay therapists (aka snake oil salesmen) don't care if you are born gay. As far as they are concerned, your feelings make not difference--you can be gay, gay, gay on the inside but you'd better be straight all the way in terms of your actions--or have no sex at all. If, under their drill, you happen to suppress your sexuality enough to marry a woman and have children, then you're cured. If you never settle down heterosexually and simply never have sex for the rest of your life--live in total celibacy--that is also a success story in their eyes, a "cure."

I sympathize with people who experience their sexuality as 100% gay because, really, the right is lying about your experience--and how terribly odious of them to claim to know more about you than you know yourself. However, that there are LGBTQ youths out there who would kill themselves if they didn't find some protection and comfort in the "born this way" mantra is more indicative of how thoroughly terrorized they are by this oppressive, homophobic culture.

If "born this way" helps some LGBTQ young people to live another day, terrific--but I advise against it being a psychological crutch or a political defense forever. Why? Because the Nazis don't care; because the far right Christofascists don't care.

As for bisexual, pansexual, queer and fluid sexuality folks--we don't have much leg to stand on with a "born this way" defense because acting on our sexuality, with people of different genders over our lifetime, is a choice. We already acknowledge through our identity that we have other options--biology has not painted us into a gay corner--and we are choosing to have them all.

When you can explain the culturally and historically situated (and contingent) diversity of gender and sexuality through "biology" then maybe you'd have some evidence on your side. Otherwise, it's just a case of Wester bio-medicine attempting to create a normality of cis heterosexuality, even if researchers have good intentions. As Anne Fausto-Sterling writes "This is, in fact, one of the very interesting thing about biological investigators. They use the infrequent to illuminate the common. The former they call abnormal, the latter normal. Often, as is the case for [John Money] and others in the medical world, the abnormal requires management. In the examples I discuss, management means conversion to the normal. Thus, we have a profound irony. Biologists and physicians use natural biological variation to define normality. Armed with this description, they set out to eliminate the natural variation that gave them their definitions in the first place." Here Fausto-Sterling is referring to the medical "treatment" of intersex infants. But this analysis applies equally well to the early medical and psychological studies and "treatment" of "homosexuals" "inverts" (and other sexual and gender "deviants"). Queer (which is actually a term, label and critique that many prefer) and trans people (note: transgendered is now generally taken to be improper or non-preferred usage; transgender works just fine) will always be the ones in need of explanation. Cisgender and hetero folks are the control group. Lucky for them.

But why does arguing for the freedom of sexual and gender expression seem to upset or frighten you? I think if you understood the real diversity in gender and sexual expression, you would see that sexual and gender identities (as well as relationship types and norms), are not essential and universal categories. That doesn't mean they are a bad thing. That just means there are limits to identity politics. Sexual expression and gender expression are a continual, active (when consensual) choice. And arguing for freedom in EXPRESSION, rather than tolerance or rights based on some inborn trait (which wouldn't cover those whose gender and/or sexual identity aren't included or validated by medical studies), would create a world more livable for all those who transgress the norms of gender, sexuality and relationships including those who fall out of the "gay, straight or bi, lesbian or [transgender] life."

Also, Yasmin is a great and informative writer. I always enjoy her pieces on this blog. I would read Yasmin over Lady Gaga's lyrics any day.

I have never based my arguments for my equal human rights on whether or not I was born queer. I do, as it happens, feel that I was born queer. I wasn't born Pagan, though, and my country's Charter of Rights guarantees me freedom from discrimination based on my religion.

Inversely, it's way too easy to argue that while sexual orientation may not be a choice, sexual behaviour and openly identifying are choices which can then be delegitimized.

"It is not a choice" has always smacked to me of "It's not our fault." But it isn't a fault. There is no need to explain the etiology of sexual orientation before we agree that queer people are equal to straight people, with a full claim to human dignity and respect.

(I recall a provocative argument brought by a straight ally, who said (paraphrased), "Suppose being gay is not a choice and that's the reason gay people shouldn't be discriminated against. Now, I'm straight; what if I simply chose to have sex with a dude one day just to see what it was like? Would it then be perfectly acceptable to discriminate against me for making that choice?")

Can I just say that while I wholly agree with what you are saying, "Born This Way" is not in fact about essentialism and biology and actually takes the complete opposite approach that you are expounding. The people at Gaga Stigmata have said it much better than I have. http://gagajournal.blogspot.com/2011/03/gagas-anaphase-gagas-sonogram-mirror.html

I think the very real proof is the line "Same DNA, but Born This Way"; thus implying that it is not biology, since it is the same DNA, but it is the act of being born This way.

Completely agree with Torkna.

While I 100% agree with the sentiments of this argument, I believe you've set up Gaga's "Born This Way" as a straw man. Gaga's song and project is not about pure essentialist identity justifying one's presence. In fact, in many interviews Gaga has spoken about redefining the concept of "being born," saying birth is an "infinite process," she can be born "many times," and it's also a performative gesture.

Check out this other Gaga Stigmata article:

http://gagajournal.blogspot.com/2011/03/from-fame-to-born-this-way-lady-gaga.html

This is a great discussion, but from the reading I've been doing many thinkers have moved beyond the nature/nurture binary.

I know it is still in mainstream culture so is both helpful and unhelpful towards ends of justice and respect, as exemplified by this discussion.

The nature/nurture binary seems to really be about responsibility and control. Are we abhorrent for choosing to be different or is it just that we can't help ourselves and so "normal" must be redefined? Embedded in the binary are notions of religious right and wrong as well as empowerment and determination. Even when one steps back and sees more of the nebula of factors influencing identity, lifestyle, being, and all that makes up the disciplines and streams of what it is to be us, it just comes down to ways of talking about ourselves that makes sense to us today.

This language caries weight, speaks to law and justice, and creates society, but in the end is more temporal than we are. We know who we are and whatever language or reasoning used there will always in injustice to fight.

John Gagon | March 14, 2011 1:47 PM

Nature/nuture arguments are primary example of false dichotomies. It can be both.

As a basis for rights, I agree with the one who mentioned Pagan religion, that like beliefs, our chosen identities should not be a matter of discrimination either. (harmful actions however can be which might prompt some to argue sex harmfulness).

When it comes to legal "crime" (sodomy was a crime until Lawrence vs Texas), choice implies "motive" and "preponderance" and all those things. Being that it's no longer criminal, the law won't worry about this and we're free to lump our identities more in line with our beliefs and character/core attributes as long as there's no harm/(damages in legalese) done.

Brad Bailey | March 14, 2011 9:42 AM

I'd say a lot of folks here have absolutely no idea of how the judicial system in this country works. Google "suspect class." Then you'll understand why being "born this way" is at the very heart of the matter. No civil rights have EVER been granted to any minority unless they fall into this category.

You can call this good, bad or whatever you want. But this is the way our justice system works. If you don't like it, write to your congressmen or your local paper and try to change it.

Bitching about it on Bilerico accomplishes squat.

I'd say a lot of folks here have absolutely no idea of how the judicial system in this country works. Google "suspect class." Then you'll understand why being "born this way" is at the very heart of the matter. No civil rights have EVER been granted to any minority unless they fall into this category. You can call this good, bad or whatever you want.

Well, there's religion and alienage. There are only four categories accepted as suspect classes requiring strict scrutiny and two are not based on characteristics one is born with. That's a far cry from "no civil rights have EVER...."

And while not recognized as suspect classes by the SCOTUS, age and status as a Vietnam veteran have often gotten people protections, and no one's born over 40 or a Vietnam vet.

I think I find the people defending this song funnier than the people offended by the lyrics.

Gaga wrote awful lyrics that make little sense. Even in the beginning - it doesn't matter if you like him or capital H-I-M - we start out with, um, really? Someone on another thread said that line is about God/Jesus, with the capital-H, forgetting that Gaga originally texted the lyric with all three letters being capitalized, and said that it means that it shouldn't matter if one is Christian or gay. Leaving aside the fact that a woman loving "him" isn't going to be read as gay, is a song about Christians vs. gays really all that productive?

And then I'm left thinking - why did I waste energy on lyrics that probably took Gaga all of 8 minutes to write? Visit tornka's link and I'm sure you'll be all like "OMG, this is why Western Civilization is dying. Smart people became too stupid."

Someone did a parody illustration of this song and wrote "I Eat Corn This Way." The intent was probably just to be cute, but it made the point perfectly clear to me - Gaga could have sung "I eat corn this way," called it a gay anthem, and millions of her fans would have bought it and whined if anyone pointed out that the lyrics are dumb.

And the message would be better, though, since corn is nutritious. More fiber for the little monsters! I eat corn this way!

FYI, I've seen it written as "HIM" in some religious writings, along with all-caps renditions of "The LORD" and "GOD."

Whatever you think about the song itself or the quality of the lyrics, it's making a pretty big impact -- I'm already hearing it in the gay clubs in New York, and even Chuck Colson has denounced it. I've said before and I'll say again -- the whole point of the song is that it's okay to be who you are, and if I had heard it when I was 13 or 14, I probably would have been a much happier teenager.

But what, exactly, do all these criticisms of Lady Gaga songs or the It Gets Better Project actually accomplish? All I really see are a bunch of nitpicking, nay-saying attacks.

To put it frankly, what is your problem? Is this some sort of identity politics bullshit, where you won't be satisfied with an IGBP video or "Born This Way"-type song unless it's made by a wheelchair-bound, black, bisexual genderqueer? Or are you just the kinds of people who feel this need to criticize everything around you for the sake of it? Or does the fact that Lady Gaga is getting all this attention and having all this influence just make you jealous?

Studies however show that people are more tolerant when the underlying belief is biological. References available upon request.

So, what if my identity is very affirmatively biological like race? To me, it's almost like another axis or dimension to my race. Much like the culture of certain Syndromes or Deafness. We don't take issue with race being genetic. I think we take issue most with Jimmy the Greek kinds of arguments stemming from biology.

I still appreciate where you are coming from. It shouldn't matter but as for myself, I already know. It's irrefutably biological (even if not 100% genetic determinable) duh. Are we really that slow to keep up? Also, we sorta did kinda evolve from apes. Just saying.

John Gagon | March 14, 2011 1:31 PM

I think however that this article addresses, without denying the science per se, it's *use* as an argument for rights. When it comes to argument, I think anything convincingly written will help. My own person is not representative of an entire group so I forgo that judgement. I think this article was very well written.

I'm not saying I buy *any* argument that being LGBT is a choice, but I think we're missing a great opportunity to say to the choicers that, if being LGBT is a "choice," it is one that needs to be protected; much like the choice to practice your religion, put your kids in private school, drive a gas-guzzling, environment-destroying luxury SUV, or get divorced 3 times.

This is America; we declared the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness at our nation's inception. If one person's "pursuit of happiness" involves cruising the gym, so be it.

Yasmin thank you. You are singing my song. Saying "I was born this way" is sucking up to the Christvestites and hiding behind the "God doesn't make mistakes" skirt. Going there tosses some people under the bus.

My position has always been "it is my life and my body and God gave me free will". I happen to be an Evangelical Christian and when faced with abusive attitudes from those who want to wrap themselves in Christian clothing while condemning others I point them to Romans 2:1 where Paul states outright "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things."

I also have never bought into the crap of "love the sinner, hate the sin". That bit of Christology is patently absurd IMHO. Its about like the old joke of "I like black people, I think everyone should own one". As offensive as that "joke" has always been it was actually acceptable to some cretins in the south during the civil rights marches not many decades ago.

I like Lady Gaga and think she is doing some wonderful things. At the same time I don't want any human rights to be predicated on "birth conditions" because being alive in a human body should be enough.

This is somewhat tangential but nonetheless important to note: a right to a job or to citizenship is no less questionable than a right to marriage. Each is "a cultural prescription to which the state has added essential benefits because that is simply the easiest way for capitalism to function." A "job" is a particular, highly contingent (and coercive) way of organizing the way critters like us transform our environment. "Citizenship" is a particular, highly contingent (and coercive) way of regulating who gets to reside where and under what conditions. Both institutions are no less functional under capitalism than marriage. When we assert an inalienable right to these, we end up (as in the case of marriage) asserting a right to our own repression.

ShipofFools | March 19, 2011 8:07 PM

The German gay rights movement around Dr Magnus Hirschfeld (about 1900-early 1930s) has tried to make homosexuality legal by using the biology argument too. For a while it looked like they would succeed. Then the nazis came to power and used the exact same argument to kill gay people as degenerates.
There are already people today who treat embryos in utero who might have a mild intersex condition because it increases the "risk" that the child might become a lesbian. Do you seriously believe that these people would stop at "curing" born homosexuals if they knew how?

Brad Bailey | March 20, 2011 12:20 AM

Actually, there are many more than four. Here are some more criteria used by the SCOTUS:
*The group has historically been discriminated against, and/or have been subject to prejudice, hostility, and/or stigma, perhaps due, at least in part, to stereotypes.
*The group is a "discrete" and "insular" minority
*They possess an immutable and/or highly visible trait.
*They are powerless to protect themselves via the political process.

So with all due respect, I repeat: no minority has EVER been granted civil rights by the government unless they fall into the category of suspect class.