When did you choose to be straight?

Travis Nuckolls and Chris Baker walk the streets of Colorado Springs asking strangers whether being gay is a choice; to those who say it is a choice, they answer, "When did you choose to be straight?"

When Did You Choose to Be Straight? (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)


  1. Well, they could argue that being straight is the default, and that being gay is a choice to convert from being straight.

    1. Exactly. Adherence to a natural truth does not necessarily require a deliberate choice like deviating from it does. Faulty logic is faulty.

      That doesn’t dismiss the notion or the larger point, but it does weaken it.

  2. I saw this about 2 months ago and was surprised at the number of people who had never heard this question before.

  3. It was in 1968. I was about four, and first fell for Victoria – then Kimberly West.. Once I saw her I knew I should make this a life-long thing.

    About a year later, I caught the telecast of an International beauty pageant.

    Miss Brazil, you’ll still be my number one. I know Miss Japan tried to get my attention, but it’s not the same…

  4. Simple, thought-provoking, non-confrontational way to make people look at things from a completely different angle. Nice work.

  5. This movie is sooo wrong…

    What if IT IS a choice?! so what?!
    Does that mean they should be discriminated?

    The way this movie tries to prove gay people are born gay, indicates they are “innocent”, but from what?!? what’s so bad about being gay?

  6. I’m surprised that so many people owned up to the fact that they’d never thought about it that way before, and that the interviewer “might have a point”.

    Gives me hope, actually. It’s good to see that the average Joe/Jane on the street in Colorado Springs (NOT a liberal part of the state) can recognize a human rights issue for what it really is if it’s presented from a different angle.

    1. Not to be a downer, but it’s not like they included every single interview they taped. On the other hand, this is a really well made and effective video.

      1. hello. I made this video (a long, long time ago). Regarding your comment about the takes, you’re right, we didn’t include all of them. Amazingly, out of the 100 or so people we accosted on the street, most people reacted like those who made the cut. Except for a few people who immediately told us to scram, everyone had pretty incredible reactions. There were some better ones, too. Sadly, though, I misplaced the tapes and this is really the only surviving document of our efforts.

        I’m glad it’s creating some discussion here on boingboing.

  7. one of the best ideas i’ve seen on the topic in a long time. that one second where they actually have to think about a shift in the heterosexual ‘norm.’ great job, guys. i’m cheering in california.

  8. You could as easily ask something like, “Do you think getting cosmetic surgery is a choice?” and follow up with “when did you choose *not* to get cosmetic surgery?”

    The logic is the same if you think there is a sort of default, natural state to the human body or sexuality, which is what I would guess most of the “it’s a choice” people feel.

    1. Your argument fails, I think, in that you’re mixing up desire and action. Two questions about choosing actions are equivalent; two questions about choosing desires are equivalent; a question about choosing an action is not equivalent to a question about choosing desire.

      The cosmetic-surgery counterpart to “When did you choose to be straight?” is something more like “When did you choose to (have / not have) body dysmorphia?” The answer is the same – never.

      “When did you choose not to get cosmetic surgery?” is not equivalent to “When did you choose to be straight?”, it’s equivalent to “When did you choose to date a member of the (same / opposite) sex?”

      The latter has an answer – you probably spent time with someone, became attracted to them, got the impression that they were attracted to you, and came to a concrete decision that you would like to date them. You didn’t choose the attraction, but you chose what to do about it.

      1. dragonfrog, it’s not clear when someone says “being gay” if they’re talking about just the desires or about the actions too. Some of the responses in that video sounded like they were talking about the choice to act on homosexual desire. I don’t think tylerkaraszewski is necessarily mixing up the two things, they just aren’t specified clearly enough in the video.

        1. I just can’t agree with you – a question about choosing to “be” is not equivalent to a question about choosing to “get”.

          As Mrs Dragonfrog has just pointed out, a major factor confusing the issue is probably that there are a lot more bisexual people out there than we know, mostly self-identified as straight (because they never gave it much thought, because almost everyone around them was dating the opposite sex, because they were brought up to believe homosexuality is wrong, because it’s just so much easier…).

          So for them, their sexuality absolutely is a choice – if they’re straight, as they identify themselves to be, they chose it, and so everyone else must have done. Of course, their opportunity to choose wasn’t a choice, but it’s unexamined or unacknowledged, so doesn’t figure into the logic.

  9. Unless it’s forced, every sexual act is a choice, whether homo or hetero.
    If sexuality exists on a spectrum, everyone, presumably, has the capacity for many kinds of sexual expression. We’ve chosen, as a culture, to validate certain expressions while recognizing others as damaging to individuals, and to our social fabric. No one with half a brain would suggest that a liminal “choice” is made to be “gay”, or “straight” , but they also would not suggest that where we land on the spectrum is not influenced by many environmental factors.
    In summation, to suggest that a) “Gays” make a “choice” to be gay , b) All forms of sexual expression are “natural”, i.e, we can’t do anything to change our sexual proclivities and behaviors and, are therefore “good” are equally idiotic.
    It seems like no one understands their own arguments, not to mention the other sides.

    1. @Anon (re: sexual action choices) being homosexual (or hetero) is not solely about the sexual acts one chooses to perform.

  10. I use to use this line quite a bit. I mean, I never had to choose. I’ve been straight as long as I can remember.

    But with so many homophobes being found out to be closeted homosexuals lately, I’ve begun to realize that for many homophobes, it actually was a choice. And they hold onto it with white-knuckles.

  11. I decided in September of 2006. No, I’m not kidding. Logically, there shouldn’t be any such thing as pure homosexuality anyway: if you acknowledge the fact that homosexuals see sex as purely for pleasure, it makes no sense to restrict sexual pleasure to either one gender or the other. If on the other hand sex is there for some other purpose (anything from procreation, creating a binding contract or a more fulfilling relationship), well you’re still only good on 2/3rds of that. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong but it doesn’t make sense to me.

    1. None of what you posted made sense to me, to be honest, apart from giving me a strong sense of someone who’s afflicted badly with internalised homophobia. Why should we accept the highly questionable proposition that gay people see sex as purely for pleasure, as opposed to part of a ‘more fulfilling relationship’?

  12. As much as I support challenging straight people’s preconceptions about what gay people’s lives are like, I don’t know that this particular “debate” serves much of a purpose.

    Anti-gay activists (unlike the people in this video) are sort of invested in the idea of queerness as a “choice” because (1) it allows anti-gay people to morally blame queer people–which they clearly enjoy doing, and (2) if queerness is a “choice,” then it means that gay people can change back to “normal.”

    What’s important to think about is that it doesn’t matter where homosexual desires “come from” because we value our queer brothers and sisters as human beings and respect their sexuality as a healthy and normal part of their lives. All I’m saying is that even if queerness is a “choice,” then it’s a good choice.

  13. I like redheads and my friend likes blondes, neither one of us chose that disposition, something in our lives pushed us one way or the other, but I don’t think I was born to love redheads and my friend was born to love blondes. I don’t see any difference with sexual preference. A gay person’s desires are just as valid as a straight persons, but something in that person’s upbringing pushed them a little further down the sliding scale that is sexual preference than a straight person. I am the first one to stand up for marriage equality and any other gay cause, but what is so wrong with thinking that a person is a blank slate at birth and that environment then shapes their sexuality? I love redheads with pale skin because I think of them as pure angels. A gay man might like men because he loves masculinity and physical power. So what?

      1. “Blondes” is dehumanizing but “lesbians” isn’t? Why is it worse to group people by orientations than hair color?

  14. Awesome video. Reminds me of the style of Ray Comfort’s street interviews, but this one is more effective (or editor(s) selected the instances that made it look effective).

    When people talk about this, I think they fail to differentiate between feeling attraction to people of the same sex, versus acting on those feelings. They might get different responses if they specified “Are feelings of attraction towards people of the same gender a choice?” (which I assume most people would agree is not a choice) versus “having sex with people of the same gender” (which I assume most people would agree is a choice, a thing we can control in the same way that heterosexuals can choose to be celibate or not. A choice we can *barely* control).

  15. I hate to be a wet blanket, but regardless of whether sexual preference is or isn’t a choice, the video strikes me as a bit less clever than it thinks it is–and therefore likely less persuasive as well. Right or wrong, the general position of those who say homosexuality is a choice seems to be that people are straight unless they choose otherwise, is it not? We see examples of choices with a default selection all the time.

    So asking the question in the video is like responding to my saying, “visiting Hawaii is a choice” by triumphantly declaring, “Oh yeah?? Well when did you choose to not have been to Hawaii??” I didn’t. I was born not there, and I’ve just never chosen to go.

  16. Isn’t it obvious yet?

    Everyone chooses to be straight or gay every time they have sexual or romantic relations with another person.

    1. Isn’t it obvious yet?

      Everyone chooses to be straight or gay every time they have sexual or romantic relations with another person.

      …no, this is ridiculous. Orientation is not behavior. People who are bisexuals often end up in monogamous relationships; this does not make them straight or gay. I’m a lesbian; I’ve been with men; this did not mean that while I was with them I was straight (sorry, guys).

      I often feel like if we could just sort out this part – distinguishing identity from behavior – and convince the idiots who refuse to understand that it’s not about what I do with whom, but what I *want* to do with whom… well, I feel like a lot of this argument would go away.

      Because what I want to do with women, with some women anyway, includes waking up beside her in the morning, sharing meals and laughter, weeding the garden, taking care of her when she’s sick, raising a kid together… having someone to hold me at the end of a bad day. Yeah, I like sex, that’s on the list too, but it’s nowhere near the top.

  17. Do people choose to be left handed? When did you choose to be right handed? When did you choose to be left handed? This would be a closer comparison.

  18. I was really looking forward to these comments, because I figured they would be full of people who are theoretically in favor of gay people being full human beings, but who would carefully, rationally try to explain away gayness.

    Most of you have disappointed me in this. Thank you. :)

    The point of asking the question, I think, is that straight isn’t a default; those of us who are gay, by and large, do not experience it as a choice. We discover a key element of who we are; it’s not like we’re default-straight until we decide it’s not for us. We mature as sexual beings with a strong desire to be with – sexually, romantically, intimately – people of the same sex. It’s not a conscious process and definitely not one in which individual agency plays a large role.

    I’ve used the “when did you choose to be straight” question before, in discussions about homosexuality. Some people remember when they *realized* they were straight, but other than a few extremely tormented trying-not-to-be-gay people, no one has called it a choice. It’s a good tactic for opening up discussion, allowing a broader conversation about the difference between identity and behavior, orientation and action. I think a lot of the time the anti-gay people are stuck thinking of gayness as sexual behavior; those of us who are gay think of it as a deep, incontrovertible expression of who we are.

    I do think that opposing the rhetoric of choice misses the point a bit. I would like it to be absolutely fine to choose any sexual orientation without having to worry about giving up all kinds of legal rights, not to mention getting assaulted or killed. That would be great. Meantime, though, the fact is that according to most of us, there was no choice in the matter. A lot of us tried very hard to choose NOT to be gay, and failed. I spent half my life trying to convince myself I was bisexual, personally. I’m really, really not.

    Also, I would like to say that gay people have sex for all the same reasons straight people do, minus one. In case anyone was curious. And given that most people don’t have that many kids – but do have quite a lot of sex – I think the differences are pretty minor.

    1. Excellent comment, tessuraea. I had a teacher once who presented this question to the class to open a discussion on assumptions about homosexuality. The point of asking it is to illustrate that a gay person doesn’t choose to be gay any more than a straight person chooses to be straight, and, ideally, to make people think about it and discuss it. It’s not supposed to be some clever game of “gotcha!”

  19. Of course being straight or gay isn’t a choice. But more importantly it doesn’t matter if it’s a choice or not – there isn’t anything wrong with being gay. If someone chose to be gay, so what – they aren’t doing anything wrong.

  20. They equate things like “development” with “choosing,” which doesn’t seem right to me.

    Those answers might not have been the ones they were looking for, but it doesn’t strike me that the “choosing” and “development” are on one side and “born with it is on another.”

  21. This is seriously one of the more heart-warming things I’ve seen in a long time. While it’s sad that people clearly hold opinions they haven’t thought critically about, it’s great to see some people having that “hey, wait a minute” light bulb moment. People can change their minds about stuff.

  22. tess, two questions
    1) Couldn’t a bisexual simply be defined as a person who is both gay and straight simultaneously?
    2) Why would you sleep with (or get intimately involved at all with) a member a particular gender, if you realize at the time that your sexual and/or romantic intentions are geared towards the other gender (or neither)? Unless you were unfairly goaded into it, or even forced? Or indeed, bisexual?

    I think there’s a discernible difference between attraction, and sexual attraction / infatuation.

    And I wish there was an edit button. I agree with you completely that it’s not just behavior that is a “deciding factor”, but feeling as well – or as you put it, identity. I meant to fix my second post:

    “Everyone chooses to be straight or gay every time they have sexual or romantic relations with another person.”


    “Everyone {s}chooses{/s} decides to be straight or gay every time they have sexual or romantic relations with or intentions of such towards another person.”

    At least, that’s still how I understand it.

    And it sounds to me like we both most enjoy the same things about women. I’m unfortunate that I can only seem to attract women interested in casual sex, since my “nurture factor” and upbringing have led me to shun promiscuity well into adulthood, and I put emotional attachments on sex & honestly would prefer romance, or especially someone who can reciprocate an interest in both, but that’s becoming increasingly hard to find.
    I’m not exactly God’s gift to women, but I’ve turned down women whom I found attractive and would’ve enjoyed going to bed with, just because there were too many things I couldn’t get past about their personality or lifestyle. That doesn’t mean I’m suddenly asexual or homosexual, and that’s how I’m framing my argument: If you have romantic or sexual activity or intent towards another person, you’re effectively choosing – consciously or subconsciously – a particular sexuality; conversely, not experiencing/indulging that interest doesn’t effect any sort of sexual “reckoning”.

    I’ll have to continue this later if it’s still a hot topic, I’ve been missing some good football while typing all of this.

    1. 1) Couldn’t a bisexual simply be defined as a person who is both gay and straight simultaneously?

      Bisexuals do not define themselves this way, so no.

      Bisexuality is actually often a misnomer – many bisexuals do not say they’re attracted to both men and women, but that they’re attracted to people regardless of sex and gender. However, many lean toward men or toward women, or toward particular types of gender expression. The Kinsey scale might be helpful here, really: 0 is utterly hetero, 6 is utterly homo, and it’s theorized that most people aren’t actually at the poles.

      2) Why would you sleep with (or get intimately involved at all with) a member a particular gender, if you realize at the time that your sexual and/or romantic intentions are geared towards the other gender (or neither)? Unless you were unfairly goaded into it, or even forced? Or indeed, bisexual?

      The power of socialization is very strong. I grew up being told and believing that I should find a nice opposite-sex person and settle down with him. Those ideas are pervasive – it takes about two seconds to find images that reinforce them in almost any public setting – and I don’t dislike men as people. I figured I was just bisexual; I’ve been a strong advocate for bi rights and bi visibility for 15 years. Men were easy to come by, I enjoyed their company well enough, and they didn’t frighten me with too much intimacy the way women did.

      I’m not bi, though; I’m a lesbian who just really wanted to be. All those years of trying didn’t change who I am. My story is not uncommon… quite the opposite, really. For some of us, sexuality is quite fluid. For others, it isn’t. If there was an element of choice, it’s that I chose to define myself as bisexual, and live my life as though it were true.

      Gayness is not about intention – there is nothing particularly intentional about it. There’s no moment of conscious choice. If an attractive woman makes eye contact with me in a cafe and smiles – particularly if she appears to be a Classic Tea-Drinking Lesbian (it’s a subtype) – my heart races, my breathing quickens, my palms sweat. I don’t decide whether or not that happens. I do get to decide if I should go introduce myself or if I’m going to chicken out, but neither decision changes my queerness.

      It’s who I am, not what I do.

      I don’t speak for all of queerdom, but my experiences are not unusual in the LGBT community. When someone argues that we don’t deserve equal rights because of our “lifestyle” (yes, there’s just one) or because of imagined behaviors… it’s dehumanizing, because being queer is not a behavior. It’s a core component of identity.

      1. “Classic Tea-Drinking Lesbian”

        Ok. I thought I knew more than the average straight guy about queer culture, but this one has me flummoxed.

        I’ve never heard this phrase before, and the only thing Google seems to point to is your post, and a page on english tea customs referring to Queen Anne, in the 18th century, being “portrayed as a tea-drinking social nonentity with lesbian tendencies.”

        Now I’m terribly curious. What, exactly, is a “Classic Tea-Drinking Lesbian”? Is there a Coffee-Drinking Lesbian? A Post-Modern Decaf Chai Soy Latte Lesbian?

        1. It’s a joke – the tea-drinking-lesbian subtype, often found in cafes, wearing comfortable clothing that might include clogs, reading and/or writing poetry and drinking tea. Some crossover with the granola-crunchy-lesbian, but with more of an academic slant. Gender presentation varies but takes a backseat to literature and tea. :)

          She probably has cats, and may have an herb garden.

          I guess it’s an affectionate in-group stereotype? I have no idea how widespread it is, but in the circles I travel in people know what I mean by it. Maybe I thought it was a more universal joke than it is. Googling “tea-drinking lesbian” brings up a few references to the stereotype’s existence, usually in the form of gentle humor. It doesn’t really have negative connotations as far as I know. There are plenty of other types: stone butch, diesel dyke, lipstick lesbian, chapstick lesbian, soft butch, baby dyke, high femme… our self-referential slang continues to evolve.

          I’m typing this while sipping loose-leaf artisan tea (I grew the chamomile and rose petals in it) in my living room, with a cat on my lap, wearing a beat-up suede fedora and curing henna so I can dye my hair. There are two books of poetry and several books on gender nearby and a lot more of them in the study. Tea-drinking lesbian all the way. :D

          Is there a Coffee-Drinking Lesbian? A Post-Modern Decaf Chai Soy Latte Lesbian?

          Not that I know of, although that second one seems possible, if you lose the “decaf.” Everyone knows lesbians are drawn to soy products, right? Vegetarianism is totally the precursor to coming out. ;)

          Coffee-drinking lesbians aren’t unusual enough to be a type, although it’s notable that butches often take their coffee black or with the addition of strong drink, while femmes like theirs with the right proportions of foamed to steamed milk. Stereotypically, I mean. Ever seen the movie “Bound”? All the butch/femme stuff in the first part of the movie is spot on. :)

          And it’s all rather post-modern, poking fun at and enjoying our own stereotypes. We really do live up to them sometimes, intentionally or not. And they’re good shorthand: when I say “a cute baby-dyke boi with a fauxhawk” my friends know what I mean.

          1. Thanks for the validation. I think we’re actually pretty common. There may be a lot of variation in geographic distribution; in areas with low cafe-density, we’d be pretty hard to observe.

          2. Thanks. :) A friend of mine promptly identified herself as a Post-Modern Chai Soy Latte Bisexual, which made me SO happy.

            Maybe it’ll catch on.

      2. If an attractive woman makes eye contact with me in a cafe and smiles – particularly if she appears to be a Classic Tea-Drinking Lesbian (it’s a subtype) – my heart races, my breathing quickens, my palms sweat. I don’t decide whether or not that happens.

        Yeah, but see, I have the exact same response to lesbians, and I’m a straight man. Not thinking about it doesn’t help. Being called a creep or a pervert doesn’t help either. Palm sweat is all I get.

        1. Yeah, but see, I have the exact same response to lesbians, and I’m a straight man. Not thinking about it doesn’t help. Being called a creep or a pervert doesn’t help either. Palm sweat is all I get.

          Um, this doesn’t make you less straight. (Lesbians are, generally speaking, women.) Or, in my opinion, perverted. I react to attractive straight women… I just don’t *do* anything about it.

  23. Love this vid.

    Does anyone with a brain really think being gay has anything to do with environment? It’s actually selected at an evolutionary level. It means that there are family members who won’t compete for mating privileges, and will also protect the family no matter what. We ‘straights’ probably owe our continued existence to ‘teh gayz’. Thanks guys and gals!

    http://www.danaanpress.com/alib/hs.pdf sorry it’s a .pdf, but worth reading.

    So the answer appears to be; I’m gay, I was born gay, same as you were born straight. Now get your goddamn foot off my civil liberties you religious a**hole!


    1. It completely blows the theory of evolution, to claim that a trait that greatly reduces the chances of procreation would be naturally selectable.

      Exhibitions of homosexuality in the lesser animal kingdom are more than likely caused by learning, or they aren’t “homosexual” at all and merely an instrument of conferring dominance within a social structure.

      1. It completely blows the theory of evolution, to claim that a trait that greatly reduces the chances of procreation would be naturally selectable.

        Read more? In highly social species it’s not always a good idea for every member of a social group to reproduce. Particularly in species that require a lot of parental care. Think about that for a bit, will you? There are some neat birth-order studies of homosexuality that you might find fascinating.

        Personally, I don’t want to find a cause any more than I want a cause for, say, altruism. I like it and I’d like to keep it around. Finding the cause of homosexuality is about half a step from deciding to prevent it, and thanks, but I think being a lesbian is AWESOME and I feel sorry for everyone who isn’t. ;)

        Exhibitions of homosexuality in the lesser animal kingdom are more than likely caused by learning, or they aren’t “homosexual” at all and merely an instrument of conferring dominance within a social structure.

        If you’re going to make statements like that, you should probably cite them or something. Your claim runs counter to empirical reality. Look at bonobos and other apes; dolphins and whales; heck, parrot breeders will tell you that sometimes the birds are gay (pretty common in cockatiels, actually).

        Bagemihl’s 1999 book on the subject is widely cited, but ten minutes with an academic database would find you many other credible, peer-reviewed sources. Animal sexuality varies widely both within and among species. Science is cool.

      2. I think there are plenty of plausible evolutionary scenarios for homosexuality – you just have to consider how it shows up in the population. Skin colour protects everyone equally from the sun, so it’s passed pretty much equally to all kids. Sexuality isn’t like that – regardless of the orientation of the parents, the kids have about the same odds of being gay or straight.

        Now consider the likelihood of your grandchildren surviving if you had seven straight kids, versus the likelihood of their surviving if you had six straight kids and a gay one. For example, if one of your grandkids’ parents dies, there’s a likely-childless relative there to adopt them. So, if the “gay-uncle advantage” (times six) outweighs the reduced number of kids your gay son would have, it pays off.

        In other words, homosexuality isn’t something that has evolved as a genetic survival strategy for gay people – it’s evolved for the genetic survival of their parents.

        Then what you’d expect would be a genetic mechanism whereby, of a largish group of siblings, there should be about one gay one, with a reasonably high likelihood; but with only one or two children, the likelihood of a gay one should be low. And it turns out, that’s what happens. See e.g. http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Gay+males%27+sibling+link%3A+men%27s+homosexuality+tied+to+having+older…-a0148185714

        Consider left-handedness in the same light, for example, and the consistent 10% rate, and its independence from the parents’ handedness – looks similar.

      3. Evolution works on species, not on individuals.

        There are multiple strategies around breeding. There’s sexual and asexual reproduction. Some species like rabbits breed a LOT. Some like bears don’t breed much but take good care of their offspring. With species like lions if a pride is taken over by new males, they kill the existing cubs to ensure it’s their legacy that survives. Other species are parasitic and trick another into raising their offspring.

        In the end, all that matters is that the species goes on. As you can see there are different ways of reproducing. No single strategy is ideal in all cases.

      4. Evolution operates on all levels of a system at once, and at all timescales. Mathematically, it cannot really be otherwise.

        It operates within your own body, as different cells compete for access to the food you eat. Some become cancerous and divide constantly; others never divide at all. Evolution selects for cells that tend to make more of themselves. Cancer does that in the short term; brain cells in the long term.

        It operates on genes within your cells. Genes can be expressed or not expressed, at different times and in different tissues. Evolution selects for genes that tend to produce more copies of themselves.

        It operates at the level of individuals competing for resources and reproduction. This you’re already familiar with.

        It also operates at the level of communities, which consist of interacting individuals. If I, by not reproducing, increase the number of children by siblings can support and/or increase chances of survival for their children by enough, then my genes (which each my nieces and nephews carry 1/4 of, compared to 1/2 for my biological children) get passed on with greater frequency than if I had had children myself. The genes that caused me not to reproduce will never be found in 100% of the population- that would lead to extinction. But they will be selected for just strongly enough that a certain percentage of the population will end up having them.

        Another example: in a beehive, only one bee reproduces. Every one of her daughters, save the next queen, is sterile. They spend their whole lives working to help their one sister produce more offspring, because evolutionarily, that is the best
        strategy for them.

        And sometimes, yes, evolutionarily selected traits have detrimental side effects. Peacocks’ tails are bad for the individual peacocks’ chances for survival. There’s some evidence that genes that boost intelligence can, when present in the wrong combination, increase the chance of schizophrenia or autism. Lord knows the giant panda would be better off with a higher libido.

  24. The people who continue to insist that it’s a choice are getting the definition wrong. Homosexuality is an orientation, it is NOT defined by sexual behavior alone. When they say that some people have been “cured” or are now “ex-gay”, what they mean is that they don’t have sexual relationships with members of the same gender any longer. When they say it’s a choice, they mean that a person can choose who they have a relationship with. They are not defining it by who this person is attracted to. Some don’t even believe that gay people actually love each other. One commenter above who believes that “if you acknowledge the fact that homosexuals see sex as purely for pleasure…”, which is typical of this kind of ignorance.

  25. I love this!

    I doubt this approach will work to make the people most entrenched in their beliefs reconsider, but I think that there are many more people who simply never consider how illogical the choice argument really is. Especially when it means choosing to be treated like a second class citizen for the rest of your life.

    This is such a simple, non-confrontational approach. It seems to slip past some of the emotional defenses people have built up. I really hope it catches on. The tipping point to majority acceptance may be closer than I thought.

  26. Hello, I made this video and i’m happy to see it posted on boingboing. The more exposure the better.


  27. As someone who masturbated since he was 4 years old, I can honestly say that no, it was not a choice.

    At the same time, it’s really a lot less simple than “gay” or “straight.” There’s many flavors in between that line, and many that stray far from it.

  28. You’ve all responded in a very mature, responsible way to this. As an excellent way to help people to think more deeply about their innate prejudices it works superbly, despite offering an obvious false dichotomy.

    That said I can’t believe we’ve got to comment #42 and no one has mentioned the fact that this question was asked of a chap wearing a T-shirt proudly sporting the legend ‘Use your TOOL’. Pay attention to the puerile people!

    1. You’ve all responded in a very mature, responsible way to this.


      I may have had this discussion before. You know, once or twice. ;)

      1. Thanks, but if you read further down my post you’ll see that the first sentence was very much tongue in cheek (or wherever your preference lies).

        I’m certain you don’t require my approbation and encouragement – but well done!

  29. The problem for most straight people is that they look at their own heterosexuality within all the societal examples they see of courtship to sexuality to marriage. So, many seem to have a narrower scope when it comes to understanding the full expression of homosexuality. The lack of examples in society, they are left to what the media mostly shows them as examples of homosexuality: various sexual practices and roles, much femininity and little intimacy.

    Hence why they often don’t see the concept of homosexuality as one that is parallel to their own heterosexuality. So they miss that first and foremost it just as much a mirror of the same levels of intimacy and love they are familiar with along with many sexual components just like their own.

  30. Unsolicited advice to the Gay Rights movement from a straight man:

    1) Don’t call it gay marriage, call it marriage freedom! You’re fighting for everyone’s right to marry whoever they want without the government butting in, period.

    2) Stop saying being gay is not a choice. Of course it’s not a choice, but what if it were? Would it then be OK to discriminate against gay people? No, we all have the right to make that choice, and it’s no one’s bee’s wax if we do!

    1. 1) Don’t call it gay marriage, call it marriage freedom! You’re fighting for everyone’s right to marry whoever they want without the government butting in, period.

      2) Stop saying being gay is not a choice. Of course it’s not a choice, but what if it were? Would it then be OK to discriminate against gay people? No, we all have the right to make that choice, and it’s no one’s bee’s wax if we do!

      Thank you for the unsolicited and unnecessary advice. :P We actually generally call it “marriage equality” at this point, and we quit focusing on the choice rhetoric a while back for exactly that reason.

      The Human Rights Campaign is far from perfect, but they’re our largest, most centralized lobbying organization, and they’re a pretty good source if you want to find out what actual gay civil rights activists (not just random people on the internet) are doing and saying.

      I can’t help getting dragged into the choice arguments – it’s sort of a guilty pleasure at this point – but it’s not a central focus of the movement itself. We don’t want to focus on causes; we want to focus on justice regardless of cause.

      So – good advice, but we didn’t need it. :) Thank you anyway!

  31. I like the approach of the video, to put a very simple question to people that gets pretty much elicits an immediate, obvious response, and then the realization that they had considered gays to be somehow unlike themselves all along. Nice work, it is rhetorically refreshing.

    However, to play devil’s advocate, what about the stereotypes of prison sexuality? Where you have a (presumably) sexuality-representative subpopulation with (presumably, if the stereotypes are anywhere near accurate) non-representative rates of same-sex activity among people who (presumably) would not be engaged so.

    Also, what about bisexuality?

    While I like the approach of the video, the level of discussion is really just a coupla notches above the drivel in most media. Pretty much the take-home message is that gay people are born that way, end of story, just like you were, so quit discriminating. Which is great — we need that in some parts of the country.

    Environment — which includes family life, intake of media, exposure to industrial and pharmecutical materials through water and food, exposure to sexual abuse, etc, etc — is also important, and not gotten into. What if sexuality is neither a choice nor an inborn trait?

    1. We give so much value to the specific sex act categories that if person A engages in sexual relations with that of people in column 1, then person A is a member of that club. If person B engages in sexual relations with that of people in column 2, then person B is a member of THAT club. I disagree with this myopic way of sexually identifying people.

      Sex is not the absolute identifier that establishes one’s membership. For many people the physical act of sex is easy to engage in with a variety of people and a variety of sexes. I know this not as someone who has a salad bar approach to sexuality. But I have met up with a lot of guys who do. Sex is sex to them and the act itself has no value to how they identify themselves, nor does it mean that they have a closeted side to their life.

      As men they can have sex with men, but at the end of the day they’re not going to want the white picket fence, 2.5 kids and intimate relationship with one of the same gender. As for them it’s not an act of romance, love or intimacy. It’s just sex. They may engage in same gender sex but they connect *intimately* with that of the opposite sex.

      Human sexuality has a lot of components to it above and beyond procreation and intimacy. So to look at an extremely isolated group like our nation’s prison population, other components that come up with human sexuality (power, physical need to get off, etc.) within the sexual repression that comes from an environment like prison (limited choice of human partner variety, etc.) can lead to the phenomena of man with man sex with men who do not identify as gay.

  32. I didn’t. I did, on the other hand, choose to be bisexual. Yes, it was a choice. While I have a distinct preference for the feminine gender, that’s mostly due to acculturation and availability. I’ve decided it utterly strange to eschew a sexual partner based on plumbing.

    The good news is that I tend to prefer humans based on attributes other than their physical offerings- frankly, all humans look weird and more than a little disturbing.

    1. That gets back to the question of whether sexuality is nature or action.

      I’d argue that you didn’t (and can’t) choose your sexuality, only how you live it. You could choose to acknowledge and live one side of your available sexuality, or the other, or both, or neither. None of that changed the fact that you’re bi – the fact that you had all those choices available to you establishes that you are bi.

      Given (my reading of) your interpretation, there would be no such thing as a deeply closeted gay person – having chosen to live as a straight person, they are.

      1. I would argue that I’m straight- without expending some effort, I can’t get sexually interested in a male. But if a male is interesting enough, I can easily make an exception. Whereas, walking down the street, I have no trouble getting sexually interested in a female. “Oh, she’s hot,” comes naturally. It takes effort to go, “Oh, he’s hot.” But it’s a worthwhile effort to make, I think.

        //Okay, I rarely make the effort. But I’m married. So, there’s little reason to make the effort.

  33. It’s a stupid question, but there’s a good question hidden inside it.

    I’ve read quotes by queer folks who often say things like, “I knew I was gay by the time I was 9 years old.” That always surprised me because straight people don’t usually become “interested” in the opposite sex until around 12 or so. So it seems to me there might actually be some real age-related developmental differences among the various orientations.

    The idea that people could have any orientation they wanted and just pick one is still stupid, contradicting almost everybody’s actual personal experience. One can only conclude that the people who say these things are closeted bisexuals in repressive environments who simply don’t understand that most people are not just like them.

  34. I think it’s weird that most people on here are talking
    About this or that but not understanding the poignant message here.
    The “straight” people thought it was funny that they “never thought
    About it like that”. I mean, seriously, nowadays when is gender sexuality
    A dichotomy? It’s obvious with this video that sexual identity is a scale. Incoorporating all sexualities. From curious to realized.

  35. I chose to be strait when i was 14. at 31 i chose to allow myself to be gay. Reality is, I was always Bisexual.

  36. I choose to be straight every time I have sex with a woman. People choose to be homosexual when they choose to have sex with someone of the same gender. Since no one is forcing wither of use to have sex at gunpoint it’s still a choice.

  37. It’s a good video.

    It was my own utter, utter heterosexuality that proved to me that sexual orientation is innate.

    However, one of the most “militant” lesbians I know is completely positive that orientation is a choice.

    As far as the worthiness of debating choice versus born with it, when it comes to philosophical debates about discrimination within liberalism, a difference which is unchosen always gets priority over a chosen difference.

    For chosen differences, the test (according to JS Mill) is whether or not they hurt others.

    Arguments for greater civil rights for homosexuals are stronger, according to liberal principles, if sexuality is unchosen. A person should not be discriminated against based on a difference they were born with. There should be, therefore, equality in areas of marriage and adopting children between heterosexuals and homosexuals. These are positive rights, ie something is done to you/for you by the state.

    If sexuality is chosen, however, then part of the choice to be a homosexual would also take into account that society does not allow marriage and/or adoption for homosexuals. Because they are harming no-one, homosexual activity should not be illegal. People should be left alone to do what they like in the bedroom. This is a form of negative rights, ie the state leaves you alone.

  38. This video does seem a bit simplistic to me, but with honorable motivation. I think it’s pretty evident that sexuality has both physical and environmental components to it. They equate this with thinking its a choice, which is not the case. This is true of nearly all of our personality characteristics. (to the person who asked why it’s wrong to think we are a blank slate, it is because we aren’t.)

    The evidence indicates that the more male children one has the more likely the later males are to be gay, not children in general or gay females. This is likely due to the mere presence of certain hormones in the womb during fetal development and not to any particular evolutionary advantage. That is not to say that there is no genetic component / evolutionary advantage, just that this particular component is not.

    Furthermore it is fairly unlikely that homosexuality can be explained as a backup system to care for siblings, nieces and nephews. We already have a general kin altruism and a geneplex resulting in one who takes care of orphaned relatives and had children would quickly become more prevalent than one which barred procreation. The reason that social insects like ants can get away with such a system is that they are more genetically related to their sisters than they are to their children.

    Procreative sex in animals is a dichotomy. This is fact, but in intelligent social animals sex is co-opted for use in social relationships and many animals engage in same-sex intercourse for that purpose. Humans being one of the most social and intelligent are no exception.

    I see humans as serially monogamous bisexuals by nature, but expressed as a bell curve(the Kinsey scale), but with a severe skewing of those identifying as exclusively straight (mainly due to Abrahamic and similar religions), and a slight skewing of males that identify as exclusively gay as compares to females due to the real phenomenon related to previous male births by a mother. and some skewing by male and female gays collectively due to certain prejudices against bisexuality within the gay/lesbian community.

  39. This video has its heart in the right place, but its ignoring some important outlier cases. My friend was straight up until she was 24, at which point she was a lesbian. Now, this happened partially (or maybe wholly) because her then boyfriend came out as transgender and started living his (now her) life as a woman. In this instance, was my friend’s decision to stay in the relationship (and thus be gay) a choice, or truly innate? Was it both? Neither? I honestly can’t say, and its not my place to put labels on what is really just a functional but slightly changed relationship. It just goes to show that even something as simple as choice/no choice can get pretty muddy once all cases are taken into account.

  40. i think i just smoke the pole out of convienience. It’s there so might as well enjoy it….if a girl was there, i would probably throw her around bed as well….o wait that means im bi….o well…good enough hehe

  41. I really like how this fairly straight-forward (yet not often asked) question allows some people to rethink their first impulse (i.e. “homosexuality is a choice, but I didn’t choose to be straight. Oh, wait…”).

  42. it’s interesting how easy it is to lead people down this path, but what’s striking is that these people have never mentally found their way down this path on their own. this reflects, i suspect, a fundamental lack of introspection. where is this lack coming from? i think part of it is rooted in fundamentalist/evangelical christianity, which teaches that the answers are not to be found through experiment or introspection, but in a bronze-age document. and part of it is just plain good old fashioned american stupidity.

  43. Heres the whole problem with asking someone if they chose to be straight. The question should be is what makes you Gay or what makes you straight? I know kids that are in school that claim to be Gay and has never had sex, REALLY! The problem with our society is when some acts flamboyant they get accused of being Gay. Just because someone is flamboyant does not make you Gay. So the pressures in life force them to do something that there not comfortable with. I have a Gay friend that struggled with the act of having physical relationship with his partner, wow why was this if this was meant to be?

    1. I have a Gay friend that struggled with the act of having physical relationship with his partner, wow why was this if this was meant to be?

      Sex and sexuality can be frightening for everyone, gay, straight, bi, or whatever. Attraction doesn’t necessarily mean comfort, and coming to terms with sexuality – ANY kind of sexuality – is a process.

      Plenty of people figure out their sexual orientation – or some elements of it, at least – before ever having sex. I knew I liked girls LONG before I kissed one for the first time. When I was a young teenager, I would try to daydream about boys and they would all turn into my best friend Nicole. Who makes your heart pound? Who do you dream about, when you close your eyes and hug your pillow at night?

      Discovering who we’re attracted to is one important piece of sexual identity. There are other things involved in becoming a sexual being, though. It doesn’t begin and end with attraction. Thankfully. :)

  44. Mostly straight guy, totally comfortable with my sexuality. I’m constantly surprised when seemingly not-uptight people react strongly if I refer to another man as “cute”. Reflection of our current society, I know — no one minds if a woman refers to another woman as “cute” or “hot”. It’s even expected.


  45. I found that refreshing. None of those people sounded unreasonable, perhaps ignorant in some cases, but not unreasonable.

  46. Awesome.

    But I wonder how many interviews were done and is this a representative sample.

    Would also like to have this done across a broad spectrum of people and see how, say, the south would answer.


  47. Looks like I got alot of reading to do. Thanks to all who discussed this with me, and especially for discussing it without attacking me or even being snarky about my assumptions/beliefs.
    If I didn’t want to learn & understand more about sexuality in general, I wouldn’t have bothered commenting at all. So again, thanks.

  48. The difference between ‘When did you choose to be straight” and “When did you choose to be left/right-handed” is that handedness isn’t called into question, challenged as an abomination or declared a choice by ignorant morons with antiquated beliefs stolen from the very people they dropped bombs on last week.

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