I’m sorry, but what’s wrong with this answer?
MS. ETHERIDGE: Thank you.
Do you think homosexuality is a choice, or is it biological?
GOV. RICHARDSON: It’s a choice. It’s —
MS. ETHERIDGE: I don’t know if you understand the question. (Soft laughter.) Do you think I — a homosexual is born that way, or do you think that around seventh grade we go, “Ooh, I want to be gay”?
GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, I — I’m not a scientist. It’s — you know, I don’t see this as an issue of science or definition. I see gays and lesbians as people as a matter of human decency. I see it as a matter of love and companionship and people loving each other. You know I don’t like to categorize people. I don’t like to, like, answer definitions like that that, you know, perhaps are grounded in science or something else that I don’t understand.
Bill Richardson self-immolated tonight on live TV. I haven’t seen anyone fumble a question like this so badly…. Karen Ocamb said there were gasps, and hisses in the audience.
The blogs are alight with this “controversial answer” to Melissa Etheridge’s question at the debate last night. Here’s Salon:
Still, no one performed as badly as New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who covered himself in flop sweat. Richardson, echoing Obama and Edwards, made sure to emphasize that he understands where LGBT people are coming from, in his case because of his Hispanic heritage. At first he seemed to be the most forthright of the group, saying his opposition to same-sex marriage is because it is not “achievable” politically, while civil unions are. But, when Solmonese asked what he would do if presented with a same-sex marriage bill by the N.M. legislature, Richardson’s position fell apart. Richardson was forced, after a non-answer and a follow-up, to all but concede that one of the places support for same-sex marriage is not yet achievable is in his own heart.
Afterwards, tossed a softball by Etheridge, who asked whether he feels that homosexuality is natural or a choice, Richardson whiffed, saying, “It’s a choice.” Even after an unsubtle hint from Etheridge that, given the audience, he might want to rethink his answer, Richardson was unable to recover. “I’m not a scientist,” he said wanly.
No he isn’t and therefore Richardson is right to emphasize it since he’s being asked about whether homosexuality is biological (not “natural” as Salon put it, thus showing their equation of biology with nature and environment with…?).
Look, I appreciate that for many gays it is politically attractive to label homosexuality as something hard-coded into the genes (and many gays may still honestly believe that there is a gay gene, when there isn’t). Does AmericaBlog (one of my favorite blogs) believe that being gay is all genetic? (To its credit AmericaBlog doesn’t dwell on his answer but provides an informative summary of candidates’ positions–which makes it more confusing why they lead with the “self-immolation” tag).
If Richardson is opposed to gay marriage then attack him for that. But no doubt there are gays for whom homosexuality is a choice, and some for whom it was always a part of themselves. And sexuality is notoriously difficult to put into binaries as well.
I am not a Richardson supporter one way or the other but I just think this is weird. Look again:
I don’t see this as an issue of science or definition. I see gays and lesbians as people as a matter of human decency. I see it as a matter of love and companionship and people loving each other. You know I don’t like to categorize people. I don’t like to, like, answer definitions like that that, you know, perhaps are grounded in science or something else that I don’t understand.
Do you remember the late interview with Foucault where he says that one needs to work to become gay? Or his whole interest in practices of the self? In what way, tell me, are these different from saying that no one knows if being gay is a mix of environment/culture and biology, in which choosing or embracing being gay might play some role in different people’s lives?
In case anybody thinks I’m over-exaggerating the reaction of the blogs, consider this headline:
Click through for the story and make sure to read the nearly 100 comments below which perpetuate a strong bioreductionism:
JGG…”gay agenda”??? WTF…Are you not the least bit aware of GENETICS? How about DNA? Or are you one of those people that do not believe in science? EVERYTHING about the human body is a direct result of GENES…good/bad..pretty/ugly…etc…etc…etc.