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Opinion Piece

Born this way?

Originally published in the Sydney Star Observer, 15th October 2013

Josh Hutcherson, star of The Hunger Games, said to Out Magazine the other day:

“Maybe I could say right now I’m 100 percent straight. But who knows? In a fucking year, I could meet a guy and be like, ‘Whoa, I’m attracted to this person’…I really love women. But I think defining yourself as 100 percent anything is kind of near-sighted and close-minded.”

Hutcherson’s comments remind me of those made by Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon from a few years ago, when she said that her sexuality is a choice. Hutcherson’s comments are similar – the idea that he has agency around his sexuality – a sexuality that is fluid. Nixon’s comments received a barrage of outrage. Many argued that her comments gave fodder to homophobes who use the ‘sexuality is a choice’ argument to continue discrimination and keep open camps for ‘gay cures’. There hasn’t been a similar outrage to Hutcherson’s statement. In fact Perez Hilton, who hit out at Nixon hard, even wrote an excited column about Hutcherson’s statement (perhaps because he is a man). But his statement should reopen an important debate.

“We’re born this way!” This is the message we’ve been trying to sell to sell in anti-discrimination campaigns. We have to stop discrimination because we couldn’t choose the fate of homosexuality – we shouldn’t discriminate against what is ‘natural’. Of course many see and argue that our sexualities (however you define that) are set by biology. But the argument is also seen as a clever political tactic – a way to take away one attack bigots use against legal rights.

But it is really problematic. ‘Sexuality’, however you define it, isn’t set. It is a fluid, moving beast that flows in a range of different ways across different times – whether it our attraction to people of different sexes, attraction to different ‘types’ of people, or interest and experience in new sexual activities. “Born this way” sticks us into narrow boxes – telling us that our sexuality is set from day one. And in doing so it takes our agency – the ability to control our sexual choices and desires.

In political debates it also says that we only deserve liberation because of our biology. If we actively choose a sexual identity(s) and/or sexual experiences beyond the norm we can be discriminated against. In fact, we deserve to be discriminated against because we are going against what is ‘natural’.

The ‘born this way’ story needs to go. It not only takes away our agency around our sexuality, it also allows for discrimination against us when we try to use that agency. Sexuality is fluid in many ways, and we should be able to have an open and honest discussion about that.

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About Simon Copland

Simon Copland is a freelance writer and climate campaigner. In his spare time he plays rugby union and is a David Bowie fanatic. He is a regular columnist for the Sydney Star Observer, blogs at The Moonbat and tweets at @SimonCopland.

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