Sunday, February 10, 2008

Reluctant Witness

Students of rhetoric know that a "reluctant witness" is someone who testifies to a position you wouldn't expect him or her to take. The August 27, 2007 issue of Mother Jones included an article, "Gay by Choice? The Science of Sexual Identity" by psychotherapist Gary Greenberg. It's amazing, really, to read such an article in a "progressive" magazine like Mother Jones (hence my reference to "reluctant witness"). Greenberg seriously entertains the notion that sexual orientation is much more fluid or "plastic" than glbtq activitists are inclined to allow.

Here's a telling section of the article: "...[A]s crucial as this consensus [i.e. that sexual orientation is inborn and immutable] has been to the struggle for gay rights, it may not be as sound as some might wish. While scientists have found intriguing biological differences between gay and straight people, the evidence so far stops well short of proving that we are born with a sexual orientation that we will have for life. Even more important, some research shows that sexual orientation is more fluid than we have come to think, that people, especially women, can and do move across customary sexual orientation boundaries, that there are ex-straights as well as ex-gays. Much of this research has stayed below the radar of the culture warriors, but reparative therapists are hoping to use it to enter the scientific mainstream and advocate for what they call the right of self-determination in matters of sexual orientation. If they are successful, gay activists may soon find themselves scrambling to make sense of a new scientific and political landscape."

The whole article is worth reading. Please note: Greenberg seems highly supportive of glbtq folks and not all that appreciative of religious arguments about homosexuality, which makes his conclusions all the more striking.

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