In Defense of “Born This Way”: A Response
As some of you have no doubt noticed, AJ recently posted a rant about the phrase “born this way” and its kyriarchal implications.
I agree completely that the phrase is problematic and, in an ideal world, would not need to be used. Where I disagree, however, is in AJ’s assessment that now is the time to stop using it.
Because, to be blunt, his opinion reeks of the privilege of someone who has never had to live in an area where homophobia is rampant.
I wish I could, as AJ does, just say “fuck those people!” and ride off into the sunset. “Those people”, however, are not just some abstract concept, encountered only when they show up with bibles and ridiculous protest signs. “Those people” are my high school teachers and classmates, my neighbors, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, and, until very recently, my father. “Those people” are the reason I spent six years convincing myself that I had no attraction to men whatsoever, and those people are the reason I am currently absolutely terrified to act on that attraction. “Those people” are also my support structure and, as wrong as they are, they’re all I have.
The rhetoric of “born this way” convinced my father to switch his position from “I will disown any gay sons” to “I don’t understand it at all, and I’m not comfortable with it, but you guys are my kids and I will love you no matter what.” Without that shift, the thought of coming out to my parents would not have crossed my mind as an option.
The rhetoric of “born this way”, argued brilliantly by my class’ out-and-proud assistant principal, convinced my high school administration to allow the formation of a gay-straight alliance, which has since provided a safe space for four classes of LGBTIQ teens.
As problematic as it is, “born this way” has lead to a marked improvement in my own life and in the lives of countless others. It works. We know it works, because public opinion on gay rights is shifting in our favor and has been for some time. The fact that we ought not need to apologize for our attractions is something to worry about after existential concerns like bullying and child abuse are gone. Internalized prejudices rarely die before their hosts, but we can at the very least convince homophobes that we cannot just be prayed away. I’ll take tolerance now over compassion and understanding in some far-off, indeterminate future.
Disclaimer: I’m a 2 on the Kinsey scale who still hasn’t decided whether to identify as bi or “heteroflexible”. (Gods, I hate that word, but it’s useful.) My romantic options are not significantly hampered by only dating women. I have the ability to remain closeted to my family without much effort, something I am acutely aware that not everybody gets to do. I also do not have the privilege of being from a community that is at all accepting of homosexuality, though, and I still have some lingering doubt about my father, so please consider my decision to remain closeted thus far in it’s full context.