When Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, was questioned about her attitude towards the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which granted the right to same-sex marriage she replied: “I have no agenda, and I do want to be clear that I have never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and would not ever discriminate on the basis of sexual preference.”
Then the internet and social media exploded.
What’s all the fuss about the use of “sexual preference”?
The Cambridge dictionary defines preference as “the fact that you like something or someone more than another thing or person”.
The term “sexual preference” gives the impression I have a choice about my orientation. Like I prefer peas to kale. I can eat kale, but if I had a choice, I would choose peas (always actually ?). I prefer to have my holidays in the tropics than the snow. So I always choose Bali never Thredbo. I have a preference for meat. There are lots of things I have a preference for which comes down to a personal choice.
Lesbians and gay men know the word “preference” doesn’t describe the experience regarding their sexual-orientation. None of us chose to be same sex attracted/oriented, we just are. The only choices available to us are to deny, suppress, or accept.
The correct term is sexual-orientation, not “sexual preference”.
Why are people so uppity about this?
For many of us, our journey to self-acceptance was a torturous one and sometimes continued over decades. Accepting our same-sex-orientation had huge consequences. It meant rejection by family and friends and the loss of even more. Acceptance or rejection of our orientation even had eternal consequences for those of us from a religious background.
I remember after coming out, if someone had asked me if I’d prefer to be gay or straight, I would have said straight. Why? Because my “straight” life was pretty wonderful. I had love and acceptance as a father, husband, friend and preacher. Accepting my homosexuality came at great cost and trauma. If you’ve read A Life of Unlearning, you’ll know that my initial experiences after coming out were tumultuous. Yes, I would have preferred to be heterosexual. Obviously with time that changed. Having invested twenty-two years trying to not to be gay, there was one thing I was totally clear about; I had no choice. I was, I am, and always will be gay.
When people use the term “sexual preference”, inferring we have a choice in the matter, it triggers the pain of those traumatic years for many of us.
As I frequently say to people… “My morality and faith are choices. My sexual-orientation however isn’t.”
The other reason for the strong reaction is that within conservative Christian circles the long held belief is that people choose to be gay and that our orientation is not innate. The opposition to end discrimination and create equality for LGBTQ people has always come from Christian leaders and organisations based on this belief that homosexuality is a choice. No wonder people get upset when the term “sexual preference” is used.
Barrett later apologised for causing offense. “I certainly didn’t mean, and would never mean, to use a term that would cause any offense in the LGBTQ community,” she said. “So if I did, I greatly apologise for that”.
Ten points for using the term “LGBTQ community” Amy. The apology is a good step but if you’d been genuinely engaged with LGBTQ people and our community, or had up-to-date training in diversity and inclusion, you would have known “sexual preference” is a huge NO-NO!
If you’d said “I have never discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation of gender identity,” we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But I’m glad we have………again.
Not that is anyone’s business, but just for the record, my sexual preference is the last thing at night. Nature’s sleeping tablet.