“One should no more deplore homosexuality than left-handedness”
~Towards a Quaker View of Sex, 1964
Today was the day designated by PFLAG for parents to call Illinois State legislators to ask for their support on House Bill 5170 (Marriage Equality & Religious Freedom Act). I always approach these phone calls with a sense of dread. This is not something they want to discuss.
But, I do! So, with trepidation in my heart and anticipating rejection, I put on my I’m a mama bear persona and started calling.
I always ask to speak directly to the respective legislative leader. Of course, they are either at the State House, in an important meeting, or unavailable. They do not make access easy. So, after giving my name and address, I begin my speech to whoever is on the phone. I ask the person to encourage the legislator to support this important piece of legislation coming before the House because I am the parent of a gay son. I relay to the person that I believe my gay son is as deserving of equality under the law as his left-handed brother and that, for the life of me, I don’t understand why he is being discriminated against.
Usually, I don’t feel like my pleas make an impact, but today, it was the left-handed comment that garnered a response.
My State Senator’s receptionist didn’t know about this bill, and seemed genuinely confused about why I was calling. But, she stopped me when I told her my left-handed son had rights that my gay son did not. She said, “I have a left-handed grandson.” That opened the door, and I leapt right in. “How would you feel,” I asked, “if he were denied his rights based simply on his left-handedness?” Well, clearly she would not like that at all, and she even encouraged me. She said, “This is an on-going issue, and if one of my kids were gay, I’d do exactly what you’re doing!” Even more surprising, she promised to relay my message, especially the part about my left-handed son, to the Senator.
Although that phone call was short, I also managed to get in a few words about scientific research demonstrating that sexual orientation and sexual identity are established at birth; that it is not a choice.
And that is true. In his book, Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why, Neuroscientist Simon Lavay reports that there is a difference in brain structure between gay and straight men, and genes, hormones, and heredity may all play an important role in the determination of one’s sexual orientation and sexual identity.
It may seem Frankensteinish to think that genes can be isolated and then simply modified. It is definitely more complicated than that. It turns out that while sexuality is manifested in the hypothalamus of the brain, being gay or straight is not an isolated trait. The reality is that sexuality, like male-patterned baldness, may start out to be one way and gradually (or not so gradually) shift and become something completely different as a child grows and develops from childhood through to adulthood.
Lavay’s research, along with other reputed scientists both here and internationally have determined that homosexuality is found in over 1,500 species. In fact, 2 – 3% of domestic sheep have a sexual preference oriented to the same sex.
Lavay points out that society’s prejudicial views about sexual orientation and sexual identity not only revolve around biblical references, they are also deeply rooted in 19th Century psychiatry. Freud believed that homosexuals have “arrested development” among other issues. Other noted psychiatrists of the time refuted Freud’s postulations, but their theories didn’t seem to have quite the same cache’ and never attained Freud’s status or influence. Those alternative theories, in fact, were so defamed and maligned that Freud, until well into the 21st century, has stood as the preeminent authority on homosexuality.
More recent theories, especially with respect to women, are that traumatic sexual events occurred in childhood, thus steering an individual to same sex preference. Of course, many people who encounter opposite sex trauma do not become lesbians, so that theory is scientifically invalid.
Sexual orientation and sexual identity are, in reality, as complicated and as simple as being left-handed; there are biological reasons for this trait. But, Lavay also points out that choice or not, it’s really an issue of whether or not we, as a society, choose to treat this 3 – 5% of the population as second class citizens.
There was a time, of course, when being left handed was considered a curse (and if as a leftie you’ve ever tried to squeeze yourself into a right handed desk, pour from a right handed ladle, or use a pair of scissors you’ll know that’s right). But over the years, left-handedness, though still a relative rarity (only 7 - 10% of the population exhibits the trait) is no longer considered a deviance. Left-handed people in this country are granted the same rights as the other 90% of the population.
So, there is hope. And that is why I keep calling my Congressional leaders; because if the lefties of the world aren’t left out, equality for LGBTQ people is only “right.”
. . . And I’m just a mom who loves her son . . .
(Previously published in www.thequ.co)