Bindel: Born this way?

Taken from this weekend’s Gay Pride event in London. Genetic pre-disposition or social conditioning/choice?

Julie Bindel, bete noir of the LGBT activists scene is back, having written an interesting book Straight Expectations, one chapter of which examines the question of the ‘gay gene’ and whether or not homosexuality is a choice.

I never got an opportunity to debate Bindel  in any of the same-sex marriage media debates much to my regret. I’d like to meet Julie, though no doubt she would vehemently disagree with me. She’s highly intelligent, feisty and ferocious and in my opinion one of the most challenging writers on the entire subject. Her writing is all the more compelling for the conservative Christian when one considers that she does not share or endorse our creed, particularly in the area of sexual ethics.

Out of every single opponent I was put up against, including Peter Tatchell, whose main response was to screech ‘bigot’ by way of retort, none of them seemed to match the intellect of Bindel, nor did their  arguments go beyond the whole ‘equality equals sameness’ schtick. Intermingled amongst the disappointment of not debating Julie, was a sense of relief in that her arguments offered a genuine critique of the institution of marriage as a whole – which is a deft re-frame.

No doubt she would consider Catholic ideology as batshit extreme and outrageous as I consider some of her radical feminism, however what both positions have in common is that they are, if nothing else, entirely reasoned and logical. One of my colleagues appeared on a few programmes with her, and said that though her overall position was outre, he also conceded that she was very good and did actually make some sound points.

My husband, who has no idea who’s who in the media and chattering classes sent me a text the other day, saying that he had listened to Start the Week on Radio 4 on his way into work and heard this woman, whose name he couldn’t recall, whose overall position he didn’t espouse, having some disastrous ideas, but who was, in his opinion, nonetheless interesting. He urged me to download the programme or listen on Iplayer as he thought it was absolutely fascinating. Having checked out the synopsis, it was indeed Bindel discussing her new book and he was right, she did make some excellent and compelling points. If nothing else, Bindel is always interesting.

The Independent has published an interview between the respected establishment gay male voice Patrick Strudwick and Bindel, in which Bindel steadfastly and robustly defends her point of view that being gay is a choice. The dislike, frustration and contempt emanating from Strudwick is palpable. He deliberately chooses loaded comparisons, referring to her as an “Old Testament Maven from Tennesse” thereby planting and reinforcing the Levitical laws cliche, neatly aligning Bindel’s views with the Deep South redneck caricature.

Strudwick attempts to dismiss the issue of why some people have a different sexual orientation as being irrelevant and a preoccupation of bigots, forgetting that human diversity will always hold fascination for scientists and athropologists alike. It’s not bigoted wondering if there is a biological or evolutionary reason for various difference and by and large it is those very same bigots who would fight vociferously for the rights of gay people to be born should a test ever be developed which could identify the gay gene or sexual orientation in utero.

Bindel’s definition of choice is complex – it certainly isn’t of the “I think I’ll be gay to be fashionable”, or picking a sexual identity off the shelf, if one were to apply the word in a consumer context.

“Because I think the opposite of having an innate, biological explanation [for homosexuality] – there’s no evidence for that – has to be some kind of choice, as well as some deep-rooted, embedded responses that developed through different experiences in our childhood.”

That would appear to make sense, twin studies, appear to demonstrate that there is some kind of biological root, while there may be some kind of genetic disposition, gay men share some genetic signatures on the X chromosome, this is not the whole story. Biological factors could perhaps be mediated by childhood experiences, according to one clinical psychologist. Another theory is that environmental factors outside our control could affect gene receptors, meaning that they are either triggered or switched off in certain people, which always goes some way to explain why some people can smoke and drink inordinate amounts and yet still live to a ripe old age, free of related cancers.

The interesting thing is that these biological factors only seem to have been prevalent in men; Bindel may well have a point when she talks about lesbianism being chosen, and she’s also correct not to want to lump those who do not subscribe to hetrosexual norms, (including asexual people) into one homogenous mass. which if nothing else, is a form of de-humanisation. Actress Cynthia Nixon made a similar point about her lesbianism being freely chosen a few years ago, but was forced and  shamed by the liberal media into making a later retraction.

The quest for knowledge is not in itself bigoted and neither is there evidence to suggest that the scientists who Bindel believes to be ‘obsessed’ with the question are necessarily pursuing an agenda, whether that’s to definitively confirm the presence of a gay gene, or to use the idea of choice as a stick with which to beat gay people.

Strudwick puts his finger on the nub of why Bindel arouses such horror amongst some of the gay community because he believes that he stance will give ‘bigots comfort and fuel their agenda’.

They will say that even a prominent gay-rights campaigner agrees that it’s a choice, I counter.

“But I don’t agree with them! They wouldn’t use an argument from me in a million years!”

Strudwick is right, up to a point, there are those, including myself who believes that the personal testimony of a lesbian woman bears weight and there does seem to be an innate biological difference between lesbian women and gay men. Anecdote is not the plural of data, but I can think of several lesbian women of my acquaintance who have embarked on relationships with women after long-term relationships with men and sadly in some cases, of women who have decided that they were lesbian or preferred women following traumatic childhood cases of sexual abuse by men.

I’d also be inclined to agree with Strudwick in his identification of biological differences, gender is not merely a social fluid construct as Bindel would contend. Gender theory relies solely on ideology not an any established scientific fact. Julie’s position is a political one.

Given the numerous accusations of ‘bigotry’ leveled at those who did not wish to see the law changed and have a new definition of marriage imposed upon us, my support of Bindel will reinforce Strudwick’s conviction and unease about Bindel’s opinions.

Strudwick would do well remember that the endorsement of those with ‘undesirable views’ of a certain position, doesn’t alter the facts at hand and shouldn’t be allowed to poison or close down the discussion. Society and the media must allow for the free exchange of ideas and ignore the fact that haters on both sides of the sexual conservatism/libertinism debate or culture wars will grasp whatever is available to fuel their prejudice. The issue of whether or not being gay is freely chosen or an involuntary one, down to biological factors alone will continue to intrigue people until its satisfactory resolution, which would appear to be some way off.

The mainstream debate about same-sex marriage did not in any way centre around the causes of homosexuality, it was rightly irrelevant. What was under discussion was the institution of marriage, not the behaviour of non-heterosexuals.

Even in Catholicism that most ‘bigoted’ of religions the issue  does not ever figure, the Catechism observes that it is is not known why people have a different sexual orientation, and in event everyone ought to be treated with the dignity and respect that they are due. Straight or gay everyone is urged to act with appropriate sexual restraint. Being straight does not mean that one has no other choice other than to have sex with those to whom you find yourself attracted. Having consensual sexual intercourse or indulging in sexual acts will, always be a choice.

What is missing however, is that personal choices of this nature are rarely straightforward and almost never made in a vaccum. It doesn’t really matter whether or not homosexuality is chosen, what should be recognised is that even if this is the case for some people, even if a tiny minority do make a conscious choice to be of a certain orientation, this is completely irrelevant. We don’t stigmatise and demonise post-abortive women on account of their choices, the same principles must be applied to the gay community.

For those wondering why a Catholic is writing about or endorsing a LGBT writer, the answer is pretty simple. You can’t reject a point of view with any credence unless you can engage with it critically. Julie Bindel offers a radical critique of LGBT culture from a unique perspective.

8 thoughts on “Bindel: Born this way?

  1. I have read the interview between Julie Bindel and Patrick Strudwick in the Independent and the thing that struck me most about Julie Bindel’s standpoint is that she describes what happened to her and how she ‘chose’ to be a lesbian, and then claims that as that was her experience then so it must be for all other lesbians and for all gay men. Hardly a balanced perspective. And in any case, most certainly not a scientific one. As a gay man, I cannot speak for lesbians, but I have yet to meet a gay man who is gay by ‘choice’ and the vast majority of gay man I know or whose testimony I have read, knew from early childhood that they were attracted to boys rather than girls (or in a number of cases realised that was what had been going on when they thought back years later). Bindel is wrong-headed on this matter; it is clear her views are going to be pounced on by people who have religious views that deny the individual human experience in preference for what they glean from their sacred texts but they cannot use her opinion as proof of anything.
    By the way, equal marriage is not a redefinition of marriage but at last an acknowledgement that two people of the same sex are as capable as people of opposite sexes of forming a marriage. We pay our taxes, we contribute to our communities and we look after our families. Ensuring equality as human beings and citizens of those who contribute is something all societies should do. If we had continued to allow only opposite sex people to marry then our society would have been imposing a religious interpretation of marriage on citizens thus perpetuating inequalities. Nothing, but nothing, prevents people from various religious traditions from continuing with their own view of marriage, but the state should not collude with them. And in any case, some religious traditions, such as the catholic one, do not recognise civil marriage anyway, so why the fuss?

  2. Hi! I’ve bookmarked your site and am impressed. However, I have a complaint (which I have made elsewhere to other excellent blogs and sites). Your latest blog post with the photo of ugly dog-like creatures comes up every time and it’s like being hit in the face with an evil-stick. I understand why the photo is there but perhaps you could hide it with a warning and a clickable link. Each day it comes up in my face. I’ve seen it and I didn’t want to the first time but I had no choice. Now I have to see it every time I view your blog. Yes, it’s horrible but I have to be careful about how much I view the evil in our society. I’ve seen pretty much everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) and know that it’s necessary for those who deny the reality to view these images. But what about those who have seen the evil before? Perhaps we should have the option to not view anymore? Can you see where I’m coming from? I’ve written to prolife sites that use photos of aborted babies or homosexuals kissing and I would like to be given the option of viewing these also – not forced into it until the news item or article slides down out of site. I’ve seen enough. But please continue your good work!

  3. I vehemently disagree with your last four paragraphs and feel that you should not be using the word “hater” at all. Who are you to call anyone a “hater”?

    1. Hi Damask Rose

      Reasoned and civil disagreement is of course more than acceptable 🙂

      Who am I to call anyone a hater? Well we’re all sinners of course, but I think it’s fair to describe people such as those within the Westboro Baptist Church as haters, along with some unpleasant people amongst the LGBT faction who have sought to make the debate high personal.

      Certainly I have experienced nothing but pure unadulterated hate from various contingents who have sought to shift the debate from the ideological to the personal.

      Best wishes

  4. ‘We don;t stigmatise or demonise…’ But you do. Why chose to highlight the public display of a very contentious and tiny minority of gay people one day in the whole year to make your point. It is exactly like making use of Westboro Baptists to represent all Christians.

  5. Dear blondpidge

    Thanks for replying. I’m sorry that you have put up with hateful comments especially if they have become personal in nature. Certainly, it seems that if a Catholic espouses orthodox teaching, they’re practically opening themselves up to taking flak. Especially those issues deemed controversial for ‘the world’.

    It just seems to me that using such a loaded word as ‘hater’, using this type of jargon in Catholic discussion, could lead to the word being used inevitably against Catholics. I suspect this is already the case. ‘Perspective’, perhaps ‘perspective’ is a better word? People have ‘perspectives’? It’s just that the word ‘hater’ conjures up images of the KKK, and so on, for me… I wouldn’t want for anyone to call me a ‘hater’.

    As for the four paragraphs I disagree with, well, I’m just too tired at the moment to dissect them and enter into a discourse with you about the content contained therein.

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