The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

No ‘choice’ in being gay and ‘ordinary’

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Let me let you in on a little secret about the gays. We’re not all that special. Yeah, we spruce up forgotten, neglected neighborhoods and make them hip. Sure, we’ve been known to spruce up straight men and help women unleash their inner diva. But when you accept the fact that gay men and lesbians have had no choice in their sexual orientation, then it is easy to see how ordinary we are — and how basic our push for equality is.

I got to thinking about this because of two videos making the rounds in recent weeks. One fits my thesis more perfectly than the other. That’s the one of the two gay dads finding out they are going to be grandparents.

“So, tell me what it’s going to be like now that you two are going to be grandpas?” asked Chris Harper in a video he recorded in December 2010. “What?” says the dad in the green sweater.

“You guys are going to be grandpas,” says Harper’s wife. “We’re pregnant.”

“You are not!” exclaims the other dad in white. “Are you f—king kidding me?!” And then he pushes back from the kitchen counter with a shriek that is quickly followed by the familiar jumping, screaming and hugging that is required of grandparents-to-be. If you still have a dry eye or haven’t cracked a smile I’ll pray for you.

The other video making the rounds was shot by Chris Baker and Travis Nuckolls in Colorado Springs in 2006 as part of a campaign in advance of two ballot measures related to marriage equality in Colorado. “We probably interviewed over a hundred people, and aside from one or two who immediately told us to go to hell,” Baker wrote in an e-mail, “the majority suffered what would be described as incredible moments of clarity.”

Said clarity came from being asked a simple question: When did you choose to be straight? By turning on its head the false argument that being gay is a choice, the filmmakers forced folks to confront the absurdity of the claim.

Red T-shirt guy: I think the people, it depends on what they grow up finding out. I think it’s a choice later in life, but it depends on upbringing.”
Nuckolls: When did you choose to be straight?
Red T-shirt guy: Um, that’s a good call, man. I didn’t choose to be….

Watching a light bulb go off in the heads of straight people when they are asked when they chose to be straight is a moment when you see them realize or at least seriously entertain for the first time that homosexuality is as ordinary and God-given as heterosexuality. And it is that commonality gay men and lesbians share with everyone else that has them pushing for equality and membership in one of the most conservative institutions around.

In The Post on Friday, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) celebrated the Bay State being the first state in the nation to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples nine years ago. “[T]he time since then has proved wonderfully unremarkable,” he wrote. “The sky has not fallen.” Even more remarkable now that 11 other states and the District of Columbia have since joined the gay marriage bandwagon.

“Gays and lesbians, like blacks and whites a generation ago, want nothing more than to be ordinary,” Patrick added. Thus proving that the little secret about the gays isn’t secret at all.

Follow Jonathan Capehart on Twitter.