In our efforts to raise awareness of queer by choice issues, we’ve found a number of recurring wrong assumptions about what queer by choice people are usually like. We’ve put together the list below to try to correct the misunderstandings. Please bear in mind that all of the statements below are merely generalizations, and there are always exceptions. For personal stories of what individual queer by choice people are like, try reading the profiles of members of the QueerByChoice Mailing List.
Myth #1: We must be homophobic and ashamed of being queer.
Reality: Most of us are very happy about being queer—after all, we chose to be.
Myth #2: We must all have fantastically open-minded families who made it easy, joyous and pain-free to tell them we’ve turned gay.
Reality: Our parents seem to be about equally homophobic, on the average, as other parents are. And in a society as homophobic as ours, not many people who are looking for the “easiest” or most “pain-free” path are likely to choose a queer path, no matter how open-minded our individual families may be. But even though most of us don’t find queerness to be the easiest path, we may still choose it because we feel it’s the noblest path. Many of us feel that our choice was and is a deeply political and moral act of protest against having homophobic social norms imposed on us.
Myth #3: You’ve never met anyone who felt their queerness was a choice.
Reality: Anyone who says “I’ve never met a queer by choice person before in my life” is making just as ignorant a statement as those who say “I’ve never met a queer person before in my life.” Of course you’ve met some of us—we comprise about 8% of the queer community, according to the 1997 Internet Survey of Queer and Questioning Youth conducted by OutProud and Oasis Magazine. We are everywhere around you—you just didn’t recognize us as queer by choice. We usually do not wear stickers on our foreheads saying “I chose to be queer.” Many of us are very active members of the queer community, but unless someone brings up the topic of choice in our presence or specifically asks us if we had a choice, most of our queer friends may never even find out that we consider ourselves queer by choice. In fact, most of us are well aware of the hostile reactions that some members of the queer community have toward any mention of choice, and as a result, many of us are downright uncomfortable talking about our choices with our queer friends until we know them well enough to be very sure that talking about our experience of choice won’t cause them to attack us.
Myth #4: We must be planning to choose to be hetero again someday.
Reality: The majority of us seem to remain queer all our lives once we have chosen to be—although switching back and forth between types of queerness (bisexuality and homosexuality) seems to be a little more common than becoming hetero is, perhaps because becoming hetero might shake up our sense of self a bit more than we’re comfortable with, and deprive us of the joys of the queer community. There are also some of us who don’t even believe it’s possible to un-choose our queerness—that once a person has discovered the joys of same-sex love, no one could possibly give it up. In any case, anyone who voluntarily comes out to anyone is almost by definition making a commitment to having queerness always remain an important part of their lives on some level. Once the word gets out, no one is likely to be able to erase the memories of everyone who knows they once considered themself queer.
Myth #5: The word “choice” must mean that we sat down one day and decided, “I think I’ll turn queer now.”
Reality: Some of us did indeed do exactly that—see Gayle Madwin’s QueerByChoice Member Profile for an example. But many others among us originally came out as queer believing that we had no choice, and only later looked back and realized that even if we didn’t make a direct choice to become queer, we believe that our queerness came about as the result of lots of little indirect choices that we’ve made throughout our lives.
Myth #6: When we call our queerness a choice, that must mean we’re not really queer at all but just het people who are choosing to fake queerness.
Reality: Saying that we’ve chosen to be queer is nothing like saying we’re “not really queer, just pretending to be.” Most of us find it extremely offensive to be accused of not being “real queers.” Certainly the homophobes of the world would not consider the fact that we had a choice to make us any less queer. Many of us are also active in queer organizations and fight alongside all our fellow queers for the cause of queer rights.
Myth #7: When we call our queerness a choice, that must mean we’re really bisexual.
Reality: Some of us are certainly bisexual, but others of us will tell you that we are not attracted to the opposite sex in the least. Some of us may have experienced attraction to the opposite sex in the past and ceased to do so, but others of us state in no uncertain terms that we have never experienced the slightest attraction to the opposite sex in all our lives. What we all have in common, however, is that we feel that our attraction or non-attraction results from choices we have made and/or continue to make.
Myth #8: We all believe __(fill in the blank)__ about biological theories of queerness.
Reality: Some of us believe that we were born with a tendency toward being queer (or toward being hetero) but also had a degree of choice in the matter. Others of us believe that some people are born queer, or with a tendency toward queerness, but that we were not born with any tendencies toward any sexual preference or gender identity. And still others of us believe that it’s impossible for anyone to be born with any tendency toward a particular sexual preference or gender identity.
Myth #9: Everyone who considers their queerness a choice is aware of this website’s existence or is acquainted with other queer by choice people.
Reality: Just as many people come out as queer without ever having met anyone who they knew to be queer, many people also choose to be queer without ever having met anyone who they knew to be queer by choice. (For example, QueerByChoice list founder Gayle Madwin chose to be queer without ever having knowingly met anyone who was queer at all, much less queer by choice.) This is important because a person who has never met anyone except themself who considers their queerness a choice may be extremely unprepared to defend their experience of choice against attacks from their parents, much less from PFLAG or other organizations with a history of publicly denying the possibility of choice. Many teenagers may not even have sufficient eloquence to explain their choice to their parents or PFLAG members if they’re not in a hostile environment, much less to express the hurt that they feel if PFLAG or other supposedly supportive “experts” tell their parents lies about how they had no choice about their sexual preference. If a person is attempting to express their experience of choice but does not have the necessary resources to show their parents that they aren’t the only one who feels this way, it is imperative to provide them with resources such as this website, any of the websites listed on our Choice Links page, or a book such as Vera Whisman’s Queer by Choice: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Politics of Identity or Claudia Card’s Lesbian Choices that could help both them and their parents understand that they’re not the only one who has ever experienced their queerness as a choice—nor are their parents the only parents whose children have come out as queer by choice.