Quotes on the Personal Experience
of Choosing to Be Queer

[A woman on a panel said she chose to be a lesbian] and the audience was just going crazy! "What does this mean?" and "Well, do you still have an attraction to men?" And she said, "No, I don't." And they said, "But that can't be, if you had it before." And she said, "Yeah, I used to like cheese but I don't eat cheese anymore and I actually don't like it; it was an acquired taste. Men were an acquired taste. I no longer have the taste for them." People were like, "What? Oh no!" Weeping and gnashing of teeth.
—a queer man, quoted in Vera Whisman's Queer by Choice: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Politics of Identity, 1996
Although it might seem convenient to, I will not say that I can't help being a homosexual—that it's biological and predetermined chemically, or even, it's God's will for me . . . the fact is that life is like a river and we are like fish, or water-snakes, or the plastic rings from six-packs and we flow and so some of us flow, as a friend of mine once said, into a different pool so when someone says to me "I'm sorry about AIDS Queer-bashing Police Harassment Discrimination, but you chose to be queer," I respond, that I've chosen to be an uppity faggot, actually, and that this was my choice and yours, and I mention queer-faggot contributions to the arts, education, social and sexual liberation, liberation movements and Civil Rights movements, not forgetting uniquely faggot educational activity like, "genderfuck," which by the way if you haven't noticed it is really catching on, so, yes, I can help it and helped myself to it.
—Michael Haldeman (a.k.a. Violetta), "I'm Quitting—and I'm Angry," Holy Titclamps, 1995
Some of us do, in fact, choose to be queer (attraction and all) and Phil Martin damn well knows it.
—Michael Scarce, Letter to the Editor of Columbus Alive magazine in Columbus, Ohio, USA, March 25, 1998, complaining about a column in which gay writer Phil Martin asserted that being gay is not a choice.
Of course, I'm that most awful of perverts. I chose, I gleefully admit that I was heterosexual until I met the right man and chose to indulge in my homoerotic potential. Take that!
—Elf Sternberg, posting on the talk.politics.misc newsgroup, April 18, 1993
I was straight until 21 yrs old.
—Anonymous Deaf Woman, "Heartbroken from a Straight Woman (Deaf)" coming-out story published on deafqueer.org, September 3, 1996
There's a poem by Robert Frost that's called "The Road Not Taken," and it ends something like, "I took the road less traveled by/And that has made all the difference," or something like that, and really, my whole life has been that way. I have always considered that, just because everybody else was doing something, that didn't mean I would do it. And when I think about it, being gay is that way, too.
—a gay man, quoted in Vera Whisman's Queer by Choice: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Politics of Identity, 1996
I guess I never felt that it wasn't a choice. It was an option, I guess.
—a queer woman, quoted in Vera Whisman's Queer by Choice: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Politics of Identity, 1996
Homosexuality is a way of life that I've grown accustomed to.
—Johnny Mathis, Us magazine, June 1982
I have friends who are straight, you know. I realize it's problematical for them because they have not been able to get out of where I was at, at that particular trap. I think of heterosexuality as a kind of trap. And they can't get out of that trap. I've been known to say, "I think you would be better off without men." And some women say to me, "I just can't bring myself to do that." And I tell them all, "I don't expect you to make any compromises on my account. It's your life." But culture and society says you sleep with men if you're a woman.
—a queer woman, quoted in Vera Whisman's Queer by Choice: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Politics of Identity, 1996
Joey's mother used to tell him about collard greens. When he was a child he would say, "Yuck." His mother said, "I know, I know. But someday your tastes will change." She said that one day she had walked into the kitchen and asked her mother what that was that smelled so good. It turned out to be collard greens, which she had always thought were gross before. From that point on she loved them. The story horrified Joey's romantic sensibility. If something that fundamental could change—if he could be the kind of person who liked collard greens—what else about him might be different someday? What other person might he become? He felt the same way now about his sexuality. Sometimes he saw a woman who appealed to him, or while masturbating he accidentally thought about one. He put these thoughts away, not because he had anything against heterosexuality, but because they made him incomprehensible to himself. He also to this day did not like collards, or any greens for that matter.
—Joey Manley (owner of freespeech.org), "Love Will Tear," Blithe House Quarterly, Vol. 2 No. 1, Winter 1998
I must confess that Garber's very multiplication of examples browbeat me into wondering whether I myself might not have been bisexual had I lived in another era. When I was a young man, in the sixties, before the beginning of gay liberation, I was always in therapy trying to go straight. I was in love with three different women over a ten-year period, and even imagined marrying two often. But after the Stonewall Uprising in 1969 . . . I revised my thinking entirely: I decided I was completely gay and was only making the women in my life miserable. Following a tendency that Garber rightly criticizes, I denied the authenticity of my earlier heterosexual feelings in the light of my later homosexual identity. After reading Vice Versa, I find myself willing to reinterpret the narrative of my own personal history.
—Edmund White, "Gender Uncertainties: Marjorie Garber Looks at Bisexuality" (review of Marjorie Garber's book Vice Versa: Bisexuality and the Eroticism of Everyday Life), from The New Yorker, July 17, 1995, p. 81
[O]ne of my goals in the women's studies classroom was to convert someone to lesbianism in the course of the year—and I was always successful at this, just by talking about how sexuality is a construction and heterosexuality an institution and by simply posing the question, by asking my students: How do you identify yourself sexually? And if they would respond: I'm heterosexual, then I would ask: How do you know? How can you be so sure? thus provoking them to question their sexuality in certain fundamental ways. Result? Conversions right and left.
—Catherine A. F. MacGillivray, in dialogue with Calvin Thomas, from Straight With a Twist: Queer Theory and the Subject of Heterosexuality, edited by Calvin Thomas, p. 262, 2000
I was not gay before I met her. I never thought about it. Nobody could have been more confused than me. . . . I think [that] in love, there's not sex, there's not segregation, there's not anything, there's just LOVE, and that’s what I feel. . . . I don't feel like I'm coming out. I've never been in a closet. I've never had anything to hide. I've lived my life in truth always. This was just a natural progression toward getting more love in my life. . . . I don't have any fear about this. This was the easiest thing in my life I've ever done. It's fantastic. I'm the happiest I've ever been in my whole life.
—Anne Heche, interviewed on Oprah, April 30, 1997
"When did you first know you were different?" the counselor at the L.A. Free Clinic asked.
     "Well," I said, "I knew I was poor and on welfare, and that was different from lots of kids at school, and I had a single mom, which was really uncommon there, and we weren't Christian, which is terribly noticeable in the South. Then later I knew I was a foster child, and in high school, I knew I was a feminist and that caused me all kinds of trouble, so I guess I always knew I was different." His facial expression tells me this isn’t what he wanted to hear, but why should I engage this idea that my gender performance has been my most important difference in my life? It hasn't, and I can't separate it from the class, race, and parentage variables through which it was mediated. Does this mean I'm not real enough for [sex change] surgery?
     I've worked hard to not engage the gay childhood narrative—I never talk about tomboyish behavior as an antecedent to my lesbian identity, I don't tell stories about cross-dressing or crushes on girls, and I intentionally fuck with the assumption of it by telling people how I used to be straight and have sex with boys like any sweet trashy rural girl and some of it was fun. I see these narratives as strategic, and I've always rejected the strategy that adopts some theory of innate sexuality and forecloses the possibility that anyone, gender troubled childhood or not, could transgress sexual and gender norms at any time. I don't want to participate in an idea that only some people have to engage a struggle of learning gender norms in childhood either. So now, faced with these questions, how do I decide whether to look back on my life through the tranny childhood lens, tell the stories about being a boy for Halloween, not playing with dolls? What is the cost of participation in this selective recitation? What is the cost of not participating?
—Leslie Feinberg, Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue, p. 32, 1998
The train will stop at this way station which might be Boston and stay a few years and then get on the road again and stop at another way station. In this way station you were a heterosexual; in this way station you were a lesbian. You look back down the tracks and you look at your past and all the events in your life and your friends, and you're now looking at them through lesbian eyes. So you're reinterpreting the past.
     When I became a lesbian I looked back at my life and realized that all along I had had these signals that I was one of them too. So, when I became a political lesbian that I thought I had chosen, had I really chosen it or had I been one all along but repressed it? When I was writing Borderlands I had the lesbian perspective, but my thinking had not evolved to the place where I believed that when you realize that you like women, that you want to have primary relationships with women, that you want to have carnal relationships with women, you can still make the choice to stay with men. Many of us have done that. You can become a lesbian and be a lesbian for twenty years and then decide that you want to be sexual with a man. I don't know if that changes your lesbian identity, but . . . you make a choice. If you know you're a lesbian and you're married and have kids you say, "Okay I'm going to be with my husband and I'll be a straight woman as much as I can and be with my kids." Or you can say, "I'm going to leave my husband; I'm going to come out as a lesbian and take this path," depending on how much courage you have. But I think that there's only certain places where you can make that choice, and those are the places of ambiguity, of change, where you're in nepantla—you can go either way. Once you're on this track, you're pretty much a lesbian and you think like a lesbian and you live with lesbians and your community is lesbians, and the heterosexual world is foreign and that's the path you and I—well I don't know about you—but that's the path I'm on.
—Gloria Anzaldúa, interviewed by AnnLouise Keating October 25-26, 1991, published in Frontiers, September 22, 1993
The male party line concerning Lesbians is that women become Lesbians out of reaction to men. This is a pathetic illustration of the male ego's inflated proportions. I became a Lesbian because of women, because women are beautiful, strong, and compassionate.
—Rita Mae Brown
Although I have been married and have two sons, I was a late bloomer and decided in my late 20s or early 30s that being a lesbian was OK and that, for me, it is a choice.
—Reader Response to "Why Are We Gay?" survey conducted by The Advocate, July 2001
When I became homosexual I felt free of a great amount of bullshit. I know that people are shackled by a lot of things that they don't believe in, that aren't in their interest to pursue. They pursue them because of the enormous social pressures that play on people, and one of those things is heterosexuality. People don't want to get involved in other people's lives in the straight world, Men don't—they can't. They're afraid of sex. . . . Homosexuality is very positive in people's lives because they can become free of a lot of conventional social imagery that rules them, chains them down, that directs their lives. They can get outside that. It's the first step. Becoming gay is an opening-up process to people: they feel they can be more honest and more real.
—Mark Liebergall, The Ninth Street Center Journal, Vol. 2, 1974
And if desire is something that you learn . . . just like heterosexuality was taught us, you know, you're supposed to like this little boy if you're a little girl. . . . If desire is something that you're not born with, something that you acquire—that sexual hunger to connect, to touch somebody, to be touched by somebody—if that can be learned, it can also be unlearned and relearned. So that if there are political lesbians out there (a lot of political lesbians came out in the seventies because that was a viable alternative), there were other lesbians like Cherrie [Moraga] who at a very early age were attracted, lusting, after women. With both types, there was a resistance to the teaching that we should desire men. But with people like Cherrie, that took on a very emotional kind of manifestation very early on. They got turned on by girls. And with the political lesbian you were a lesbian in your head first and then you started looking at women differently because of these theories about sexuality: Is sexuality learned? Is heterosexuality learned? Is lesbianism learned? And through the theory you got to the body and the emotion and the closeness with women.
     After [my book] Borderlands came out I got to thinking that yes, some of us do choose. It's a very conscious thing: "I'm going to give up men; I'm going to go to women; I'm going to come out of the closet and declare my lesbianism." With other people, it's very unconscious. They don't even know they've made the choice. They think it's just natural to be a lesbian or to be a heterosexual woman, but there have been all these processes and decisions made all along the way that you're not even aware of, that you don't remember. Okay so here we are now in 1991, and I don't think a person is born queer; I don't think every person is born queer. I think there may be some genetic propensity towards most things: music, having a good ear for music. I don't know if there are any queer genes, but if there are they'll be discovered. So some of it might be biological; some of it might be learned; and some of it might be chosen. My position will probably change in a year or two, but that's where I'm at with it.
—Gloria Anzaldúa, interviewed by AnnLouise Keating October 25-26, 1991, published in Frontiers, September 22, 1993
But I think that one has to: one, make the distinction between desire and love. Desire may be a catalyst for love, and it may not be. And so I think that it's actually much more easy for us to choose who to love and how to love than who to desire, because I think there's a certain quality of mystery in all our lives that is still centered around desire. I think it's useful that we've had so much focus on the social construction of desire because I think it does enable us to realize the role the mind plays in desire and that it is possible, to the degree that you can alter states of consciousness, to alter the nature of your desire. Now the question is how many of us are really so in tune with ourselves that we are capable of altering our states of consciousness, and I think that most of us don't live at that level of holistic awareness of our senses and of our intellectual understanding in order to be able to do that. But it's certainly possible.
—bell hooks, "An Interview with bell hooks: The Ripple Talks with One of America's Leading Feminists" by Marlene Smith & Julie Petrarca, Washington Ripple, Vol. 9 No. 2, March 1995
I am 46 years old. I am female. I was married for 26 years and have three children and two grandchildren. In my case it was definitely a choice. When I was 35 or so, I met this woman, and we became friends. In the manner of teenagers, and at her suggestion, we decided to "experiment" sexually. I laugh now, to think back on it. I was petrified at the thought, but one day I looked at her and said, "OK, kiss me." We looked at each other and laughed, and she did. My response was, "Well, what the hell, the sky didn't fall! Do it again." . . . I made the choice to be a lesbian. I have found that sexually it is the right choice for me. I have been very lucky in that my children are totally accepting of my choice of lifestyle and my ex-husband is one of my best friends.
—Reader Response to "Why Are We Gay?" survey conducted by The Advocate, July 2001
PoetryAndTruths: How did you induce the change in thought processes? How can you be certain you are not attracted to the oppositte sex anymore?
KrazyHippie: I'll answer your questions separately.
     1. If I have to say I was born one way, I'd say I was born neutral. A lot of people say they knew when they were like 6 b/c they remember their first crush etc. I didn't really have those feelings back then. I feel like I wasn't born one way or the other, but that I was socialized into being straight because that was the assumption unless you went through some major "identity crisis" that led you to believe otherwise, and obviously that wasn't the desirable way to be. So I was straight because it was easiest.
     And yes, I was genuinely attracted to men at that point. But I had never considered my other option. I had one sexual relationship with a male, and that developed out of love (I STILL love him). We were together 6 years, and had sex a year after starting to date. (We had started to date at 16 and 18.) I definitely enjoyed sex with him. Loved it. Couldn't get enough of it.
     Then I went to a women's college. Because there were no male options, and because I was breaking out of my parents' mold and becoming a lot more liberal, I opened my mind. It was as simple as that, except that it took a few years to do completely. I just started allowing myself to consider women that way. To look at a woman I found attractive and not just say "oh, I just admire her beauty," but to let myself take it further and imagine what it would feel like to touch her, kiss her. It freaked me out at first, but eventually it became something I craved, and I developed crushes on women regularly. I still liked men, though, and considered myself bisexual, while still identifying as queer by choice because previously I would have been able to fully enjoy being with just men, and it was only my own conscious choices to consider women in the same way that led me to be bisexual.
     This is such a stereotype, but I have to tell the truth: I became more and more of a rabid feminist, and the more strongly I despised the patriarchy and felt empowered in being a woman, the more I hated the thought of heterosexual sex. I despised the penis and everything it stood for. I felt so strong and empowered being a woman that I began to love women in a whole new way and add this to my physical attraction for them. Similarly, I began to DISlike men as a whole for who they were, and that led me to be less physically attracted to them. I made an exception for my partner because I had been with him for years, loved him deeply, and he was a rabid feminist himself.
     Our relationship ended a few months ago due to other issues (he doesn't know I'm gay) and I've had sex with women since then. I love it SO MUCH and find it enjoyable on a completely different level. Even though there isn't the love and history there that there was with him, I still get so much more out of it—which is really saying something. I am freed of the feeling of submitting to a man by letting him get sexual pleasure out of my body, and I feel empowered by giving pleasure to women instead.
     2. I don't desire to ever be with a man again, plain and simple. Not physically, and not emotionally. Are men attractive to me? They can be. A few. But not as frequently as women, not in as many variations as women (they have to be pretty damn near "perfect" while I accept all kinds of differences as beautiful and unique in women), and most importantly, I don't want to touch them. Hey, he's pretty good-looking...but I don't want him to take his clothes off. And the thought of a penis honestly makes me want to throw up.
     So yeah, I consider it a choice. Not in the sense that I woke up one day and decided to be gay (although some queer-by-choice folk do, and that's perfectly fine too) but it went along with an entire restructuring of my belief system. I don't feel I was gay and just wasn't out—when I was straight, I was really straight. But now I'm really gay—no matter what my reasons for it, I love and want women and only women. Human beings are just very complex like that, no matter how we try to fit them into boxes that we can understand better. :)
     I hope this helps you understand at least where I'm coming from, even though I can't speak for all queer-by-choice because our experiences are so vastly different.
—KrazyHippie and PoetryAndTruths, from the Lesbian LiveJournal Community, April 6, 2006
For the lesbian of color, the ultimate rebellion she can make against her native culture is through her sexual behavior. She goes against two moral prohibitions: sexuality and homosexuality. Being lesbian and raised Catholic, indoctrinated as straight, I made the choice to be queer (for some it is genetically inherent). It's an interesting path, one that continually slips in and out of the white, the Catholic, the Mexican, the indigenous, the instincts. In and out of my head. It makes for loquería, the crazies. It is a path of knowledge—one of knowing (and learning) the history of oppression of our raza. It is a way of balancing, of mitigating duality.
—Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, 1987
[Why are we gay?]
All of the above. 
Some queers are born . . .
     with more decisive hormones than other people.
Some queers are abused . . .
     into believing that they're homo.
Some queers choose . . .
     to rebel against society.
Some queers lack . . .
     the parental norm, leaving them searching for that father/mother figure.
Some queers . . .
     are horny. 
Whatever, who cares?
We are happy.
We are proud.
We are productive.
—Reader Response to "Why Are We Gay?" survey conducted by The Advocate, July 2001
We know, thanks to the research of Carla Golden, Arlene Stein, and others, that by and large the divide between heterosexual and homosexual in women is less absolute [than in men]. This research finds that there are "primary lesbians," who always knew that they were attracted to women and were never attracted to men, and "elective lesbians," those who came out during the women's movement or afterwards, those who have a sense of making a more active choice or who go back and forth, depending not on the gender of the lover, but the particular personal qualities of a particular woman or man: Tom, yes, John, no, Susan, yes, Tamara, no.
—Nancy J. Chodorow, speech for the American Psychoanalytic Foundation, February 1999
There's a big controversy now: Is lesbianism hereditary? People are trying to find a genetic predisposition to being gay. I think part of this is positive in that researchers are trying to tell the establishment, "Don't try to cure homosexuality. They were born this way. A certain percent of the population is going to be this way, no matter what you do."
     But even if they're right, what about those for whom it's not hereditary? Many women say it's a choice. They have chosen lesbianism because of positive experiences with women. . . .Why are we so afraid to say we chose it? It's so scary to take that chance and say, "I am choosing it. It's really what I want to do. It's not because my DNA is making me. DNA be damned, I think I'll be a lesbian."
—JoAnn Loulan, Lesbian Passion: Loving Ourselves and Each Other, p. 35
Society came to get me and with its flags and helmets and promises of power, tried to make me a Manword against my wishes and in contrast to my own special words, but I fought it and so far I'm winning because I made choices, even when Society tried to make me do it somebody else's "moral" and "right" way, just words, I chose to be hetero and then I changed my mind, tried to be homo, those, too just words and then I realized what I really am at least for now is a faggot, a powerful weapon word and one which scares and annoys a lot of people, but it's the nature of my relationship to Society.
—Michael Haldeman (a.k.a. Violetta), "I'm Quitting—and I'm Angry," Holy Titclamps, 1995
I did a show last night and I polled my audience. They all think [Anne Heche] is a gold digger, but I don't. Why can't someone look across a room and fall in love with a woman even if they've never had a lesbian affair before? We've done such a great job of convincing everyone that we're condemned to be born with this gay gene and so forth, but there's a great deal of fluidity and change in that.
—Kate Clinton, San Francisco Bay Times, California, May 29, 1997
I personally don't believe I was "born this way." (In fact, when I'm feeling hostile, I've been known to tell right-wingers that I'm a successfully "cured" hetero.) Until I was in my early thirties, I fell in love with men, took pleasure in sleeping with them, and even married one. But like most women, I experienced most of my closest emotional relationships with female friends. The only thing that made me different was that at some point I got curious about lesbian feminist claims that it was possible to combine that intense female intimacy with good sex. The good sex part turned out to be vastly easier than I anticipated. Even so, there was no immediate biological reason to stop having sex with men or to start living as a lesbian. Coming out was, for me, a conscious decision—every step of the way.
     Nor am I an aberration, at least among women. Virtually every self-identified gay man I've ever met has been convinced that his sexuality is a biological given, but lesbians are a mixed bag
—Lindsy Van Gelder, "The 'Born That Way' Trap," Ms., 1991
I don't know . . . I find the idea that it's all biological and there's no choice in the matter somewhat dismal. "All your behavior is plotted out by your DNA. Try and look surprised." I don't think anything is that simple. Sexual identity is forged by years of experience and sensations along a spectrum of possibile feelings one has, or at least that's how I experienced it with a man I fell in love with a few years back. Ultimately, I really feel that I did choose to live the life I lead. Not because being gay is wrong or evil, but because while I intellectually can love a man, I don't feel the same way about them that I do about women. Which might be genetic, or it might be due to years of being told I'm supposed to feel that way, or it might even be a rational choice I made. I'd like to see us get to a place where we didn't really worry about this.
—Ezrael, in a post to the Metafilter Meta-Meta-Meta-Madness Community 'Blog, May 26, 2000
I tend to think that choice is all-important, freedom of choice. I feel less and less sympathetic with psychological theories of causality, even ordinary Freudian ones, that, you know, we suffer from our pasts, and are compelled by them. I sort of believe in this possibility of infinite instantaneous liberation from any kind of past, in a moment of absolute choice. And I think that we reiterate these choices on a day-by-day basis. So that we make ourselves gay every time we do something gay. And should, you know, the mood come over us, I think that you or I could walk out of here and go out to a straight singles bar and you know, be neck and neck by tomorrow morning with people who've been at it for years. So I'm not a determinist.
—a gay man, quoted in Vera Whisman's Queer by Choice: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Politics of Identity, 1996
I received an e-mail [that] basically said, "Queer by Choice is a double-edged sword. If people can choose to be queer, why can't queers choose to be straight?" This question pissed me off tremendously. Why, you might ask? Because, duh, I chose to be queer. That's the friggin' reality of it. If that has bad political ramifications well then so be it. We cannot friggin' change reality for goddamned politics. It angers me that someone could even try to deny me my own reality. I have yet to say of queers, "oh well, they just can't be born that way because that implies it's a disability." or whatever. Frankly, I don't really give a shit. But don't come shove politics down my throat like that will change the reality that I consciously chose to be queer when I was thirteen.
—Eve Shalom, "Common Sense (or Lack Thereof)," diary entry on glass.poetess.org, May 31, 2000
I'm not going to spend a lot of time forgiving myself or forgiving anybody else because I started out straight, damn it. Okay? I say to people, "You're going to have to take me as I am. I am converted, if you wish, okay? I used to be straight, now I'm gay. I'm sorry if it would make you happy that I was born this way, but I wasn't."
—a gay woman, quoted in Vera Whisman's Queer by Choice: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Politics of Identity, 1996
A homosexual is someone who has chosen to let himself love a person of the same sex: and I made that decision myself. So the responsibility is all my own.
—Kenzaburo Oe, Kojinteki Na Taiken [A Personal Matter], 1964; translated from Japanese by John Nathan, 1968
I've been gay since I was about 24.
—Julie McCrossin, quoted in "From Geek Girl to Good News Girl: Good News Week and Life Mattersthe Words as Much as the Shows They RepresentSum Up the Ebullient Julie McCrossin" by Johanna Leggatt, The Sydney Morning Herald, August 27, 2000
I didn't know that I was a lesbian, but I wanted to be one. . . . I worked at it. I was like wanting the possibility. So I started working on the lesbian paper, and going to concerts and the coffeehouse.
—a lesbian, quoted in Vera Whisman's Queer by Choice: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Politics of Identity, 1996
I reserve the right to live my life this way.
I don't give a damn when I hear people say
I'll pay the price that others pay
'cause it's worth it. Yes, it's worth giving all.
—The Pet Shop Boys, "Was It Worth It?" 1991
"I'm scared, too," she continued. "If I'm not with a butch everyone just assumes I'm straight. It's like I'm passing too, against my will. I'm sick of the world thinking I'm straight. I've worked hard to be discriminated against as a lesbian."
—Leslie Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues, p. 151, 1993
Why am I a lesbian? Because that is what I want to be. . . . I am not in the least embittered by the fact that I prefer physical relationships with one of my own sex.
—Anonymous, "Why Am I a Lesbian?" The Ladder, 1960
[E]ven though I was normally homophobic prior to this choice, I didn't really understand the ramifications of being queer til my mother actually thought I was . . . soo . . . that's how someone can choose the horrible, horrible life of being queer. And, besides, I'd already become a feminist a year or so prior to my choice & decided I never wanted to marry a man. I figured I would just live a sad and lonely life. It was a godsend for me to find out that being lesbian was actually an option. Oh, and for the record, no, when I chose to be queer I did not do so due to any book or anything. I did so because I wanted to do so. I had no idea it was a "political statement" or anything else. I was a feminist, and I saw it [as] pretty obvious that being lesbian was the only way I could live freely in my personal life.
—Eve Shalom, "Common Sense (or Lack Thereof)," diary entry on glass.poetess.org, May 31, 2000
"Why did he call you sir? Doesn't he know you're a girl?" . . . "He knew I was a girl. He was picking on me 'cause I'm different." I anticipated her next question. "I don't look like your mom. I look different from a lot of other girls. Some people don't like that, they don't think it's right." Kim knitted her eybrows. "Then why don't you wear dresses and let your hair grow long, like other girls?" . . . "I don't want to change," I told her. "I think girls and boys should be able to be any way they want to be without getting picked on."
—Leslie Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues, p. 166, 1993
Let me share from my own life. For me, my coming out—which was an explicit choice for women, and entailed ending a heterosexual marriage—was also a choice to be more politically engaged. This included everything, all dimensions, not just gay groups. I quickly (in under a year) became involved with a host of feminist/lesbian/anti-violence/environmental groups. . . . I made an anti-Persian Gulf War statement during my first year at Pomona College, which was less than two years after I had started to come out publicly. As the first shots were being fired, I stated that being an out lesbian compelled me to say that we could not merely oppose the war, but that we had to say what we stood for, and to struggle for that on all fronts. What I can tell you, with utter certainty from my own life, is that the courage and vision that I needed to say that, came from the totality of recognizing who I was as a lesbian, and what that meant. The range of meanings I gleaned, as a movement forward, from the creativity of my own sexuality, included that a) the world was structured in such a way that society tried to prevent affection, touch, and human response, b) that sentimentality alone was not philosophically sufficient, but c) passion about the world was a necessary part of the struggle, and while d) all oppressions were linked, they were not identical, e) yet all oppressions had to be fought at once, and f) movements for freedom were not about unanimity but about creativity. There's more I could say, but what it ultimately means is that for me, and for many other queers, coming out reveals much more than just a road to personal happiness and contentment.
—Jennifer Pen, letter to the editor, Queer Notions, Vol. 2, October 15, 1996
There are heterosexual married women coming out of marriages and coming out as lesbians today [but whereas] in the past these women might have discovered radical feminism and chosen to join a movement for deep social change, they now look around and say something like: "All these other heterosexual women seem to be able to tolerate the conditions of male/female gender relations in our society, but I can't. There must be something wrong with me. I must be a lesbian. I must have been a lesbian all along. It's not that the condition of women under heterosexist patriarchy is unacceptable for any human being, it's just that I was a lesbian." The "problem that has no name" has been renamed "I must have been a lesbian all along." This way of thinking prevents these women from seeing the connections between themselves and other women. This makes becoming a lesbian an individual solution and divides lesbians from straight women. To create social change in the world outside of lesbian-only spaces, the coalition between lesbian and straight feminists must remain solid. We need to know that any woman can decide to become a lesbian.
—Jennie Ruby, "Is the Lesbian Future Feminist?" off our backs: a women's news journal, Vol. 26,October 1, 1996
I think a lot of women are straight because the choice of being a lesbian is too difficult, being made too difficult by society. So I think a lot of women overlook their inclinations that are telling them they want to be with women, but they're saying no, they can't be, because it's too difficult.
—a lesbian, quoted in Vera Whisman's Queer by Choice: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Politics of Identity, 1996
I think women have so few choices. Sometimes we think we do, and it's not really a choice. Because I think many, many women are straight because of economics. I think for them marriage is a way of survival. And they may not realize this, but I think it's true.
—a queer woman, quoted in Vera Whisman's Queer by Choice: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Politics of Identity, 1996
I think extreme heterosexuality is a perversion.
—Margaret Mead
I was really tired of playing games with men. . . . And finally one day I said, "You know what, I just want a person, a human being." And finally the words came to me, "You want a person? You didn't say you wanted a man, did you? Not a man? What is it for God's sake?" You know, "Could it be a woman?"
—a queer woman, quoted in Vera Whisman's Queer by Choice: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Politics of Identity, 1996
A lot of people are so lonely, they're unhappy, they say, "I need someone to love me," but they never think about their own sex. They look for the perfect man or the perfect woman, when that person, quote unquote, could be sitting right next to them. But because of whatever stereotypes or biases they have, they don't look. They think that that perfect person is going to be in the opposite sex. That's not the case sometimes.
—a queer woman, quoted in Vera Whisman's Queer by Choice: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Politics of Identity, 1996
But I always have and still do consider myself queer. To me, being queer isn't who you're sleeping with; it's just an idea that sexuality isn't gender-based, that it's love-based.
—Ani DiFranco, in response to lesbian organizations who criticized her for loving a male, Entertainment Weekly, May 2, 1997
I've always thought to myself that surely the most well-adjusted person in the world must be a bisexual who feels comfortable in his or her bisexuality, so that whoever comes along, who attracts you, is someone that you want to be attracted to, and that you're not bound to be attracted to one gender or another.
—a queer man, quoted in Vera Whisman's Queer by Choice: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Politics of Identity, 1996
In itself, homosexuality is as limiting as heterosexuality: the ideal should be to be capable of loving a woman or a man; either, a human being, without feeling fear, restraint, or obligation.
—Simone de Beauvoir
By nature all human beings are psychically bisexual—capable of loving a person of either sex.
American Medicine, 1914
I would think really that people are innately bisexual, and—wait! That would mean you had a choice!
—a queer woman, quoted in Vera Whisman's Queer by Choice: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Politics of Identity, 1996
Or how about the argument, admittedly more common in the U.S. than here, that we are all "born this way"? This sounds like a plea that we are handicapped and deserve pity for our sad misfortune. More to the point, it's painting sexuality with a broad sweep of the brush. Personally, after a number of relationships with women I chose to be gay so that I could be fulfilled in love. My partner says he had no choice and has been aware of that since pre-puberty. Desire is complex and such oversimplifications as "it's all genetic" merely [serve] to discount the real-life experience of human beings. . . . If we all choose to be gay (which we clearly all do not), we'd still have the right to have our choices respected. We'd still have the right to have our love and lust respected and accommodated within social and legal structures.
—Gareth Kirkby, then managing editor of the Vancouver queer newspaper Xtra! West, writing in Xtra! West, August 20, 1998
Remember that most of the line about homosex being one's nature, not a choice, was articulated as a response to brutal repression. "It's not our fault!" gay activists began to declaim a century ago, when queers first began to organize in Germany and England. "We didn't choose this, so don't punish us for it!" One hundred years later, it's time for us to abandon this defensive posture and walk upright on the earth. Maybe you didn't choose to be gay—that's fine. But I did.
—Donna Minkowitz, "Recruit, Recruit, Recruit!" The Advocate, December 29, 1992
A punch toy volunteer, a weakling on its knee,
Is all you want to hear and all you want to see.
Romantically, you'd martyr me and miss this story's point:
It is my strength, my destiny—this is the role that I have chosen.
—R. E. M., "Falls to Climb," 1998
Can one be "ex-gay?" A year or so ago I would have answered a simple "of course not" to this seemingly simple question. In the second issue of Whosoever, we even presented the question as "Ex-Gays? There are None." Now, I'm not so sure. Surprisingly, it was Rev. Mel White who made me rethink the answer to this question. I asked him, in a rather derisive manner, about "ex-gay ministries" and their work, and those who now claim to be "ex-gay." His response was, "maybe they are, who am I to say?" After his long struggle with his homosexuality and especially his journey through some ex-gay therapies, I was surprised by his answer. He clarified saying, "some people say they've chosen to be gay, and I have to respect that."
—Candace Chellew, "Am I Ex-Straight? Ex-Gays and the Ethics of Labels," Whosoever: An Online Magazine for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Christians, Vo. 2, No. 2, September/October 1997
Heterosexual people can change their sexual identity too.  I *chose* to be a lesbian, and know lots of other women who have done the same thing.  It is _heterosexuality_ which is promoted and enforced, by harassment, abuse and bashing of lesbians and gays.
—Jenny Rankine, the New Zealand lesbian activist who organized the queer-rights protest against the Human Rights Commision office in Auckland, New Zealand, responding on the Public Questions List (an e-mail mailing list) to a person who was advocating therapy to "cure" queerness, February 1999
I know that people do [choose to be gay]. I have friends who have. I didn't used to before, but now I sort of feel I can accept the idea that one could turn gay.
—a gay man, quoted in Vera Whisman's Queer by Choice: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Politics of Identity, 1996
Nature leaves undefined the object of sexual desire. The gender of that object has been imposed socially. . . . As kids, we refused to capitulate to demands that we smother our feeling toward each other. Somewhere we found the strength to resist being indoctrinated, and we should count that among our assets.
—Carl Wittman, "Refugees From Amerika: A Gay Manifesto," 1970
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