Jul. 30th, 2008

heron61: (Love That Captain Jack)
In Torchwood and Dr. Who fandom, I've recently been hearing about John Barrowman's involvement in a BBC special looking at the origin of various traits called The Making of Me. Despite having only dial-up access at the moment (a situation due to be [at long last] fixed on Thursday), I watched this lovely segment with him and his partner. In addition to finding Barrowman both very attractive and charismatic (both in and out of character), I'm interested in how and openly gay man negotiates celebrity now that some of the sigma is (finally) fading.

In addition to the simple joy of seeing a happy queer couple on screen together, the thing that struck me most about this piece was Barrowman's reaction to stating that many researchers believe that sexual preference is genetic – it clearly made him both happy and to at least some degree relieved that it was something inborn. That made me sad.

As pretty much anyone who has read my lj for any length of time knows, I have little respect for sociobiology/evolutionary psychology, or whatever they are currently calling that (to me) exceptionally dubious field [[1]], and as with most other behavioral traits, I don't believe that homosexuality is genetic. I discuss my thoughts about this issue here.

However, more than the issue of whether or not homosexuality is genetic or not, what struck me most in seeing that short video was how important the idea that homosexuality was inborn seemed to be to John Barrowman. Watching his reaction helped me understand why so many people are so attached to this idea. This makes me sad because it seems to me that a strong investment in this idea either means that someone finds the idea that they "can't help what they are" to either be reassuring because of some lingering belief or worry that it would otherwise be wrong or (more likely in the case of someone like Barrowman) that it will help people uncomfortable with the idea of homosexuality learn to accept it better. To me it's very sad indeed that in 2008 there are sufficient numbers of sufficiently vocal homophobes that attempting to gain their acceptance is still such an important issue. In any case, given the unfortunately long history, humanity has of discriminating against and even killing people for all manner of obviously inborn traits, I sincerely doubt that many of them care about the reason for it.

[[1]] It's worth noting that I have vast amounts of respect for E.O. Wilson, but think that he was incorrect in generalizing from his (truly vast) knowledge of ants to vertebrates, and am pleased that recently he's begun seriously questioning the ideas of kin selection and genetic determinism of behavior.

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