Written by Christina T. Saenz
Many of my Latino friends are usually surprised to learn that I don’t care if sexuality is biological or not. When I tell them that I don’t care, they accuse me of being a right-winger or being anti-gay rights but little do they realize that their obsession over the search for “gay genes” actually slaps the face of civil rights. These are Latinos that I consider progressives, because they believe in the repeal of DADT, legalization of gay marriage, and LGBT hate crime legislation. I honestly do not care if gayness is in our genes or in our mind. I will even go so far to say that the “biology” argument for why gays should have equal rights is a dangerous line of reasoning for LGBT rights.
What would happen if we discovered that same-sex sexual preferences were in our DNA? Let’s say that we found a man who engages in same-sex sexual activity and loves another man, but he does not have the “gay gene.” What would this mean? Would he get denied his right to marry or have sex with another man because he went against his “nature”? Conversely, what would happen if we discovered that there are no gay genes? Should we continue to deny people their rights to have sex and marry whom they choose because it is not in their “genetic nature?” Let’s say that we discovered that lesbianism is genetic, but male gayness is not. Would lesbians have the right to marry and gay men would not? Would the sex police go around to people’s bedrooms, ask to take hair samples, test for people’s gay or straight genes, and make sure that we have sex with whom accordingly? The supposed biological or choice aspect of sexuality does not matter. Besides, the whole debate is about equal rights under the law and not about why people chose or not choose a gender for sexual relationships.
The “biology” argument for equal rights has always been a dangerous one for oppressed groups. Latinos, blacks, and women were denied their rights to vote, employment, etc, because they were perceived to be genetically inferior. We have to remember that, as Latinos, we were told by academics like the authors of The Bell Curve that affirmative action programs, federal moneys, poverty reduction, and better schools would never help us to get an education. In their view, our biology was destiny for why we were genetically “dumber” and would fail out of college anyway. What about this recent governmental study that shows Hispanics outlive whites by two years despite being more uninsured and living in poorer conditions? I am already seeing the arguments that Latinos don’t need healthcare reform, because they are biologically equipped to withstand not having insurance. These types of “genetic” arguments serve to oppress people and to put them in simplistic categories that have grave implications for those who do not fit. Even when these “genetic” arguments may be seen to be helpful and positive, they are actually dangerous.
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