“We have no choice, it’s biological!” and the variants thereof should be common to anyone who’s spent much time in LGBT activism, or the LGBT community as a whole. It’s particularly still called upon in defense of trans people, as we are seen in a false dichotomy; Either we are biological victims of chance or liars and predators, intent on perforating the pristine sanctums of biological essentialism*.
On the surface it’s a powerful tool in denying the commonest argument from bigots; You’re choosing to be that way, so we’re not obligated to respect it. But it’s an argument that gives ground to the very ideas we’re trying to dispell, and by doing so it leaves us cramped within the confines of a system of assumptions that is fundamentally prejudiced against us.
I should start this by stating that I’m not here to argue for or against the research that’s been done in that area. I haven’t looked over the data, as it is not in itself relevant to my argument here. However, the reason that said research is often carried out is dubious at best, and often relies upon the same assumptions & prejudices I’ll discuss below. By focusing research on the origins of LGBT identities and behavior, you tar them as different, unnatural and fundamentally other to the normative baseline that has been prescribed. Peter Tatchell put it best when he said ‘‘If you are investigating the causes of homosexuality, why not look at the causes of heterosexuality? The implication is that heterosexuality is normal, natural and unproblematic.” (source)
By relying on said research and the theories and conclusions drawn from it, we attempt to excuse our own identities. By using the argument of having no choice, we give in to the unstated accusation that choosing to be LGBT would be a terrible thing to do, and that to make such a choice would deny us any foundation for asserting our rights and presence in society. Whether we have a choice or not should not matter when it comes to these issues. Whether I was born trans, or came to it as a decision of my own free will, should not affect whether I am any more or less the gender I describe myself to be. Self-identification should be held as the crux of a person’s gender and sexual identities, not severed from them in an ill-fated attempt to halt the hatred directed at that person and those like them. My sexuality is my own, and whether I choose my orientation or am assigned it by biological factors, it is just as valid. By taking shelter beneath the comforting roof of determinism we relinquish that position, delegating ourselves to the role of helpless carriers of a genetic flaw. It’s not our fault that we were born with this wrongness in our blood is an argument of self-erasure, and one that ultimately helps strengthen the position of those who would see us wiped out entirely (the infamous “Abortion Hope After Gay Gene Findings” headline from the Daily Mail being a prime example). The best that we can hope to be in this worldview is the carriers of this genetic flaw, who should be treated with pity and tolerance until the day comes where we can be ‘cured’ or outright prevented from ever existing.
We only need to look at ablist dialogues to remind us that a foundation of biological differences does not prevent prejudice. The concept that we need to be cured and erased from society altogether is one that many disabled people have been struggling against for decades now, on the backdrop of that same paternalistic mindset of tolerating the pathetic, helpless minority members as flaws in an otherwise healthy society; blameless and yet tarnished with an undeniable wrongness. This mindset is not one that we as LGBT people should be rushing to embrace.
(*the idea that male and female are defined purely by primary sexual organs. Anyone outside of those two poles are generally left as “Here be dragons” or ‘fakers’ from one of the other camps).