Politics & Policy

Gay by Genes or by Choice?

Brandon Ambrosino (Image via Google+)
Even asking the question in public stirs up a hornets’ nest.

Are gay people “born that way” or is it “a choice”? Who gives a damn?

Alas, even asking that first question really agitates some people — as liberal pundit Ezra Klein now knows. The Washington Post alumnus recently hired Brandon Ambrosino to write for his new website, vox.com. Ambrosino is a 28-year-old gay man. But that’s not good enough for the gay Left. Ambrosino, who attended the late Reverend Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, believes that choice may influence sexual orientation.

“Many people do feel as if their sexuality is something they were born with, and I have no reason to disbelieve them,” Ambrosino wrote on The New Republic’s website on January 28. “But as I and other queer persons will readily confirm, there are other factors informing our sexualities than simply our genetic codes.”


“Judging from the reaction, you might have thought Ezra had hired Rick Santorum,” wrote columnist Andrew Sullivan. As Robert Stacy McCain details on The American Spectator’s website, Ambrosino has become a heretic for not echoing the liberal “gay = DNA” incantation. A “rhetorical lynch mob,” in Sullivan’s words, has hunted down Ambrosino. His new position triggered such headlines as Slate’s: “Vox’s Unbelievably Terrible New Hire.” In an Americablog piece titled “Hipster Homophobia: Ezra Klein’s Vox hires Falwell-loving gay-bashing ‘gay,’” John Aravosis hisses that “Brandon Ambrosino is the Allen West of homosexuality. He’s your go-to guy, if your goal has nothing to do with finding a legitimate minority voice on the issue of the day.” Media Matters accused Ambrosino of “whitewashing anti-gay bigotry and discrimination.”

Too bad that this serious topic generates denunciation rather than dialogue. The root causes of sexuality deserve discussion and debate among Americans — gay, straight, and in between.

The gay-rights movement advances the “born gay” hypothesis. If gays pop out of wombs that way, the argument goes, equality will cascade forth like Iguazú. If being gay is a choice, however, the public and politicians will respond: “Eeeeeeeeew, gross! Shut up and get back in the closet!” Bye-bye, gay marriage. Hello again, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

It should have zero bearing on public policy whether people are gay by nature or because some concludeas a man might put it — “You know, on a 60–40 basis, I really want to love and sleep with men more than women. So, I hereby choose to be gay.” So long as this involves consenting adults and neither rape victims nor children (whereupon call 911!), it is nobody’s bloody business whether a given person is born to have sex with those of his or her own gender or eventually decides to do so.

In this and so many other spheres, government’s role should be what our Founding Fathers declared on July 4, 1776: to leave Americans free to pursue happiness. If same-sex relationships please certain grown-ups, it should make no difference whether they are propelled by chromosomes, choices, or both.

It is truly stunning that the same gay liberals who promote the highly fluid, all-inclusive, jaw-breaking LGBTQQI label (that is — inhale! — “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and intersex”) also claim that being any of the above is baked in the genetic cake. Period.

But if some people are “questioning,” presumably their answers entail at least a little volition. If not, why question one’s self? If some question their sexuality and then answer those queries and act upon the answers, are they the only ones who possess a scintilla of sexual wiggle room?

Transgender is just one of 56 (yes, fifty-six) gender options now available on Facebook. Other choices include cisgender, non-binary, and Two Spirit. If transgender people can choose to identify themselves as male when their bodies appear female — or the reverse — is it really beyond polite inquiry to posit that at least some other people sit down, run the numbers, and then decide, “Hey, I want to be gay!”? Indeed, if people so choose, isn’t that something that gay-rights advocates should celebrate?

If “intersex” is to sexual orientation what Chicago’s O’Hare Airport is to connecting flights, do intersexuals have a monopoly on deciding whether to board that metaphorical jet to Salt Lake City or to San Francisco?

I have met people who were so gay that they made Richard Simmons look like Sylvester Stallone. Other friends of mine are so straight that they make Arnold Schwarzenegger resemble Nathan Lane. And plenty of people are in between.

Some of these individuals were in heterosexual marriages until well into their 50s or 60s. Once heterosexuality had lost its allure for them, they entered same-sex relationships. Were they born gay, yet pretended to be straight while staying married and rearing children with opposite-sex spouses? Or were they born straight and then decided, “Enough is enough. I am retiring from heterosexuality and will be, now and forevermore, homosexual”?

Again, who cares? What is important is that they be happy and associate with other consenting adults who are happy to associate with them. Many believe that sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman violates the Bible and other sacred texts. That’s fine, so long as  those who believe that leave the judgment and consequences of such actions not to government but to the afterlife.

Furthermore, the idea that gay people must be “born that way” in order to assert equal rights is rubbish.

No known gene leads some blacks and some whites  to be romantically and sexually attracted to each other. Americans in interracial relationships enjoy every right available to every other citizen. They do so neither because they were “born to” date and marry interracially nor because they chose to do so. They enjoy those protections because they are adult Americans, in Thomas Jefferson’s words, “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” and “among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Some people choose to change religions. When Connie Chung steps into a synagogue or when Lawrence Kudlow walks into a Catholic church, no government agent ever asks, “Were you born into this faith, or was it a choice?” Instead, converts to Judaism, Catholicism, or no faith at all are free to observe whatever they wish, beneath the protective huppah of the First Amendment.

And what happens if and when scientists isolate the gay gene? YEEE-haw! Just a quick injection, and those same-sex double helices can be hammered into straight lines. What will the “It’s not a choice!” crowd say once that choice becomes widely available on an out-patient basis?

Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern bludgeoned Ambrosino mercilessly on March 13. The young writer, according to Stern, “simply spews free-form argle-bargle, as though he’s swinging a bat at a piñata that’s hanging from a different tree.” Stern thinks that “Ambrosino’s worldview, so far as he has one, is primarily comprised of crass opportunism and toxic narcissism. His writing is a quagmire of tedious ideas and sloppy prose.”

How strange, then, that Stern did not foam at the mouth when engaging the shortcomings of the “tedious idea” of “born that way.” Instead, just last June 28, Stern eloquently detailed why that concept could endanger living homosexuals and prove lethal for those yet unborn.

Stern cites University of Toronto professor Ray Blanchard. Very briefly, Blanchard’s complex research suggests that male homosexuality may result from a fetal chemical response to an antibody that appears in the wombs of some pregnant women who previously have delivered sons. “If Blanchard is right,” Stern explains, “then (at least some) gay people are indeed born gay, but there’s still something wrong with them. The hypothesis turns homosexuality into a birth defect. . . . That’s a toxic view, and one that must be abandoned.”

Stern raises a question that should chill gay-rights advocates and pro-lifers:

“What if in some cases sexuality is caused by an identifiable chemical process in the womb? What if, in other words, homosexuality can potentially be prevented?”

For all these reasons, gay Americans should spurn the “born that way” argument and instead say, “We are adults pursuing happiness, and that’s all you need to know.”

At its core, the gay Left’s “born that way” mantra springs from the notion that “No one would choose to be gay. We were born like this. So, please be nice to us.”

Imagine if the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had not stood up proudly and demanded equal rights as a U.S. citizen, period. Dr. King invoked the Constitution as the ultimate contract. He simply and elegantly asked America, Will you or won’t you honor your end of this agreement?

What if Dr. King instead had pleaded, “We didn’t decide to be Negroes. Who on Earth would choose that? We were born this way. So, please be nice to us.”

How pathetic that would have been!

Rather than moan, “We didn’t ask to be like this,” gays should insist on equal rights from a position of strength, simply by stating, “Yeah, I want to be with someone of my own sex. Maybe I was born this way. Maybe I made up my mind today over French toast. Maybe summa both. You gotta problem wit dat?”

Picture a young Robert De Niro saying those words, and you will visualize the posture from which gay rights should advance in America.

— Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.


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