I love glee. I think it’s just the right amount cheesy, funny, and ironic. It laughs at itself, which is something most TV shows (and people) just cannot do. But I was in fact a bit disappointed (even if the show was being rather true to life in this scene) when I watched Episode 3 yesterday and watched Kurt (The Gay One) tell everyone that no one chose to be gay because no one would want to be mocked and made fun of all his or her life.
There are several things wrong with that outlook, which, unfortunately, a lot of us take. Firstly, leaving aside the whole complex issue of sexual orientation, we all make several choices in life that open us up to perpetual mockery, ill-treatment and a hard life. Women making choices to say, not shave their hair, not wear layers and layers of contour-masking cloth, to take up typically “male professions” (for example, orthopaedics, in the medical field), men becoming child-minders and nurses, choosing to take paternity leave for their child, to allow their wives to work, to study art when all the family thinks a son must work in something ‘manly’ like engineering, all do so, fully aware that this is opening them up to years of damaging mockery. People choose not to believe in God. This leads to rents with the family and society, losing friends and a community, all manner of trouble for many. And then, there are others, for whom all the same choices go off easily. Just as coming out goes of incredibly smoothly for some. It’s merely a question of realizing, falling in love and telling a loving set of parents. Same as anything else.
These other things, it could be argued, are not a choice, in some sense. When one has a natural born aptitude for rugby or orthopaedics or water-colour art, it may be almost impossible to settle down in any other field of study and be truly happy.
I am an anthropologist who is, by basic training, a historian, with a very strong interest in literature and art. I find I cannot be happy studying anything that does not combine these interests. This is something that is as important as air and water to me. In some sense, I cannot remember choosing these interests over say biophysics or financial consultancy. No, I certainly did not weigh the options up and down and say, umm… yes, I choose art, literature, history and anthropology. I gravitated towards them in many ways. There were signs through my childhood. I loved stories and I loved to hear people tell them. I liked thinking about and asking questions about these stories I heard. I wrote down and connected various family stories I heard. Anyone should have guessed I wasn’t going to follow the family trend and become a third generation physician. But no, naturally, no one noticed. No one figured. I had to come out as many things before I came out as a lesbian: as a lover of art and literature my family couldn’t conceive making a career out of, as an atheist, as an environmentalist (who, inexplicably, insists on walking everywhere when there’s a car!). I’d call these things choices. Choices I made despite the opprobrium I knew I’d face. Because they make me happy. And because I believe in them and think life is not supposed to be easy. Heck, if one wasn’t always in a scrape, how unhappy and bored would one be!
Being a lesbian is also not a conscious choice. I’ve always liked girls. I’ve liked boys too. I get along with them perfectly, can aesthetically appreciate them, and don’t feel less loved if a man shows me affection. But heck, I think I’d rather be with a woman than a man. By saying that, I think I make a choice. This may be a choice directed by inborn preference. But then, that’s true of all choices. As a friend once said, I think we’re all born with a sexuality. How we use it, is a choice. To say otherwise is to deny ourselves a very empowering agency. And to say that we’re victims of our inherent sexual preference, is straight on the route to EM Forster-esque self-loathing. I can live without that, I think.
So, yes, I don’t want to be made fun of all my life. Whether it’s because my shoes are purple or that I have a very unflattering nose ring or that I will never do any work that appears useful or lucrative to others, or that I will be a ridiculously radical old activist for most of my life, or that I love women. But no, I will not deny myself my choices or say that they were made for me beyond my control to make this mocking stop. Because that way, I fundamentally agree with the mocker, and justify myself by hiding in victimhood. That, I’m afraid is not gay pride. Whether I made a choice (conscious or otherwise) or not, I deserve respect because who I sleep with is no one else’s business. That is where I stand.