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I get letters

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, January 16, 2012 13:42 EDT
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This one was particularly entertaining, from Sharon Kass, whose bigotry has blinded her to the point where she’s joined in on a vicious conservative attack on a 7-year-old who wants to join the Girl Scouts

Dear Ms. Marcotte:

No one is born “gay” or “transgender.”

These conditions arise as a result of faulty bonding and identification with the same-sex parent, starting in early life. They indicate deep-seated gender self-alienation (TG’s cross-identify with an opposite-sex figure), and are preventable and treatable.

The writings of well-known figures like Chastity Bono, James Morris, and Richard Raskind confirm this pattern.

Psychiatrist Richard Fitzgibbons’s articles “Gender Identity Disorder in Children” and “The Desire for a Sex Change” are instructive.

The Left has been lying to the public for decades, with false science and false argument. “Gays” are a manufactured “minority” used for political purposes.

The National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality has the real information (www.narth.com).

More and more Americans are learning the truth. GayScam, this fraud, will be ended. The laws will be adjusted accordingly.

–Sharon Kass Washington, D.C.

I responded:

Well, you weren’t born an asshole, either, but I still think it’s wrong to take your computer away.

And then, feeling like perhaps she doesn’t have the mental acuity to get the joke, I followed up with:

I’ll add that no one is born religious, either. That condition arises, often as in your case, because of a strong hatred in the heart that can’t be rationalized by real world evidence. So fantasies of gods and demons arise, giving the religious person justifications for their ugliness and irrational hatred, in this case of queer people. These fantasies are preventable, and treatable.

Since you appear to have blanket refusal for giving anyone rights for conditions they weren’t “born” with, to be consistent, you should work on banning the practice of religion. After all, the question of homosexuality or transgenderism being inherent at birth is still up in the air, but no one believes babies are born religious.

“Blame the mother” is an old, and thoroughly discredited theory. Quacks like to cling to it, often in all sorts of ways, for the same reason that anti-vaxxers talk vaguely about “toxins” in vaccines. The reason is that nearly anyone’s experiences can be framed this way, if need be. If your mom showed you affection as a child—and mothers are known to do t hat—and you were clingy and needy—I have rarely seen a child that is not—then a manipulative bigot can use that as “evidence” that you overly identified with your parent. Perversely, if your mother was actually distant or unaffectionate, that also can be used, as you’ll then be told that you were made clingier by lack of affection. Once you’ve determined that being queer is a “disease” with its roots in childhood, you’re able to exploit anything from even the most idyllic childhood and claim that as the cause. 

Ironically, Kass is not only wrong that “more and more” Americans are turning against gay people, but she has it completely backwards. As the real-world evidence piles in that being gay or transgendered is not inherently damaging, and certainly is not experienced as  ”choice” any more than being straight is, more and more Americans are coming around to support gay and transgender rights. This includes the American Psychological Association, which says

There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.

They also take this position on transgendered people:

Many transgender people do not experience their gender as distressing or disabling, which implies that identifying as transgender does not constitute a mental disorder. For these individuals, the significant problem is finding affordable resources, such as counseling, hormone therapy, medical procedures, and the social support necessary to freely express their gender identity and minimize discrimination. Many other obstacles may lead to distress, including a lack of acceptance within society, direct or indirect experiences with discrimination, or assault. These experiences may lead many transgender people to suffer with anxiety, depression, or related disorders at higher rates than nontransgender persons.

In other words, what psychological distress stems from being transgendered is not inherent to the state, but a result of bigotry. Anyone who claims to be concerned about the mental health of gay and transgendered people should respond, then, with acceptance. Like I said in the comments at the Girl Scouts post, I hear a lot of complaints from bigots about how they don’t like accepting people, but so far, I have not heard one give a substantive example of genuine damage to themselves that could occur by just accepting people for who they are. 

Sharp readers will notice that I didn’t engage in the debate over whether or not people are “born this way”. Empowering Lady Gaga lyrics aside, the reason is twofold. One, the evidence is sketchy for any claims about where queerness “comes” from, and in fact, many of us think that’s because we’re asking the wrong question. Asking where queerness “comes” from implies that cisgendered and straight is a baseline, and anything that differs from that is deviant and needs an explanation. I think of queerness like I do being left-handed: most people are right-handed, but some of us are left-handed. We don’t think of left-handed people as deviant so much as we accept that in any population of people, there’s going to be some diversity in orientation, as in personality.

The second reason is that it’s beside the point. My sense is that sexual orientation and gender identity are probably a mish-mash of genetic, environmental, and experiential influences, but even if you could somehow prove that it’s all experiential, so what? It doesn’t change the needs of queer people to get proper medical care, social acceptance, and legal rights. I don’t give a fuck about this “choice” argument. There is a small subset of the GLBT community that can legitimately be said to be making the “choice” to be at least perceived as gay: bisexual people who really could date either way but have chosen a same-sex partner. So what? I still don’t think they should face employment discrimination, being kicked out of community organizations, or being forced not to marry the person they love. It’s a completely moot argument, in the pragmatic sense. A lot of identities are partially social constructs, but we still recognize them as real and extend legal protections from discrimination. On the far end, you have religion, which is 100% a choice and completely a social construct, but religious people, in fact, enjoy many legal protections for their religion. On the other end of the spectrum, you have things like race and gender, which are socially constructed but often have easily recognizable physical markers that let people know “what” you are. Gayness is rightly perceived as closer to the race/gender side of the spectrum, since all available evidence shows that it’s mostly experienced as not a choice. But it doesn’t really matter to me; what matters is that it’s on the spectrum, and therefore people who are gay or transgendered deserve to be protected.

I’m taking the rest of the day off—though I’ll be on Twitter for the debates tonight—to honor MLK Day. Everyone should celebrate by getting some relaxing in. That said, I had to take the time to respond to someone who had the nerve to use this holiday to send off bigoted missives. 

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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