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It's all about choices.

You can't blame straight people for being confused. Not only do we want to get married, have children, and serve in the military--three things they would cheerfully be rid of, given the chance--but just when they have decided that we are fundamentally OK, a doctor comes along on CNN and tells them that a lot of us would rather be straight. And it wasn't even Dr. Laura. His name is Spitzer, and he's gotten some mileage recently out of a survey he did that seemed to say it is easy for gays to convert. His subjects turned out mostly to be the product of "ex-gay" ministries, so his entire study would appear to be statistically flawed, but that didn't stop the networks from pouncing on him as catnip for the evening news.

Hot on the heels of this pronouncement, the folks at the Gallup Poll revealed that, at long last, a majority of Americans seem to accept homosexuality as "an alternative lifestyle" and don't register any major disapproval of us per se, even though we appear to register it about ourselves. Gallup probably didn't use the same phone book as Spitzer.

But straight people, who want to know as much about us as they want to know about plumbing, can be forgiven for shaking their heads in disbelief. If a straight majority thinks homosexuality is OK, why are homosexuals turning away from it? If homosexuality is as wicked as it is painted, why are so many gay people at KFC buying the family pack? Why do so many gay men spend so much time making women look pretty? How can people decide their sexuality anyway, and at so many different times of life? Is the closet we come out of stacked full of discarded ballots with dimpled chads from previous votes when we decided not to come out?

Just get me a beer and the remote and let somebody else work on it.

Part of the confusion stems from the notion of choice, of choosing to be gay. Since one thing science won't agree on is the genetic explanation of sexuality and since people keep tromping onto Jenny and Jerry and Oprah and Ricki to announce they have decided they are gay, it's difficult for the unknowing to dismiss the idea of choice.

It always amazes me when people who see me on Hollywood Squares ask me if I am really gay, as casually as they ask if I'm really blond. Why would I make this up? I like being blond because I like the look, but that's not why I'm gay. "Well," they say, "it works so well for you. It's your shtick, you know, like Dean Martin was drunk." But guess what? Dean Martin was drunk. I drank with Dean Martin. He didn't knock back a pitcher of lemonade before he staggered onto the stage. It was part of who he was. Cheech and Chong didn't hire a roomful of stoners and take notes. Besides, if I were going to choose a comic shtick, why would I choose one that would leave me open to so much potential hostility? Couldn't I just be a jovial fat guy?

The fact that sexuality is a part of who you are has been a very difficult concept for Americans to swallow, from Kinsey on down. Even prominent black civil rights leaders have had a difficult time when we try to position ourselves as an oppressed minority like theirs. We have a choice, they say. They have to be black, but we can be invisible. And that's when you begin to understand what choice is about. It's denial. We come out when we are finished denying our true natures. When we have had enough of paying the emotional price of passing for, I don't know, call it white. No one suddenly chooses to be gay. Even Anne Heche, at the height of her whirlwind ride on the gay roller coaster, didn't claim to be a lesbian. She just claimed to be in love.

No one chooses to be gay. But they do choose to be straight. They are comfortable enough in their lives, if not in their skin. They choose not to jeopardize their lives and instead do damage to their souls. Eventually, the gnawing within becomes too painful, and they can't stand it. They no longer have a choice. And that, the right wing will tell you, is when we choose to be gay. But we know different. It's when we choose to be free.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:homosexuality: public opinion
Author:Vilanch, Bruce
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 17, 2001
Previous Article:WHY ARE WE GAY?
Next Article:West End Boys.

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