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Jul 24 2012

For the Last Time, You Can't "Turn" People Gay

Credit: Office Depot

Of all the pernicious myths about homosexuality that just won’t die in our society, the idea that it’s a “choice”–and, consequently, that it’s possible to “turn” people gay–is one of the most frustrating.

That myth got trotted out again in response to the announcement that Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation is partnering with Office Depot to create a line of back-to-school products that feature empowering messages. Part of the proceeds from the sales will go to the foundation, and Office Depot has also donated $1 million to it.

The products will be stuff like post-it notes, sharpies, and bracelets that say things like “Be Brave,” “Be Yourself,” “Be Involved,” “Be Accepting,” and so on. But for the Florida Family Association, which obviously had to take a stand against this because it has the word “family” in its name, they might as well say “Be Gay,” “Be Lesbian,” and “Be a Flaming Homosexual”:

Thousands of kids who might have otherwise worked through their pubescent sexual identity issues will be inspired to accept the wrong choice based upon this unscientific, emotionally charged propaganda.

What’s brave or kind about telling thousands of sexually frustrated teens that they were Born This Way when a high percentage of them would have ended up taking the straight heterosexual path for life?

Please urge Office Depot to rescind their one million dollar pledge to Lady Gaga’s Born this Way Foundation.

Let that sink in for a moment.

First of all, I would just love to know how telling kids to “be brave” and “be yourself” is somehow telling them to be gay. Are gay people more kind, brave, accepting, involved, and amazing? If so, sign me up!

Second, when are these people going to stop clinging to the idea that homosexuality is a choice? It’s ironic that they fling around words like “unscientific” when it is precisely their stance that is unscientific. Although some people have claimed that they choose homosexuality (for instance, the so-called political lesbians of the second-wave feminist movement and, more recently, Cynthia Nixon), most LGB folks seem to disagree.

In addition, the American Psychological Association–which may know a thing or two about psychology, I’m guessing–has written that “no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.”

A corollary to the idea that homosexuality is a choice is that homosexuality can therefore be “cured.” Gay conversion therapy is touted by many anti-gay conservatives, but it has been thoroughly discredited by science. Not only does it not work, but it can also be deeply harmful. The father of modern psychiatry himself has apologized for once backing it.

So, homosexuality is not a choice. It cannot be cured. Therefore, it follows that you cannot convince someone to become gay. Even if the Office Depot products did literally command kids to be gay like I joked, and even if they wanted to be, they still couldn’t just make themselves gay.

Third, I’m not sure why groups like FFA persist in believing that there’s any reason for anyone to choose to be gay. Have they looked around lately? Same-sex couples can’t get married in most states. LGBT people are still discriminated against in countless ways as they go about their daily lives. Crap like this is still believed by many people (it hurts to link to that page). Oh, and hey, read about this horrific assault on a gay woman in Nebraska, whose attackers carved slurs into her skin.

Fourth, the fact that these conservatives oppose not only same-sex rights but also anti-bullying measures, empowering campaigns like this one, and teaching kids that gay people aren’t Evil is very telling. Extremely telling. Specifically, what this tells me is that they believe that if bullying and hate crimes are a deterrent to homosexuality, then the ends justify the means.

This viewpoint should terrify you.

That is why, when an anti-bullying bill came up in Michigan, Republicans insisted that “religiously motivated” bullying be excluded. That is why Mitt Romney has consistently opposed anti-bullying legislation. They not only think that homosexuality is a choice, but that it is such a terrible choice that whatever verbal and physical abuse you suffer as a result is justified.

On a lighter note, if homosexuality is really something that “sexually frustrated teens” choose despite the prevailing stigma and discrimination that they will face (and despite, you know, the fact that they can’t choose it), perhaps there is something very awesome about homosexuality that the Republicans just won’t admit.

That, or they’re really just grasping at straws now.

For what it’s worth, I’ll be going to Office Depot as soon as I can and buying up as many of these things as would be reasonable.

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9 comments

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  1. 1
    Michael

    “will be inspired to accept the wrong choice based upon this unscientific, emotionally charged propaganda.” Said the group whose religion is pretty much nothing but unscientific, emotionally charged propaganda.

    1. 1.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      HAHA. These people have zero sense of irony.

  2. 2
    E (The Third Glance)

    Bah! People are really terrifying!

    1. I love rainbow markers. Must.get.some.soon! Thanks for sharing this :)

    2. When will they stop making every single “anti-bullying” thing about being gay? A lot of bullying happens because of any number of reasons, not just perceived sexual orientation. As someone who was taunted for being small, for being weird, for not socializing properly (autistic), for having short hair, for not wearing shorts, and for a number of other ridiculous things (including perceived but not specified “gayness”), I know bullying has many faces, most of them I’ve been lucky enough to escape. Please, stupid people at FFA, realize that it’s not all about “the ‘homosexuals’* trying to take over the world” (*term used only as a commentary), it’s about teaching your kids that a person is a person, and should be allowed to think and be the person they are. And should be supported to grow up into a strong, caring, accepting, wonderful adult, who gives back to their society when they are able. Because obviously, they’re not getting that lesson from you.

    3. There is not a single mention of “lgbt” or “gay” on the Born This Way Foundation’s mission statement or anything else. I do think their mission statement is missing something, though… “We care deeply about empowering youth and building a kinder and braver world for ALL people of ALL ages, races, religions, creeds, socioeconomic backgrounds, and sexual orientations.” – they need “ability” and perhaps a few others. But I think if I wrote them and suggested it, it would be included immediately. Hopefully by the time I’m back in a location where I can get to an office depot, these things will still exist! :)

    1. 2.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      Actually, I hate to tell you this, but from what I’ve read, conservatives do realize that bullying affects more than just LGBT people. They just think that everyone else needs to either “man up” and take it or learn how to fit in, too.

      Also, good point about the mission statement! I might try writing to them and see how they respond.

      1. 2.1.1
        E (The Third Glance)

        I wrote them a little note, and got the following response:
        Dear E—,

        Thank you so much for writing in with your beautiful and thoughtful message. I so appreciate your amendment to the mission statement that I’ve sent it to someone on the team to see if we might be able to add the world “ability” into it. No guarantees, but I wanted to let you know that I’m totally in agreement, and am looking to have that change made if possible.

        In the meantime, I’m so happy to hear that the Office Depot messages resonated with you! I just want to say that everyone here at the Foundation appreciates your kindness and bravery, and we all know that you were born beautiful.

        We hope you have a wonderful day, and thank you for helping to make this a kinder, braver world,

        Born This Way Foundation Team
        —————
        Thought you might appreciate it. :)

        1. 2.1.1.1
          Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

          Aww. this is very sweet.

  3. 3
    Hause

    I’m afraid this can’t be the ‘last time’. Certain psychological myths are just more tenacious than others, and this one in particular. Even psychology students believe that people’s sexual orientations can be changed through psychotherapy… Makes me wonder what can we do to dispel these myths? Get a celebrity to try changing his/her sexual orientation? Maybe that might work.

    1. 3.1
      t

      I am a Psychology student and I don’t personally know any other psych students that think you can change someone’s sexual orientation through psychotherapy. The only people I can think of that are psychology majors that would possibly think that are ones from very religious schools(of a religion that preaches homosexuality is wrong etc) that are themselves deeply religious.However they maybe able to get through undergrad like that but if they go to another school for grad school and that school is not religious they will be taught that it isn’t true.They may still personally believe it but in most states they will not be able to get a licensee to treat patients if they don’t go through certain training.Yes they are psychologists out there that parents take their gay kids to in order to “cure” them however they are an older generation.

  4. 4
    canbebitter

    What can I say but I KNOW RIGHT?! I’ve never understood the idea that someone would “choose” to be gay. With the constant threats of harassment and violence, and the denial of basic rights, how fucking good must gay sex be for people to want to bear what comes with it?!

  1. 5
    Born This Way Foundation: doing things right « The Third Glance

    [...] of the awesome bloggers I read, Miriam of Brute Reason, wrote a post touching on the fact that Lady Gaga’s Born this Way Foundation is partnering with Office Depot to [...]

  2. 6
    Why Homosexuality is Not Analogous to Murder » Brute Reason

    [...] public schools, and the reason why, even today, organizations like the Florida Family Association accuse Office Depot of turning kids gay by selling products saying things like “Be [...]

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