Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

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.

Therapist to challenge 'gay cure' ban
Same-sex marriage and the election
'Marry my daughter' tycoon speaks

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.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
updated 7:23 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
updated 5:29 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:54 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
updated 3:06 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
updated 12:49 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
updated 9:21 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
updated 5:28 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
updated 2:39 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT