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Monday, May 14, 2012

Gay People Choose To Be Fired

Think Progress:
Q: Would you support a law that says you can’t fire someone for their sexual orientation -- Similar to protections for people on race or gender?

Republican Representative JAMES LANKFORD of Oklahoma: Well, you’re now dealing with behavior and I’m trying to figure out exactly what you’re trying to mean by that. Because you’re dealing with -- race and sexual preferences are two different things. One is a behavior-related and preference-related and one is something inherently -- skin color, something obvious, that kind of stuff. You don’t walk up to someone on the street and look at them and say, “Gay or straight?”
How about walking up to someone in the workplace and saying, "Gay or Straight?" and then, if they answer, "Gay," saying: "You're fired." What should we do about people who do that? That was, after all, the question, asshole. People aren't born bigots, they choose to be. What's your excuse? Love your flag pin, dude. Free dumb's on the march.


jimf said...

> > I’m trying to figure out exactly what you’re trying to mean by that. . .
> Free dumb's on the march.

Of course, as you well know, Representative Lankford's response uncontroversially
reflects the standard right-wing religious view of the matter (which tends to be
the GOP's view as well) that being gay is a choice.

And, of course, they're right in a sense -- to the extent that "gay" is
a **political** identification (and the word was chosen after all, out of all those
old-timey code words for queer, **precisely** to serve that function, as
Black did for Negroes, when the modern Gay Lib movements were formed
in 1970 in explicit analogy to the civil rights and anti-war movements),
then calling oneself "gay" **is** a choice.

Some "serious" religious conservatives -- the Mormons, for example --
are coming around to acknowledging that "Same-Sex Attraction" or
"Same-Gender Attraction" (SSA or SGA) is **not** a choice and probably
can't be eliminated, only not acted on or suppressed. Those folks
(and the reparative therapy folks -- NARTH, JONAH, Love Won Out,
Exodus, Evergreen, Journey Into Manhood, etc., etc.) **do not** use the word
gay for exactly that reason -- because "gay" is a deliberately (and **defiantly**)
chosen **identity**.

So Langford's answer makes perfect sense to those people -- Same Sex Attraction
may not be a reason to be fired (as long as you keep it "somewhere private
and out of my sight" as Sam said to Gollum), but choosing to be an
in-your-face "gay", and letting your employer and co-workers know about it
("I'm here, I'm queer, get over it.") **should** be a dismissable
(or excommunicable) offense, in their eyes.

YMMV. ;->

Dale Carrico said...

Aren't there things that can palpably BE a choice -- like conversion to some embattled religious affiliation, say -- which are nonetheless uncontroversially protected? I always found it interesting that in the days of DADT the essentially queer act was not sexual but declarative (a virgin who came out was discharged, but a person who found their way to a same-sex facilitated orgasm might not be), which does indeed suggest that the political dimension of queerness rather than, say, its metaphysical dimensions were always in play in homophobic institutional discourse. Of course, queerness is almost never if ever "chosen" (even if some complex nature/ nurture dynamic yields contingent historical performances of queerness -- camp is made not born, I doubt there is a leather daddy gene, and so on) and rarely pragmatically consequential, while of course anti-gay bigotry is always learned and almost never pragmatically justifiable, and that seems the crucial juxtaposition when it comes down to it.

jimf said...

> . . .of course anti-gay bigotry is always learned and almost never
> pragmatically justifiable. . .

You know, I'm not nearly as uncritically accepting of sociobiology (or
"evolutionary psychology" as we know it today) as I was a few decades
ago when I first read Dawkins' _The Selfish Gene_ and E. O. Wilson's
_On Human Nature_ (though I continue to believe that there's a lot of
sense in Donald Symon's 1979 _The Evolution of Human Sexuality_ ;-> ).

But I still think there may be something like a universal human bias against
gender-nonconforming, homosexual, or indeed any non-reproductive sexual (or
"unauthorized" reproductive sexual) behavior, especially in parents toward their
children, that makes sense in evo-psych terms. You know the drill -- human children
are damned expensive investments. They're only worth the trouble (in evo-psych terms)
if they're going to further perpetuate the gene-line. **Any** indication
that they're not going to "repay" the investment, particularly the kind
of non-gender-typical appearance and behavior that's going to make it hard
for them to attract (reproductively-relevant) sexual partners, or which
might indicate a lack of interest in (reproductively-relevant) sexual partners,
is not going to be welcome to parents and even other family members
(at least on some unconscious level, if not explicitly-codified in religious
and other cultural judgments).

Also, sexual gratification is an enormously powerful reinforcer (in behaviorist
terms), so it's a powerful resource for shaping and controlling behavior,
which must be rationed carefully, and not be wasted, from the point of view
of those wishing to control individual behavior (including the aforesaid
parents and other family members). For an individual of prime reproductive age,
being able to "steal" orgasms without having to marry a (reproductively-relevant)
partner, raise kids, etc., via e.g. masturbation and pornography, is like getting dessert
without having eaten your broccoli. (Even deliberately-childless heterosexual marriages
are anathema in most religious traditions, and remain in bad odor even
among the non-religious.)

All of this is, unsurprisingly, codified in many religions. But it's also
"codified" in the (at least initial) reaction of grief and disappointment,
and anger, felt even by liberal and open-minded parents upon receiving the
news that a child is gay.