Nope, still not a symptom

So, it seems that I’ve profaned the most sacred relic of heterosupremacism: the belief that straight people must have a greater claim to normalcy, and the rest of us can’t have it. It’s clear that questioning this assumption is crossing a serious line for some people. As if we needed any further indication that this only serves to stigmatize gay people, the proponents of this child abuse hypothesis are simply aghast at the suggestion that anyone might be straight because they were abused. Just think about the narrative they’ve constructed here. Not only is this not supported by evidence or by any credible psychological organizations, it’s apparently been crafted so as to operate in only one direction. To hear them tell it, child abuse can flip someone’s sexual orientation like a switch – but somehow, it only makes people gay. The possibility that it could turn someone straight is completely ruled out. Why? Yet again, it all comes back to the assumption that straight people must be normal and gay people must have something wrong with them.

What’s really funny about this – and by funny, I mean horrifying – is that in some parts of the world, there are men who think they can turn lesbians straight by raping them. They call it “corrective rape”, and it’s just another consequence of the farcical notion that sexual abuse affects sexual orientation. Almost anyone can see that this is insane. So why is their own pet theory supposed to be any more believable? Given the shocking prevalence of child abuse, this would predict that there should be a lot more gay people, especially lesbians. Where are they?

To their credit, some people remained at least partially grounded in reality and provided various studies showing that gay people were more frequently abused as children than straight people, but this still fails to show a relationship of cause and effect. When two variables are correlated, this isn’t enough to conclude that the first must be causing the second. It could be that the second is causing the first, or they’re both related to a third variable we haven’t identified. There are already countless studies showing that gay youth are more likely to be bullied, more likely to be depressed, more likely to be homeless, more likely to abuse drugs, more likely to attempt suicide, and more harshly punished for the same crimes. Would it be any surprise that they might also experience higher rates of child abuse?

Gay people are abused in many areas of their lives, and yet nobody says that being depressed or bullied or homeless causes people to be gay. So what makes this any different? It’s very suspicious that people would settle on an unproven causal relationship that specifically implies a pathological origin of homosexuality. Even with a very high estimate that one in three gay men were allegedly abused as children, this completely rules out that explanation for the other two-thirds. Where did they come from?

Others suggested that saying homosexuality is normal and not a disorder must mean taking some kind of anti-scientific position in opposition to research in this area. I don’t think that follows from this. There’s a difference between conducting actual, valid research into human sexuality, and promoting a demeaning folk tale about gay people with no basis in evidence. One of these is completely legitimate. The other is using scientific interest as a cover for being an asshole. Having reliable information about this is important – it helps us to be less wrong. And this is the kind of nonsense that proliferates when people either don’t have the relevant information, or choose to ignore it.

It’s ironic that these same people will insist that being straight doesn’t require any explanation, because it’s “normal”. Isn’t that the same incurious sentiment they would object to? Why shouldn’t they be just as interested in finding out what makes people straight? This is still an open question, and if we don’t know why people are gay, we don’t know why people are straight, either. Pretending that this line of inquiry doesn’t apply to heterosexuals just because you call them “normal” is only meant to grant them an unearned legitimacy that the rest of us are denied.

One of the most interesting claims I’ve heard is that regarding homosexuality as innate requires denying evolution. There are plenty of logical and empirical reasons why this makes no sense at all. First of all, sexual orientation doesn’t appear to be entirely genetic. Identical twins are more likely than fraternal twins to have the same sexual orientation, suggesting at least some genetic basis. But a significant portion of identical twins do not have a matching orientation, meaning that there must be another cause as well. It could be a congenital trait that’s influenced by hormone levels in the womb, as suggested by studies showing that men with more older brothers are increasingly more likely to be gay. Regardless of the causes at work, there are a number of overall physiological differences between the gay and straight populations, such as brain hemisphere proportion, responses to sex pheromones, the prevalence of left-handedness, the direction of hair whorls, and finger length ratios. This strongly suggests that sexual orientation is an innate, biological feature.

As for the evolutionary persistence of homosexuality, it’s possible that the contributing genes confer an additional benefit in carriers who don’t express the trait. For instance, the female relatives of gay men are likely to have more offspring than the relatives of straight men. Furthermore, it isn’t strictly necessary for you yourself to reproduce in order to promote the success of your genes. Gay people who don’t have any offspring of their own to care for may still be available to provide support for their own family members, and thus increase their chances of survival and reproduction. In this way, the genes that they share with their relatives are more likely to be successfully passed on. In addition, people who are bisexual may still reproduce, and even being gay doesn’t make you sterile. Sometimes things can happen, you know.

And even if there were no evolutionary explanations for homosexuality, this would do nothing to negate the evidence that it’s a congenital physical trait with a partially genetic basis. The absence of a confirmed evolutionary cause does not mean that acknowledging these facts entails rejecting evolution. That’s just an argument from ignorance. If you recognize the evidence for this, what sense would it make to dismiss the overwhelming evidence for evolution? You don’t deny reality because your model doesn’t fully account for it. You improve your model. It’s entirely possible that this is something we just haven’t figured out yet.

In any case, it’s obvious that the people who cling to these half-baked arguments are not genuinely interested in the facts of the matter. It’s only a barely plausible diversion that that allows them to keep using loaded language in a completely irrelevant way that has no relation to reality. “Abnormal”, “deviant”, “aberrant”, “disordered”, “dysfunctional”. These words aren’t being used in the interest of accuracy. People know what it implies when they talk about us like this. It paints us as diseased outcasts, the half-price dented soup cans of humanity. This is the work of people who want to treat our existence as fundamentally based on a sickness. It’s not just degrading, it’s dehumanizing. Am I supposed to believe they’re doing this in good faith? Please.