Our sexuality is an essential part of the person we are.
When wondering if a person can choose their sexuality, he or she is usually questioning whether they can choose or change their sexual attraction and orientation.
Sexual orientation is how a person identifies in relation to what gender(s) they are attracted to. Differing sexual orientations include heterosexual or straight, homosexual or gay, bisexual or bi, and asexual. Today we use the initials LGBT – lesbian, gay, bisexual, and Trans – as a more inclusive abbreviation for what once was simply called ‘gay’.
We are not yet sure why someone has a particular sexual orientation as opposed to another, but one thing is certain: we aren’t able to choose or control who we are attracted to.
Experts think sexual orientation is influenced by a combination of environmental, emotional, hormonal, and biological factors, but no one is completely sure. Each person experiences different influences growing up and he or she is shaped by differing factors. There is no one thing that causes a person to be straight, gay, bisexual or asexual. It is part and parcel of life’s unfolding mystery.
When people question choice in sexuality, they are most often referring to whether or not gay people choose to be gay. People seldom ask themselves if the actually chose to heterosexual. Most straight people just take it for granted.
If you identify as straight or heterosexual and have wondered if gay people choose to be gay, take a moment to consider the following questions:
– Are you quite certain this isn’t just a phase you’re passing through? – How do you know you aren’t gay if you have never tried it? – When was the first time you realized that you might be straight? – What is your earliest memory of being straight? – Haven’t you ever considered that you might simply be a bit confused about your sexuality? – Have you sampled the same sex as yourself in order to determine if you really don’t like it?
These are all common questions that people often ask gay people when they learn of their sexual orientation. They might sound preposterous when asked to a straight person. You may have thought, “I never realized I was straight, I just am.” Some people may even feel offended at the suggestion that they try to be anything other than straight. If you felt offended by any of those questions, pause for a moment and consider how a gay person must feel when asked the same kind of things.
A gay person can’t change who they are attracted to anymore than a straight person can, and why should anyone be expected to try to be something that they are not?
There are certain types of ‘therapy’ that promise to change a person’s sexual orientation; they are termed ‘conversion’ or ‘reparative’ therapy. The American Psychological Association (APA) and the British Psychological Society (BPS) has taken an official stand denouncing this kind of therapy. Both have categorically stated that there is no evidence that this sort of therapy is effective and it can lead some people to develop depression and suicidal tendencies.
It is far better to accept something that just cannot be changed than to attempt to alter it, and this is as true for sexual orientation as for anything else in life. Here good counseling or an experienced therapist can offer guidance and support. Family and friends of the gay person who are struggling with acceptance can also find support and acceptance through therapy or support groups for the family and friends of LGBT loved ones.
When all is said and done, life is full of difference and rich with diversity. Sexuality is a simple reflection of this.