01 March 2009

Nature vs. Nurture

There are some subjects in my life that even I have had a hard time figuring out, largely because I was not yet far enough ahead to have a good view looking back. I've learned a fair amount, and a lot of it the hard way. I have heard the debate over "nature" versus "nurture" on several topics, but the one that affects me most directly and personally, and therefore that I have the most business responding to, is the one about the "origin" of sexual orientation. Nobody likes to be told "the facts" about themselves, as though someone else knows better and can think their thoughts and feel their feelings. Even the deepest empathy can't actually take someone out of their own skin and put them into yours, so why is it up for debate at all? I can't speak for everyone and realized long ago that I ought not even try. My beliefs alone have no more weight than anyone's. It is possible, however, that I, Kristin, may have some potential for changing minds based on generalizations that do not describe me.

The gay marriage wars have brought this subject further into the public light than ever before, and the votes taking place on various amendments around the country are putting some people in the position of figuring out their true opinions about it, presumably so they can decide first of all if they have "a dog in this fight" and second, how they think that dog should act. Many have realized that they really do not have any idea what defines "gay," or what in the universe makes some people gay and some straight. At the very least, they have determined that such a truth prevents them from stating with any certainty what "should" or "shouldn't" be considered acceptable, much less legal. Others are determined to continue declaring themselves authorities on things not only beyond their experience but beyond their existence. They openly judge things as right or wrong about which they don't even realize how little they actually understand.

I must reiterate that I speak with certainty only about myself. I have definite theories about others' circumstances and motivations, but theories are all they are. Many people make many choices about a great many things, but the reality for me, the absolute facts of me as only I can possibly see them, include that I have never in this lifetime NOT been gay; that I wasn't tempted or coerced toward it by any person, practice, or event; and that is very simply part of the DNA that makes me who I am. There were little bits of evidence all along the way, starting when I was very young. I also was raised in a very small, conservative town, where any divergence from the "norm" was so discouraged and suppressed that any natural inclination toward anything else would have been very difficult to foster, even with anyone's effort. I don't have a particularly "broken" history. Most importantly, the part of this that most people misunderstand or overlook is that it has nothing to do with the act of sex, that despite whatever choices some people do make directing their individual behaviors, your actual orientation is not one of those choices.

I have never felt any differently than I feel now. I have thought differently, absolutely an aspect of how I was "nurtured," not only by my family, but by my church, friends, teachers, neighbors, and society at large. I thought, as some would suggest is correct, that I was just supposed to go with boys, that the magical pull toward someone just wouldn't happen until the right one came along. For as long as I can remember (and I can remember back further than anyone I know), I have felt my feelings on this point consistently. I have never been drawn to boys, felt more like one than not, always imagined and fantasized based on what I'd have to call a "male" viewpoint, what kind of girl I liked, how I might ask one out, dating a girl, marrying a girl, etc. I did not know any gay people. I saw no gay characters on television. It came from deep, deep inside me, with no external explanation whatsoever. My mother dressed me in cute, frilly little dresses and treated me always like a little girl...and wondered when it would "take."

The kids in school teased each other about being gay if one caught another wearing green on Thursdays. They didn't even know what it meant, but still they worked overtime attaching a negative meaning to it, which did bury it very deep, but didn't drive it out as I would expect that kind of effort could, if in fact it was something shallow enough that it could be driven out.

I was from a broken home, but with no extraordinary trauma. I was not physically or sexually abused. Sex wasn't even addressed, that I can recall, only that girls and boys grow up, get married (girls to boys, boys to girls), and have babies together. No other options were even introduced, much less encouraged or discouraged. There were no contributing "factors" to my gayness at play whatsoever. In fact, as I stated above, the only "nurturing" that took place should have guaranteed my eternal heterosexuality.

I agree that a person's early environment and treatment can contribute to many different areas. A girl treated like a boy, encouraged to throw balls and get dirty, maybe one raised by a single father or with several brothers, is often a "tomboy." She may be tougher than other girls, more aggressive, more interested in highly active hobbies and the like, but all the little girls I grew up with who knew such environments grew up to very happily and comfortably date and marry boys. A little boy raised by several women or with only sisters may adopt more "sensitivities" about and toward girls, may even be made to try on dresses, wear makeup, be living mannequins for their female counterparts. I've known a few of them, too; none are gay or have had any confusion about it.

I also have known many people, countless people, who do regularly make choices to "experiment" with different recreational behaviors. I've known many straight people who've experienced great hurt at the hands of the opposite sex and hoped for less with an "alternative lifestyle." I've known many gay people who've felt the same hurt and turned instead to members of the opposite sex. These are actions, behaviors, things people DO. They reflect experience, personal history, and are clear manifestations of however they've been "nurtured." But they have nothing to do with simply BEing whoever or whatever you are.

There are many things that affect people in different ways, in different areas of their lives. I have made innumerable choices on an endless list of subjects. I have struggled with years of confusion about a million things and come to many realizations and many decisions. My orientation was a realization; to live my life openly and honestly was a decision, and a damn brave one, if I do say so myself.

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