Commentary | Should parents choose their child’s sexual orientation?

Steven Aylward and Sean Hayward

POINT

Recent medical findings suggest that hormone levels in the womb during development have a strong effect on the eventual sexual orientation of a child after they hit puberty. We strongly believe that, should it become safe and feasible to do so, parents should have the right to determine the sexual orientation of their children.

The main issue at stake – as it must be for policies affecting minors – is the best interest of the child, which is best served by a world in which parents can choose to have children whom they are best-suited to raise. Children place tremendous importance on the acceptance and approval of their parents. But the status quo is that a child’s sexual orientation is determined by chance, which means that some children end up with parents who, owing to personal prejudices, are unable to provide this acceptance or the emotional support they need, but instead cause lasting psychological and emotional harm to their child.

LGBT individuals often have difficulty coming out of the closet due to this very fear of familial, and more specifically, parental rejection. A gay male might feel compelled to suppress his sexual identity, forcing him to internalize the guilt of failing to meet his parents’ expectations and the burden of always having to conceal his true self. If parents are able to choose the sexual orientation of their children, no child will ever have to endure such pain.

Further, parents may feel they are better suited to cater to the needs of a child with a specific sexual orientation. Helping a child to come to grips with his or her sexuality is one of a parent’s most important and difficult roles. In addition to the general sensitivity of the issue and prevailing prejudices, non-heterosexual teenagers are often confronted with feelings of exclusion and otherness. Parents are best equipped to help their children with problems with which they identify and are familiar. Gay parents have more experience with gay relationship dynamics, straight parents with straight relationship dynamics, and are thus better able to judge when to step in and when to back off. Further, given that the parents will have known the sexual orientation of their child since its fetal development, they will have plenty of time to prepare both emotionally and in terms of parental education and networking for the unique challenges afforded by each sexual orientation.

This measure is the best means to empower gay rights groups and communities. Especially in small communities where support networks and advocacy groups are not in place, gay teenagers have to express their sexual orientation on their own, in what may be a hostile environment. If we allow parents to choose to have gay children, it will mean that these children will know first of all that they have the support of their family. Secondly, families who opt to have homosexual children would know from the beginning that gay rights would immediately affect the welfare of their child, and thus have a vested interest in fighting for these rights – they would become the backbone for advocacy and support groups.

These groups shape preferences by putting individuals in touch with others in similar situations and with similar needs. They make it easier for a lesbian to be a lesbian, meaning she might be more confident and vocal about her rights. It is exactly by empowering gay and lesbian individuals to demand their rights in dialogue with other social actors that anti-gay prejudice can be most effectively combated.

Steven Aylward is a U4 Philosophy student, and Sean Hayward is a U2 History student.

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Nicole Gileadi and Vinay Kumar Mysore

COUNTERPOINT

Society has a problem. LGBT individuals are often not accepted by their families, and are consistently discriminated against by society. The proposal to allow parents to choose their child’s sexual preference will not solve the fundamental problems faced by this population, and will in fact do more damage to the LGBT rights movement.

We want to make clear that the modern conception of sexuality does not divide people into a strict binary – rather, sexuality is a spectrum. This proposal would eliminate this valuable diversity and engineer sexuality into a strict binary.

In the cases where children do identify with either heterosexuality or homosexuality, this proposal only fosters a false sense of parental acceptance, rather than a genuine one. We believe that being accepted for who your parents want you to be cannot replace true acceptance from parents who love you unconditionally. This proposal only succeeds in making children aware that their parents’ love and approval is not unconditional, but rather that it is based on one aspect of their identity.

Further, it is important to consider the broader societal implications of this proposal. We believe that allowing parents to choose their children’s sexual orientation is detrimental to the gay rights movement. In the face of such serious religious and cultural opposition, de-stigmatization of homosexuality can only occur with the erosion of anti-gay sentiments. While we work toward that goal, we provide various forms of support for individuals coming out to their family, friends, and community. As society moves forward, communities become accepting of LGBT individuals through interaction and dialogue.

Thus the integration of, and dialogue between, homosexuals and anti-gay communities is particularly important to broader societal goals. The problem with parents selecting their children’s orientation is that it necessarily dismantles this cross-community acceptance.

Furthermore, it propagates “anti-queer” communities and regions. If we agree that our goal is to make the world a place in which a person’s sexual orientation does not hinder their ability to interact and be part of a community, then it makes no sense to support policies that help create a society that allows for the ghettoization and polarization of pro- and anti-queer rights communities.

More importantly, we believe that by making homosexuality something that can be medically altered, this proposal promotes the idea that homosexuality is an illness or condition that is avoidable or a lifestyle choice that can be seen as deviant and wrong. There is nothing wrong – medically or otherwise – with a child being homosexual, much like there is nothing wrong with the race a child is born with. By making homosexuality a choice rather than an intrinsic characteristic, this proposal effectively legitimizes homophobia and groups that oppose gay rights.

In sum, while the issue of gay rights and acceptance in society remains a problem, allowing parents to choose their children’s sexual orientation does not foster real parental acceptance, and actively impedes broader societal goals in terms of gay rights and equality.

Nicole Gileadi is a U1 Political Science student, and Vinay Kumar Mysore is a U3 Philosophy student.

Steven, Sean, Nicole, and Vinay are members of the McGill Debating Union. They will be debating the above resolution tonight at 6:00 p.m. in the Lev Bukhman room, on the second floor of Shatner.


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