Let’s try a thought experiment I hope will demonstrate the trap that gay rights activists fall into when they insist that homosexuality is biologically determined, therefore cannot be altered by any treatment, and therefore should be acted on in order to be happy. Every one of these points, and the logical progression along them, is debatable. For now, however, let us take all of that as given. Here is the trap: if a condition is biologically-based, then it may also be treated biologically. In the end, describing homosexuality as a choice (not speaking of feelings here, but as a way to live) may be the best and safest refuge for those who wish to live this way.
I am pleased to announce here for the first time the invention of a new miracle of modern medicine, the Defabulator. It has a 90% success rate in removing homosexual feelings. After a few simple treatments, 90% of patients who describe themselves as gay no longer feel that way. They report being turned on exclusively by women and completely disgusted by the idea of gay sex, Kylie Minogue, and Capri pants. There are a few side effects seen in a some patients. They include reduced communication skills, extreme interest in sports, and loss of personal hygiene. Also, of the 10% without the positive outcome, 5% report an attraction to beetles. We think in time we will be able to work out these bugs. The remaining 5% reported no change except for momentary memory loss.
I am also pleased to announce that we are putting the finishing touches on a patented drug called Probutcherone. This drug is designed to be administered to infant boys during the crucial period 4-6 weeks after birth when the final cascade of sex hormones genderizes the brain. Safe and effective, this drug ensures that the normal hormone cascade happens as it should and ensures the emergence of gender concordant behavior in boys. Work has begun on the female equivalent as well, Anti-tomboynin.
After my mock press release, some questions to ponder. How should we decide to administer this treatment? Just because we can treat homosexuality, does it mean we should in all cases? Can we even answer that question scientifically? I think not. Through science we can only learn how to administer it for maximum effectiveness, what the side effects are and the risks involved. It cannot decide what level of risk is acceptable.
Who gets to decide who should undergo this treatment? Can parents compel their teenage son with a fascination with Judy Garland to undergo the treatments? Should insurance cover the procedure? Should we insist that convicted pedophiles be administered this treatment before they are released (even if most of them aren’t actually homosexual, it’s sure to be very popular politically)? If a gay man breaks up with his lover and is disillusioned with his further prospects in the gay world, should he be allowed to try it? Should we impose a waiting period on him, to make sure he really wants it? What if some mad fundamentalist scientist zaps everyone at the Pet Shop Boys concert with the Defabulator? Should we invent a Refabulator in case we want to reverse it, or in case some heterosexual men decide they want to “go gay” for a while?
It’ll be a long time, if ever, before such a devices exist. If it ever does, it probably won’t be 90% effective. It might only be 25% effective and improve from there. Ask yourself, how effective would it need to be before it’s worthwhile? How much risk would be acceptable? And remember, we allow people to undergo all kinds of medical procedures that have risks without necessarily having good reasons. Take cosmetic surgery for things like wrinkle reduction and breast enlargement. They are painful, not always effective, and can cause side effects including death, which seems extreme for procedures some consider frivolous. And yet, we still allow it.
More likely to be possible, though still far from certain, is something like the Probutcherone I describe above. It is probably easier to prevent the susceptibility to homosexuality than to cure it after it emerges full-blown. If my theory about the cause(s) of homosexuality is right and it’s frequently the result of a complex interaction between a cluster of biological traits and various macro- and micro-environmental factors, then the emergence of homosexual attraction could be prevented even if all those factors aren’t all well understood. Something as simple as a well-timed hormone shot–either at 8-12 weeks in the fetus or perhaps 4-6 months after birth–might ensure that the male brain is strongly masculinized. This would probably eliminate many of the sensitive, artistic, and unconventional types of men, including the majority of them who are heterosexual. As you can see, this opens an even more complicated and fraught can of worms, because if I am right, homosexuality is part of a cluster of many traits, some of which I think we all appreciate in society. On the other hand, some people who oppose treating homosexuality might not be opposed to preventing it. For instance, I remember Rosie O’Donnell saying once that if she had her choice, she wouldn’t choose for any of her children to be gay. (That statement automatically doesn’t mean she’d want to administer Probutcherone to her newborn kids, but she might.)
Interestingly, after loudly insisting that science proves homosexuality is innate and immutable, some gay activists are trying to prevent further research into homosexuality. The latest example is the brouhaha over Oregon State University’s study of “gay” sheep. It seems that Ennis and Jack aren’t the only ones going gay on Brokeback Mountain. There are a few rams up there who just aren’t that into ewe. Researchers are wondering why, in an attempt to improve yields in breeding stock. The simple ram has been caught in the thicket of modern politics and our obsession with “rights”, be they animal, gay, or in this case, both.
Some people say that homosexuality is just another variation like blue eyes, that its open practice has no moral or social implications. For them it is not an error, a disorder, or a deficiency. Others say it is an abomination–even just having the feelings–and it must be stamped out with all means necessary, because the very fate of civilization itself is threatened by the presence of homosexual desire.
Rather than debate the merits of either of these extreme points of view here (and I am somewhere in the middle) I would just like to say that at heart these questions are not scientific. And thank goodness for that. To attempt to answer the question scientifically is an abdication of our moral sense. If we insist on medicalizing homosexuality, then your lifestyle choice–whatever it is–is only safe until the next study is published. It forces all of us to become specialists in arcane scientific disciplines, and the poor scientists have the rest of us inserting ourselves into their debates, constantly looking over their shoulders. What “ought to be” is too large of a question to leave to scientists; we should all cast a vote in answering that question.
So we come back to choice. Why not just say that some people, however it happened, ended up gay and they would like to stay that way? Others have these feelings and don’t want to act on them–why not allow them to look for ways to accommodate their desires to their inclinations without belittling them or stuffing their heads with discouraging dubious statistics and armchair neuroscience? Let each one determine the course of his own life. Let each be free to show us the fruits of the course he has chosen. And leave the poor ram out of it.