From Annie Proulx’s short story Brokeback Mountain:
What Jack remembered and craved
in a way he could neither help nor understand
was the time that distant summer on Brokeback
when Ennis had come up behind him and pulled him close,
the silent embrace satisfying
some shared and sexless hunger.
We do not choose who we are attracted to. As every woman drawn to the wrong kind of man knows, attraction is a mysterious force.
Anti-gay moralists label sexual attraction a choice, which is weird. It like they’ve never truly considered their own attractions, or they do not know what authentic passions feel like, because otherwise that formulation makes no sense.
We don’t get to choose what we like. The color blue. Asparagus. Country music. Getting up early. Angry people. Beaches. Horror movies. Our mothers. Oak trees. Los Angeles. Spicy food. All of these things are liked or disliked by people, and none of those likes or dislikes were chosen. I’ve even met people who don’t like chocolate, which is a preference that makes no sense to me at all.
Physical attraction to other people is the same. I don’t get to choose. There are many men and women I find visually attractive, of every type, but only once in a long while I meet a man who sets every cell of my body abuzz. I don’t fully understand this how this effect works, or want to go into the neurobiology here, but I know it when I feel it. When I meet one of these magical beings, rare as unicorns, who can set my body ablaze, I find myself in a world my rational mind does not understand. It is the world of poetry and the world of heart, but it what it is not is a choice.
What a profound tragedy that some people do not know this experience well enough to speak to it with clarity, or recognize it in others.
Some moralists like to condemn other people’s actions, and there they are on firmer ground. As a responsible adult I do get to choose my actions. I do get to choose who I spend time with, who I befriend, who I kiss, who I have sex with, and who I marry. Those are all on me, those actions are my personal responsibility. But I cannot choose who I am attracted to. I cannot choose the fundamental parts of the drive that guides those decisions.
My sexual orientation, then, is a force far beyond my conscious will, which puts in somewhere outside of myself and moves it into the realm of the sacred, and the sublime, which makes it tender territory for those who make such thoughtless pronouncements.