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Gay Genes -- Concern and Denial

By Tom Sena

The May 27, 1997, issue of The Advocate with its cover article on abortion, is a most welcome contribution to the debate within the lesbian and gay community over abortion, especially as it deals with the ramifications of the "gay gene." When that gene or set of genes is finally discovered, as I'm convinced it will be, the discovery will further transform our community's debate. Even now, the mere possibility of a genetic component in homosexuality has prodded abortion advocates among us toward a rethinking, even if reluctantly, of their long-cherished position.

A letter to The Washington Blade (D.C.'s primary gay publication) provides a handy example of concern and denial jostling each other in the minds of many. A letter of mine about the gay gene had appeared in the previous issue, which drew the following response appearing in the next: "I agree," wrote the author, "that it would be a heinous atrocity for a woman to abort her child because it [sic] carries a 'gay gene'. If anyone were to actually do so, it would indeed be a tragic consequence" of genetic research.

Well, so far so good. We can actually agree with one another on a clear case where abortion is wrong. I doubt such agreement would have been possible before; here is progress. But progress goes only so far at this point. She continues: "Because the child is gay is not a valid reason to have an abortion. But"--and here's where progress gets murdered in its tracks--"there are many other reasons a woman may choose" to abort her child.

We've seen her concern. Now behold her denial. Certainly, in her mind, there are many reasons, maybe an infinite number of them, why a woman may have the abortion, all of them justifiable if the woman thinks so. That until very recently was the party line. Now, however, the line gets smudged, because of the competing line we draw at the bodies of our fellow homosexual unborn. If a woman wants an abortion because her unborn child has spina bifida, for example, then we say that of course abortion is the right choice if that's what the woman decides. But if she wants to abort her child because she or he is gay, now we will do something new, previously undreamt of: We somehow dredge up the courage from some deep personal moral resource we'd forgotten was even inside of us till now and finally, at long last, declare in the open that abortion is wrong.

Very interesting. So abortion is very acceptable morally if the unborn child has, oh, congenital heart disease, or severe mental handicaps, or even if she is perfectly healthy but has the bad luck to be unwanted. These can all go. Open the dumpsters wide for their remains--but not for ours! We and we alone are the exception to the much-trumpeted right to abortion. Only we can offer sufficient reason to be spared the scalpel and the suction, or the scissors in the skull. No other category of human beings can claim exemption without endangering this treasured choice. But we can, and we do. Loudly.

And behind our cries for our own people's right to life lies a thick and heavy silence, the silence of all those millions of voices who will never be heard because we consider their right to life less important than ours.

Denial is a large state; it covers much territory. But it, too, really can go only so far. In fact, for those with mental integrity among us, its reach doesn't extend beyond one half-minute's honest thought. If we bring ourselves to admit that abortion is wrong when used to exterminate gay people for being gay, then in simple consistency we have to rethink the morality of abortion in and of itself.

What do we do with that, if we believe as many of us sincerely do that abortion is a moral option? We deny, deny, deny. But here's where the hard, solid ground inevitably trembles and collapses into quicksand. Once we acknowledge that even just some unborn human beings deserve respect and protection, it very quickly becomes very difficult to draw an artificial line and say, "All you over there, you're out of luck!" There for abortion advocates lies the quandary. If gay unborn children have a right to life, then so does every other unborn child, without exception, without denial.


Thomas Sena, of Washington, DC, founded the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians in 1990 to advance the pro-life cause within the lesbian and gay community.


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