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Suzanna Walters, "The Medical Gayz" in The Tolerance Trap

Walters’ piece problematizes the ‘Born This Way’ narrative of contemporary LGBTQ rights movements, as she explains that such a narrative frames homosexuality as a biological or evolutionary problem to be solved. While suggesting that homosexuality is an immutable identity may galvanize public approval for gay rights issues, Walters argues, political expediency should not supersede legitimacy: to equate gayness with biology (rather than activity) is to uphold the very logic used to pathologize homosexuality. Walters notes that gay liberation activists in the ‘60s and ‘70s opposed this medicalization of gayness—for instance, they called for the removal of “homosexuality” from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. These activists were not interested in defining some origin of gayness; they strove to dismantle structures that marginalize queer acts and oppress queer people. But today, heteronormative science and sensational, un-nuanced reporting have corrupted LGBTQ activists’ discourse. Popular media rehash studies too invested in the supposed immutability of sexuality, then make matters worse by overstating conclusions and blurring the line between potentiality and determination. We can resist this idea of gayness as a “mystery to be solved” by rejecting ‘Born This Way’ discourse.

Jane Ward, "No One is Born Gay (Or Straight): Here are Five Reasons Why" at Feminist Pigs Blog

We draw from Jane Ward’s blog post, “No One is Born Gay (Or Straight),” which challenges us to understand desire as something we might “cultivate.” Ward resists sexual “choice” as a discursive alternative to sexual immutability since our “choices” are variably constructed and constrained, but she does suggest that desires change over time as we confront, study, and reject the ideas that limit them. We made use of a few of her concrete examples in our translation: for instance, we referenced her point that if we all believed sexuality were immutable, why would liberal parents fear that showing their kids too many LGBTQ books or TV shows would encourage them to explore homosexuality? Ward’s pithy, playful argument style proved very useful for our project.

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