"By saying that everyone is 'born' with a certain sexuality, society is treating queerness as a biological certainty that 'can’t be helped.' This assumption relies on the concept that only identities which cannot be repressed should be allowed to exist. Instead of embracing sexuality and gender variation, our language often frames us as begrudgingly 'accepting it.'"
“Born that way”
“It gets better”
“They can’t help it”
Queer people are marginalized within a genetic construct, due to the popular notion of genetic queer-causing traits in the “born with it” discourse. By utilizing this popular mantra, media campaigns are both spreading this medicalized narrative while also perpetuating the concept of the “blame of homosexuality.” Rather than say that anti-queer violence isn’t acceptable in all forms, the media is spreading the concept that violence is only unacceptable because queer individuals “can’t help it.” This lends to the reading of queerness as a genetic certainty, which may stop some anti-queer violence, but also makes abnormal a completely valid way of identifying. Invalidating the concept that some people do choose who they are attracted to, and that sexuality exists on a spectrum rather than a black and white either/or system, creates a dialogue where sexuality must require an excuse to exist or flourish.
Medicalizing queerness as a genetic trait leads many individuals to see personal sexual attraction or gender expression as something that can be “cured.”
Omega, my girlfriend, identifies as a cisgendered queer female. Everything she says about how society treats her reminds me of the way that diseased people are examined and looked at by society. When defining the abnormal, we, as members of a shared culture, must have a working definition of the normal. Biological discourse can work to stigmatize individuals.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines disease as, “A pathological condition of a body part, an organ, or a system resulting from various causes, such as an infection, genetic defect, or environmental stress, and characterized by an identifiable group of signs or symptoms.” When Omega walks into a room, people stare. Many people avoid her because of many of her visible characteristics that they consider undesirable, and her disorder, which marks her as different from the dominant population, has been proven to be genetic in many scientific papers.
People diagnose Omega according to her hair, shaved and dyed, her personality, more masculine than feminine, and whom she chooses to hold hands with, a woman. Omega also self-diagnoses, using medicalized language to describe herself, policing herself to fit into categories that often mimic or intersect illness categories. “She was depressed because she was queer and no one knew”, and she was “born with it.”
According to modern media, Omega should be accepted into mainstream, “healthy” society, because the genetic problem she has can’t be cured, and she was simply “born with it.” Queer expression is not biologically determined, and utilizing medical terminology to explain away a culturally determined, empowering, self-identification of same-sex attraction is not the same as embracing sexual variation. Media campaigns are “accepting” rather than embracing, “explaining away” rather than “understanding.”
The medicalization of queer identities allows for the examination of a socio-cultural construct, through the incorrectly adapted lens of biomedicine. The medicalized language surrounding and perpetuating social notions simply supports our cultural framework. Biology is not objective, rather it is firmly rooted in culture. Assuming that biological findings exist outside of a cultural framework isn’t simply incorrect, it can also be extremely harmful to the individuals who are placed at a disadvantage within the power structure.