"Some people say that it isn't possible to choose to go straight again: Why not? What makes that different?"
I would not claim that it's impossible for anyone ever
to choose to turn straight again. I think that if a person has a good reason to believe that love or sex or both will be more enjoyable for them with a member of the opposite sex than it could ever be with any member of the same sex, that belief could plausibly make members of the same sex start seeming significantly less attractive.
I do think it's impossible under certain circumstances
to turn straight again. I believe that if a person's personal experience has given them good reason to believe that love or sex or both will be as enjoyable or more enjoyable for them with a member of the same sex, then no amount of believing it's a sin for them to enjoy it, or believing that they will be punished with discrimination and harassment for enjoying it, will make it possible for them to choose to be straight. I believe that feelings arise directly from beliefs: your feelings of attraction (either physical or romantic) will change if and only if your intellectual beliefs about what being with someone (either physically or romantically) will be like. And I don't believe you can just randomly choose to change your intellectual beliefs without actual supporting evidence to persuade you that your new beliefs are correct. I think that being able to randomly choose to believe things that are contrary to the evidence you have access to is pretty much the definition of being insane."Let's say there's a community where homosexuality is the norm. Would it be possible for some people to chose to be heterosexual, then? And if so, would they be able to go back to being gay?"
I think that if homosexuality were so much the norm that people were terrified of choosing heterosexuality and feared it would destroy their family relationships and so on, then in that society, more people would find it impossible to choose to be gay, because they would want it too desperately for reasons that would have more to do with fear of prejudice than with any actual belief that sex or love with a member of the same sex would really be enjoyable for them."And how many of you think that choosing heterosexuality is a boring choice?"
That wouldn't be my choice of words exactly, because I wasn't motivated to choose to be queer for the sake of making my life "interesting"; I would have really preferred to keep my life "boring," but I felt that it would be an act of immoral cowardice to remain mentally closed off to feeling same-sex attraction after I had begun to suspect that I was capable of learning to feel it and that there was no moral reason in the world why I shouldn't love someone of the same-sex back if someone of the same sex happened to love me.
All that said - yes, I suppose I do think that choosing heterosexuality would have been a boring choice - compared to both heterosexuality and bisexuality. That had nothing to do with causing me to choose queerness instead, though.
Also see my FAQ page
that addresses some of this same topic.
When people talk about choosing to be straight, usually that's about ex-gay folks, who usually aren't interested in romantic/sexual attraction to folks of the opposite sex as much as they are interested in the approval and privileges that come with being seen as straight. So in those circumstances, it doesn't seem like an attempt that is likely to suceed.
Additionally, I think that choice can lead someone to being attracted to a group of people, but I have a harder time seeing how choice could lead someone to not being attracted to a group of people who they had been attracted to. (Not that I don't think it's possible, just that I have a harder time seeing it from the vantage point of my own experience). If you're attracted to multiple genders, though, it's not hard to choose which attractions you act on.
As for heterosexuality being a boring choice? Boring doesn't seem like the right word. Monosexuality in general seems so limited to me. When you see the world in binary genders, everyone is a man or a woman in your eyes even if they aren't in their own. And that means that monosexuals still have a lot of options. I see so many genders these days, and now that my perception has expanded I could never turn that off. The idea of only being attracted to one gender, regardless of which, while living in a world that has dozens? That's not just boring, it's lonely.
I certainly don’t believe I could choose to be straight again. Personally
(I need to emphasise here that I’m only talking about my own journey), choosing to be queer meant choosing to learn what is beautiful and fascinating and desirable about my own sex. My attempts to stop seeing what is beautiful and fascinating and desirable in the opposite sex have always been abortive. So for me
, choosing to be queer means choosing to gain something, and to learn; unlearning something is much more difficult (and, in my opinion, quite pointless too!). As nodesignation
says above, once switched on, it isn’t something I feel I could switch off.
That said, everyone’s experience is different and I dare say that beliefs of the kind queerbychoice
mentions—beliefs about what relationships and/or sex might be like with other people—might polarise one’s desires. I don’t think it’ll happen to me, though.
By the way, I do sometimes jokingly refer to heterosexuality as a bit dull, but it’s usually to do with sour grapes. ;) I guess I do guiltily harbour the idea that bi/pansexuality is a more interesting, inclusive, exciting state to be in than monosexuality, but horses for courses, eh?
What makes this hard to answer is how these terms are used by different people in different situations. Many people feel that any kind of queerness, even a tiny bit, ever and always defines a person as queer for life. In queer circles, at least, 'straight' seems to be defined by behaviour only. Many gay people seem to feel that people really can't 'go back' though they can pretend, or act like it, or convince themselves.
In my mind, queerness in our culture is, more than anything else, a person's realisation of their fuller potential for affection and relationships. Since our society assumes we are all straight at birth until proven otherwise, we essentially are straight until something happens in our lives suggesting we might not be. That's a kind of awakening, an expansion. And while we might later decide it's not for us, I think it's pretty much impossible to constrict that expansion of mind and experience back to where it was before, short of real brain damage or severe brainwashing. (see: ex-gay ministries) To some degree, we remain 'queer' in mindset even if we either decide never to act on it, or that it's not for us, if it has ever seemed real and possible to us.
To answer your other questions, in a society where gay was the norm, straight would be the queer choice, which is what 'queer' means -- unusual, different. (Before being applied to attraction, it commonly referred to counterfeit money, and much longer than that meant anything outside normal expectations.) In the sense of queer choice, to choose to be straight in a gay society would entail the same struggle of personal identity and possibility over the normative standards and expectations of culture that realising a queer identity does in our current society where straight is the default.
Would that be boring? Not if it was queer to do so. In some parts of our country, just driving a different brand of pickup than everyone else is a bold assertion of choice. Also, doing what's right for yourself, regardless of social norms, should never be boring. Ideally, we're all looking for personal happiness, not the acceptance of everyone else around us.
I do find it interesting, and disappointing, that straight choice is often regarded as rebellious or somehow wrong in many queer societies. Where I grew up, bisexuality is very common and widely accepted all around, but where I live now, it's considered acceptable in straight society but somehow scandalous or shameful in queer society.
"Many people feel that any kind of queerness, even a tiny bit, ever and always defines a person as queer for life."
Yes - almost everyone in our culture except for the ex-gays seems to mostly conceptualize heterosexuality rather like virginity, as the state of never having experienced a particular thing (attraction or sex or whatever). For the ex-gays to claim to be ex-gay requires them to redefine the terms, and it's hard to see what the point is of them doing that when pretty much no one else - homophobic heterosexuals and queers alike - seems to accept their redefinition.
I agree with nodesignation
that it seems like it's probably easier to choose to learn to be attracted to an additional gender than to choose to unlearn an existing attraction. But I think that if one does manage to unlearn an existing attraction, telling one's friends that one has unlearned an attraction to the opposite sex is far more likely to be readily accepted and believed by one's friends (regardless of whether one's friends are heterosexual or queer themselves) than telling them that one has unlearned an attraction to the same sex.
I think it's possible for people to turn straight again. Just because you are gay at some point in your life doesn't necessarily mean that you will always be gay.
Personally I find that lifestyle compared to homosexuality boring but I may be incredibly biased :)
I know people whose circles of friends include loads of queers, are well versed in queer theory, and have even experimented with homosexuality, and still choose to be heterosexual. I would argue they are making a choice, as they are clearly considered the options without social pressure.
2011-07-17 07:01 am (UTC)
shape you own self
In theory one should be able to choose to be straight as well as choose to be gay. There are people who do it more out of fear than out of a sincere want and so that could explain why people fail at it. But I see no reason why someone can't unlearn an attraction whether it's opposite sex or same sex attraction as long as it's their choice and not someone externally pushing them into it. It probably sounds homophobic (or heterophobic) to some people to choose to unlearn an attraction but I don't think it is necessarily. It's just part of making that choice to be attracted to the same sex exclusively or the opposite sex. I realize that for many people that might be hard to understand because it's not their experience. But for some people it is their experience.
As someone else on here argued I think that many people choose to be straight all the time and deny same sex attraction. I'm not saying that it's wrong. It's just a fact that people deny homosexual attractions all the time. One could argue it isn't the best choice, but I don't deny that they're the ones ultimately responsible for making that choice and therefore for deciding the morality behind that choice as well. Where as other might decide to chose to deny heterosexual feelings for moral reasons or as a matter of taste or preference, what have you. A common theme among many lesbians is that they wanted to have deeper bonds with other women and felt it was a more moral choice to have same sex attraction for that reason. In our society women are taught to compete with each other rather than combine their energies. Choosing to be straight might be harder then because it might seem like a betrayal to the conviction you had in the first place, or a betrayal to yourself and your gender.
If homosexuality were the norm, I think someone could choose to be heterosexual as well. It might be more difficult because there is already a divide between men and women that makes relationships harder, and it would probably be even greater if the majority was gay. But some people might feel a moral need to bridge the gap between men and women in such a society where inter-gender love was not the norm, the same way women often feel that they need to bridge the gap between women in a society that places little value on women's relationships. Then choosing to be gay again might happen when they feel like they've accomplished what they set out to accomplish. Or maybe they just realized that they didn't like the differences between men and women and ultimately didn't want to bridge that gap.
I definitely think that choosing heterosexuality is a boring choice for someone who isn't really thinking about things, about what they care about, what turns them on, etc. If all they're doing is letting society dictate to them what they should do. That isn't to say that heterosexuality itself is boring, it's just boring to choose your sexuality for no real reason and without passion or attraction or conviction. I think it's an acceptable choice and many people are happy with that choice, but there are also those people who chose to be straight who deep down probably should be asking if they really want to be. I see the notion of being gay by choice empowering because it says that straight people don't need to be straight if they don't want to be. It isn't saying that being straight is wrong, but it's saying that you don't have to be "born that way" to start exploring same sex feelings and attractions. It's saying that you can be more deterministic about yourself and whom you want to become, and it gives you the authority you need to be attracted to the people whom you choose to be.