Monday, March 19, 2012

Sexual Orientation, Race and the Continuum:

An Analogy Between Them Not Often Observed.

We very often see analogies made between sexual orientation and race. To make an analogy, by its nature, compares different things. The relevant question is how meaningful the difference between the compared things in the context presented. Is the distinction meaningful? Or is it a distinction without a difference? When debating the legitimacy of this particular analogy, the issue of "choice" emerges as a potential meaningful difference and contentious topic of debate.

The anti-gay side often asserts while race is completely unchosen, sexuality (which they reduce to sexual behavior) is completely chosen. That assertion rings self evidently false to gay folks and their friends and loved ones who know their sexual orientation is not, in any sense, chosen. They know they are attracted to the same sex as much as a typical heterosexual knows they are attracted to the opposite sex.

And then someone like Cynthia Nixon comes along and claims to have chosen her gayness.

What's going on here?

Best I can tell: Sexual orientation exists on a diverse continuum. Interestingly, race does as well. And this is one similarly between them I rarely if ever see noted.

Through no fault or no choice of their own, there are some folks who are really white, some who are really black and folks of every shade in between. Likewise, through no fault and no choice of their own some folks are perfectly homosexual, some are perfectly heterosexual and there are bisexuals all over the continuum.

And, in BOTH circumstances (sexual orientation AND race) it's the folks in the middle who have more of a meaningful choice as to how to define and understand their identity. The mixed race person can "pass" as white while the really black person cannot. Yet, the mixed race person also can choose to identify as black and not white or mixed race.

As it were, Ellen Degeneres, perfectly and purely homosexual, has less of a "choice" on the matter than Cynthia Nixon. Nixon, not uncommon for a female in a lesbian relationship, is somewhere on the bisexual continuum; but, like the mixed race person who chooses a "black" and not a "mixed race" identity, chooses a "gay" and not a "bi" identity.

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