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Oops, I left my sexual orientation at home

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
updated 9:12 PM EDT, Wed October 3, 2012
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law last weekend prohibiting attempts to change the sexual orientation of patients under 18.
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law last weekend prohibiting attempts to change the sexual orientation of patients under 18.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson: Experts widely agree it's irrational to think one can choose sexual orientation
  • California governor signed law barring "sexual re-orientation" treatment for minors
  • So-called "reparative therapy" has been renounced by author who suggested it
  • LZ: Conservative pastor says he didn't choose own orientation but can't explain gays

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs.

(CNN) -- This morning, I decided to wear jeans.

I could've gone with sweat pants, but I needed to stop by a couple of offices and didn't want to look too relaxed. I could've done slacks but didn't want to look too uptight. I'm not big into khakis, and it's too chilly for shorts, so jeans won out.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

I decided to go with the French Roast over the Morning Blend. When I got in my Jeep, I decided to listen to Eric Church as opposed to Zac Brown Band or Craig Morgan. I opted not to run that red light. I chose to park on the street as opposed to the nearby lot.

And just before I got out of the car, I chose to be gay.

I was going to make that decision earlier, but you know how hectic mornings can be. I'm just glad I remembered when I did. I've been known to go all day without remembering to pick a sexual orientation, which can make things pretty awkward at home.

Now, if that last part sounds a bit stupid to you, welcome to my world.

The idea that people can just pick their sexual orientation the way they pick what to wear or what kind of coffee to drink is so irrational that even conservative vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan had a problem going along with that line of thinking.

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In 2007, he voted to support the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, saying, "They (his gay friends) didn't roll out of bed one morning and choose to be gay. That's who they are." His words from back then echo the words of Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, the director of the Pan American Health Organization, who said this year, "Since homosexuality is not a disorder or a disease, it does not require a cure."

It's been more than 20 years since the World Health Assembly removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Which is why the news out of California this week should not be that Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that prohibits minors from being subjected to treatment from state-licensed therapists designed to change their sexual orientation.

The story is that this practice is still going on in 2012.

"This bill bans non-scientific 'therapies' that have driven young people to depression and suicide,'' Brown said in a statement. "These practices have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery."

News: California governor signs gay conversion therapy ban

And trying to change children from gay to straight is indeed quackery -- so say the people who study quackery for a living.

"The longstanding consensus of the behavioral and social sciences and the health and mental health professions is that homosexuality per se is a normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation," the American Psychiatric Association says, adding that the potential risks of so-called "reparative therapy" include depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior.

Of course, there will always be people who refuse to let facts get in the way of their prejudice, and some of those folks are a bit upset by Brown's actions -- particularly members of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.

News: Therapist to challenge 'gay cure' ban

On its website, the group said it "is saddened but not surprised by this unprecedented legislative intrusion and will lend its full support to the legal efforts to overturn it."

Keep in mind, the association's website has featured "reparative therapy" studies conducted by George Rekers, a former board member who resigned after he paid a male escort to accompany him on a 10-day European vacation and allegedly give him nude massages. (Rekers denies any sexual behavior in the incident.)

That's not mentioned on the website.

Anyway, there is also a rigorous defense there of the infamous 2001 "reparative therapy" study conducted by Dr. Robert Spitzer. Back then, Spitzer suggested that highly motivated gay people could change their orientation. Since then, Spitzer himself said he was wrong and went so far as to issue a statement that read in part:

"I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy. I also apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works with some 'highly motivated' individuals."

The doctor who conducted the study denounces the findings. And yet quackery is still trying to hold on to the notion that just as people can choose French Roast over Morning Blend, they can choose to be straight over gay.

In a recent CNN interview, conservative televangelist Joel Osteen -- who says that being gay is a sin -- also said, "I know I have not chosen to be straight. It just feels like that's who I am."

But when he was asked how, then, could a gay person choose to be gay, if he didn't choose to be straight, well -- "I don't understand all of those issues, and so, you know, I try to stick on the issues that I do understand."

Translation: Damn. You got me there.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

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