The myth of choice

Yesterday, the Supreme Court did one thing right by refusing to hear the appeal of a California ban on “conversion therapy.” In the accompanying New York Times article, there was this…

Some conservative and religious groups continue to argue that sexuality is not innate and that a person could change his or her sexual orientation.

I could say something like, “anyone who knows anyone who’s gay knows that ‘choice’ with regard to sexuality is ridiculous,” but really, anyone should know that choice is a myth. All you have to do to prove this is to “choose” to have sex with someone opposite your preference. You know, for science.

I think this choice myth is rooted in the bisexual experience but also in a simplification of what human sexuality is.

The myth of choice

Gay Rights Movement in Uncharted Territory

Reinhardt wrote that government actions that treat people differently based on sexual orientation “are subject to heightened scrutiny,” like actions singling out racial minorities or women. And he concluded that lawyers aren’t free to strike jurors just because they are gay. That differential treatment, he said, violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

That seems so patently obvious to me it’s hard to believe it’s even at issue. Singling out people because they’re gay is like singling out the left-handed or blue-eyed.


The other night, Chris sent me a Facebook message.

“You up?”

It was only 9:38 but I wasn’t. I had turned off the light only a few minutes before.

I pinged him back the next morning.

Long story short, he wanted to talk about him mom Nancy who’s very sick. I knew she was dealing with some kind of chronic issue that wasn’t likely to get better, but I didn’t recall what it was (and still don’t, except that it’s something to do with muscular degeneration). He didn’t expect she’d live a lot longer.

One second, I’m in high school and at his house and Nancy is making us food then I’m out of high school and half way across the country with a job then I’m getting married and Chris is there then there’s babies and the babies become little people and then actual people and your parents start to get sick and sometimes they die.

And it becomes really obvious: You are going to die, too.

And fuck, but why didn’t you think of that? During the all that time between the seconds you can remember when nothing much of interest was going on and you could have been doing something more…more.

And, like, I’m 46. More than halfway gone. I don’t regret. Life’s not that bad, after all. Things are pretty good. But I want more time. Now that more’s behind than ahead, I want all that time back. Not to change a thing. Not to reset my life. I’m lucky that way. I’m OK with where things are. But I want back my time.

Chris spent an afternoon with Nancy in August. She was aware and present and he feels closure. That’s important. When my dad got sick, I went out for the surgery but he was pretty out of it. I left very early and spent a few minutes in his hospital room and told him goodbye in that way you say goodbye when you leave for the day, not forever. I didn’t tell him I loved him. He was right there and I didn’t say it. I thought it, but the words didn’t come out. I figured, there’s still time.

Then I talked to him on the phone maybe a week or so later. He had some hope. There was a program. He sounded optimistic. Still didn’t say it. There’s still time.

Then I was travelling and got a call from his wife. No more time. Come now. By the time I got there, it was all over.

That closure’s important. Because the door’s one-way. There’s no making up for it after the fact.

I’m glad Chris had that afternoon. Glad for both him and Nancy.

Originally published on Medium.


It’s an odd thing, shedding tears at the death of someone you didn’t know.

We have this chair. An old oak, mission style rocking chair. We bought it years ago in terrible shape and took it to be reupholstered. At the shop, the upholsterer told me about the thumb prints he’d often see inside hundred-year-old pieces. The prints of their makers, long dead. In these inanimate objects, you could see the literal fingerprints of the people who created them from raw wood.

Of course, most things today aren’t like that. They’re made by teams of people. Hundreds of them. But there are still a few things we get to use — even those that are the result of the talent and labor of hundreds — that bear the obvious fingerprints of a singular talent. And as you use them, you get to know that talent.

So maybe, in a way, I did know him. Maybe we all did.

Steve Jobs, dead at 56. Too damned soon.