The political outrage of the day for Wednesday centers around remarks that brain surgeon and Republican presidential exploratorer Dr. Ben Carson made about homosexuality, or to put it another way, today is a day. On CNN’s New Day, Dr. Carson patiently explained to Chris Cuomo that being gay is a choice because prison:
CUOMO: One issue, same-sex marriage. You have equal protection. It’s working its way through the courts. The decisions are getting more and more uniform. But then you have people of faith who say marriage is ours. God says it is a man and a woman. The Bible says my faith says — which one wins with Dr. Carson?
CARSON: Here’s what I would do. I would do what the Constitution says. The Constitution says civil issues of that nature should be determined at the state level. Why does it say that? Because the judicial system at the state level has to answer to the people.
CUOMO: What if people of the state vote for a law 100-0 that winds up infringing on the rights of a minority, like happened very often with slavery? Like many would argue is happening now with people who are gay?
CARSON: And our Constitution was followed, and we corrected those things.
CUOMO: And isn’t that what’s happening right now with same-sex marriage? It’s being corrected as a form of violation of equal protection.
CARSON: No. You can’t just say because it happened that way this time. This is the same situation. It’s not the same situation.
CUOMO: Why not?
CARSON: Because people have no control over their race, for instance.
CUOMO: You think they have control over their sexuality?
CUOMO: You think being gay is a choice?
CARSON: Absolutely. CUOMO: Why do you say that?
CARSON: Because a lot of people who go into prison, go into prison straight, and when they come out they’re gay. So did something happen while they were in there?
CUOMO: Most gays never go to prison. And you know there’s a whole theory of dominance.
CARSON: Wait a minute. I said a lot of people who go in come out — are you denying that that’s true?
CUOMO: I am not denying that that’s true, but I am denying that that’s a basis of understanding homosexuality.
CARSON: If, in fact, that is the case, then it obviously thwarts what you just said.
There is so much gaping stupid here, I hardly know where to start, but I’ll go with the very most obvious, which is that people don’t choose to go to prison. They also don’t choose to get raped in prison. I’m no brain surgeon, but it sounds to me like Dr. Carson has just proved that people can be conditioned to homosexuality.
I’m also not a research scientist, but based on available evidence, it would appear that at least some gay people are born that way. Of course, something doesn’t have to be genetic in order for it not to be a choice. Maybe homosexuality can be raped into you, or bombed into you, or Teletubbied into you, but so the fuck what? You know what definitely is a choice? Religion.
In fact, so what if being gay, or anything else on the gender/sexuality spectrum, actually is a straight-up menu-style choice? Liberals get mad when celebrities like Cynthia Nixon assert that their own sexuality is a choice, but why does that make a difference? In a land devoted to liberty, surely there is no freedom more basic than knowing who you are.
The problem is that the choice issue has become the fulcrum upon which a major argument for gay rights rests. As Dr. Carson pointed out, the distinction, if it exists, separates gay rights from what has become the undeniable moral good that is the black civil rights movement. Ergo, black people deserve protection because they can’t help being black, while gay people do not.
But that is a distinction without a difference. If being black were a choice, does Ben Carson think it would be okay to leave Jim Crow in place? Instead of a civil rights act, why not just grant equality to anyone who renounces their blackness, embraces whiteness, and legally becomes white? There are a lot of details that would have to be worked out, like whether they’d be required to undergo Blackness Conversion therapy, or whether Jheri curls would be acceptable, but at least we’ve already knocked out that path to citizenship issue. We’d also definitely need a constitutional amendment that let us keep the music.
After that, though, anyone who chose to stay black would deserve whatever they got, according to Dr. Carson’s logic.
The question isn’t whether being gay is a choice, the question is whether being gay is who you are.