A few days ago I retweeted this meme about sexuality tweeted by @secularbloke:
Now, I should say that I think this image has a good point to make; it's pretty clear that sexuality is not a matter of choice, and it can be worth pointing out to people that nobody is ever accused of "choosing" to be straight.
However, I've written before about the dangers we run into when we miss the point on various controversial issues; for example, when we attempt to defend abortion with the "what if she was raped?" argument (as though there weren't plenty of other defences), or when we defend a person's actions, when they didn't do anything wrong anyway, by suggesting they may not have understood what they were doing.
I begin to think one or two of the arguments we make against homophobia may fall into the same trap. The meme above makes a good point, in response to the common (often, I suspect, rather disingenuous) misconception that being gay is a choice. Well, OK... but the question I think we're forgetting to ask ourselves is why would my sexuality be anything to do with you if it WERE a choice? The suggestion seems to be that if homophobes could be convinced that sexuality is not a choice they'll decide it's none of their business; I think this rather misses the more important point that, actually, it just is none of their business.
Although it's slightly less clear-cut, I think one might make a similar case for the common argument that homosexuality is "unnatural". It isn't, there's good evidence for that fact, and very arguably the pernicious myth that being gay is unnatural ought to be challenged... but I think we might make a parallel argument that actually, why would it matter if it were unnatural? Who cares whether it's natural?
Humans do all sorts of things that are "unnatural" and against our biological purposes. Never mind the arguments about gay marriage, marriage doesn't happen in nature; my condition of shackedupness is more "natural" than the marriages of religious people who disapprove of me. I use birth control which is not natural (as do the majority of people), but nobody seems to want to tell me that means I'm not allowed to have sex, or that I wouldn't be allowed to get married if I happened to want to.
What's "natural" about wearing clothes, or doing calculus, or playing rugby?
To feel hurt and to defend oneself when called "unnatural" is very... well, natural. But perhaps another point we should be just as keen to make is "what's so great about being natural anyway?".
By arguing that sexuality is not a choice, however rightly, we risk implying that if it WERE a choice we would be doing something wrong by being gay or bisexual. By arguing that being gay or bi is natural, however rightly, we risk implying that if it WERE unnatural we would be as guilty and repellent as our detractors suggest. The fact is that sexuality is nobody else's business, and would not be even if it were a matter of choice. People's sex lives are their own concern, and that is true whether what they want to do is considered "natural" or not. I'm not saying we should stop making the arguments we already do, I'm just saying there is a danger when we defend ourselves against one point that we might unconsciously be conceding another.