The Truth, Mainly - 02/15/1993

Sexual orientation: A male explanation
by Leon Satterfield

"Tell me one more time," she says, putting down the front section of the Sunday paper. "Why was it right for Truman to integrate African-Americans into the military and wrong for Clinton to integrate homosexuals?"

Her brow is furrowed and the tip of her tongue is sticking out the corner of her mouth. She's cute when she tries to understand male logic.

"Well, my dear," I say over the top of the sports section, "it's really awfully simple if you look at it non-judgmentally. It's wrong to segregate on the basis of race because race isn't something we choose. But homosexuals do choose their disgustingly wicked sexual orientation. If they don't like the consequences, they can just by golly choose to be straight."

"My goodness," she says. "That is awfully simple, isn't it?"

She turns to the editorial page and I go back to the sports section, happy to have explained it so well. A minute or two later she looks up again.

"When did you choose?" she asks.

"When did I choose what?" I say. I'm trying to focus on yet another story about how Jimmy Johnson brought the Cowboys from a 1-15 season to the Super Bowl win.

"When did you choose your heterosexual orientation?" she says.

"It's not about choosing to be heterosexual," I say, not unkindly. "It's about choosing to be homosexual."

"But," she says, "if we say homosexuals made the wrong choice in choosing to be gay, doesn't that mean the rest of us made the right choice in choosing to be straight? So when did you choose?"

I'm amused by her naivete, but I don't want to hurt her feelings so I blow my nose to disguise my snort.

"You don't understand, my love," I say. "We don't have to choose to be straight. We just are. It's like we don't have to choose to breathe oxygen. We just do. We can't help it."

"It's funny," she says. "I can't remember when I chose to be straight either. You'd think we could remember something that important. You remember how wetting your pants in first grade made you choose not to be a Republican. I remember how grading high school English essays made me choose to be an elementary librarian. But neither one of us can remember when we chose to be straight instead of gay. Doesn't that strike you as funny?"

"You're not listening," I say gently. Then I speak very slowly and enunciate very carefully, like George Bush saying no new taxes. "Straights don't have to choose to be straight. We're born that way. Gays choose to be not straight. Gays choose to be gay. So they have to live with the consequences. Now let's read the paper."

She's quiet for another minute or two.

"Doesn't quite seem fair, does it?" she says. "Why do they get to choose and we don't?"

"He's a helluva coach, isn't he?" I say. "Ol' Jimmy Johnson."

"You know what else is funny?" she says.

"No," I say. "What else is funny?"

"It's funny homosexuals would choose an orientation that gets them bashed, ridiculed, and condemned to hellfire for being abominations against God. Why would anyone choose that?"

"Got me," I say. Sometimes if I play dumb, she drops the subject.

"You know what I think?" she says. "I think we can't remember when we chose to be straight because not being straight was never an option. If being straight is our only option, then maybe being gay is their only option."

"Maybe so," I say, turning to the comics page.

"You know what else I think?" she says. "If they don't have an option, it doesn't seem right to discriminate against them."

"Um," I say, bringing my massive analytical powers to bear on "Mary Worth."

"So that brings me back to the original question," she says. "Why was it right for Truman to integrate African-Americans and wrong for Clinton to integrate gays?"

"You weren't paying attention to anything I said, were you?" I say, putting down the comics and talking loud. Sometimes you have to talk loud to get the message through. "IT'S BECAUSE WE DON'T CHOOSE OUR RACE BUT GAYS DO CHOOSE THIER SEXUAL ORIENTATION. IF THEY DON'T WANT TO BE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST, LET THEM CHOOSE TO BE STRAIGHT."

"Saying it louder doesn't convince anyone," she says. "Saying it louder means your logic has just blown a fuse. But I'll ask one more time: If gays choose to be gay instead of straight, when did you choose to be straight instead of gay?"

My legs cross involuntarily. I take a deep breath.

"I don't know," I say as quietly as I can. "It was a long, long time ago."

"About the time, I'll bet," she says, "that you decided to be Caucasian instead of African-American."

I give up then. You can't teach a woman to think like a man.


Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.

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