I have learned over the years how permanent the preferences are among members of the gay community. And I have learned within the week what I have in common with Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s choice of a presidential running mate:
Ryan and I both believe our gay friends were born that way.
Ryan knows gay people and gave an accurate description a few years ago. ABC News reports that Ryan, while voting for the Non-Discrimination (in hiring) Act of 2007, explained that, “They didn’t roll out of bed one morning and choose to be gay. That’s who they are.”
Similarly, I didn’t roll out of bed one morning and decide to be bald. I didn’t choose a life of baldness just to be shocking or to drive women wild with my naked head. I was born to be that way.
When I hear someone say that being gay is a changeable choice, the speaker is usually somebody who hasn’t had much or any association with gay people. By contrast, Ryan and I have been around gay people for years. And like practically anybody whose life brings him into contact with gay associates, Ryan and I doubt the old theory that gayness is a matter of choice, like buying a green shirt rather than a blue one.
Paul Ryan has mostly opposed pro-gay legislation including same-sex marriage. But he is part of a new generation of young adults who live in frequent contact with a gay community that has escaped the closet and become highly visible in recent years.
When I was Ryan’s age of 42, it seemed few people were gay. But people Ryan’s age have lived in a world of openly gay people since high school.
Ryan serves in Congress where gay staff members are almost as common as they are in Hollywood, that other arm of show business.
Being gay is far more like being bald than it is like wearing tattoos, for instance. Tattoos are a choice. But that’s like choosing one style of shirt for the rest of your life and never being able to change it.
But people who enjoy becoming human tattoo galleries weren’t born that way, unless you believe they possess an inborn urge to be flamboyant.
While I was born to be bald, I was not born to be bad or boring or gay. That doesn’t mean a person isn’t curious about the variations from the majority among friends and relatives. I confess, both as a writer and as a nosy person (pretty much the same thing), that I interview gay friends and relatives, seeking knowledge of what’s going on there, what makes them tick. One question I ask is when they first knew they were gay.
Some say 5 or 6 or 7 years old. But most of the gay men I’ve questioned say they can’t remember a time when they didn’t feel that way, just as I and most of the rest of you probably don’t remember a time when we didn’t find members of the opposite sex totally fascinating. We wore born that way.
A few lesbian friends and relatives have been a bit different. Some have told me they can be attracted to either sex. They say they fall in love with the person, not with the gender.
However, all of the gay men I have talked with are one way all the way and always have been.
That’s why I agree with Paul Ryan when he says of gay people: “That’s who they are.”
(Meanwhile, I wonder if I could get some hair tattooed on my bald head.)Bill Hall can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501