Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Oops, I left my sexual orientation at home

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
October 4, 2012 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
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
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1516 GMT (2316 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1126 GMT (1926 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the tech sector's diversity numbers are embarrassing and the big players need to do more.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
Ed Bark says in this Emmy year, broadcasters CBS, ABC and PBS can all say they matched or exceeded HBO. These days that's no small feat
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1629 GMT (0029 HKT)
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1231 GMT (2031 HKT)
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
August 24, 2014 -- Updated 0105 GMT (0905 HKT)
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2247 GMT (0647 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1450 GMT (2250 HKT)
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1223 GMT (2023 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
ADVERTISEMENT