One really common argument about gayness is that we should accept gay people because it isn’t a choice. “Who would choose to be gay?” the argument runs. “If you’re gay, you’d experience homophobia, which can lead to rejection from your family and friends, discrimination in housing and on the job, and sometimes even violence. Therefore, it could not possibly be a choice. No one would choose gayness.”
My mother responded to me coming out with “oh, well, you’re bi, you should just choose to be straight, then. It would be a lot easier and you wouldn’t have to face any homophobia.” I think that my mother probably intended to be compassionate: after all, she’s a nice liberal who doesn’t consider herself to be homophobic in any way. But this still was, mm, not exactly a great way to respond to me coming out. And I’ve met quite a few other bisexuals whose parents responded similarly.
I put the blame for that response squarely on “no one would choose to be gay” discourse. If you believe sincerely that gay people should be accepted because they didn’t choose it, because no one would live a gay life if they had another option, what happens to those of us who could be straight, if only we lied and repressed part of ourselves? Why would the compassionate response to us coming out be anything other than shoving us back in the closet as quickly as we can, for fear we might experience the tremendous suffering that is being queer? If no one would choose to be gay, then when we choose to be gay, we must be misinformed or simply making a mistake.
Make no mistake, “I’m just concerned about the bigotry you’ll experience!” is, well, bigotry. Well-intentioned, kind bigotry, to be sure. But if you say to a bisexual person “I’m just concerned about the rejection you’ll face as an openly queer person!”, you’re, well, rejecting them. You are saying that someone should hide a core aspect of themselves, should lie about a fundamental aspect of their experience. That is the thing you are doing.
(This is by no means a phenomenon that only bisexuals experience. People who disapprove of interracial relationships quite often justify their disapproval by citing all the other people who disapprove and might cause trouble. In fact, some people in interracial relationships have the experience that the only people who are remotely jerks to them at all are the ones who are trying to protect them from jerks by getting them to break up.)
But I think if we are going to get people’s nice straight liberal parents to stop responding to their coming out in that fashion, we’re going to have to shift the way we talk to nice straight liberals about LGBT issues. We’ve got to switch it to “sometimes, being gay is fucking miserable; sometimes, being gay is really awesome. Over time, the misery-awesomeness ratio has been moving more in favor of awesomeness. It doesn’t matter whether or not someone chose to be gay. The reason we should accept them is that being gay is not actually inherently any worse than being straight. The only reason they’re any different is because some people decided to be douchebags, and we’re not going to let the douchebags get their way and chase everyone into the closet. And because we didn’t do that, the douchebags are losing, and soon it won’t be worse at all.”