This is my response to an editorial rebuttal for an article in which I claimed that sexual orientation, like handedness, is an innate rather than chosen characteristic of a person.

I appreciate Robert Dennis’s thoughtful response to my November 1 article. Any time an important topic such as sexual orientation prompts thought and response is a good thing. Though he cited research to refute some of my observations, I continue to assert that ones’ sexual orientation is not a matter of choice, but rather is an innate characteristic.

Mr. Dennis cited research by Dr. Robert Spitzer, who was influential in developing Reparative Therapy intended to convert homosexuals to heterosexuals. Spitzer’s 2003 research, based on self-report of his subjects, indicated the possibility of “highly motivated” people changing their sexual orientation. Since then, Reparative Therapy has been thoroughly discredited, and in 2013, Dr. Spitzer wrote an impassioned apology to the scientific community and the gay community for his research. “…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…”

Dr. Lisa Diamond’s research did indeed find that two-thirds of women she studied experienced changes in their sexual attraction and desires. It was not, however, solely a change from a same-sex to heterosexual attraction as Mr. Dennis implied, and these changes, Dr. Diamond stated, were not a matter of conscious choice. Her research suggests that in women, sexual desires and attractions, not to be confused with sexual orientation, is a more fluid mix of internal and external factors than has been traditionally assumed.

Using 1 Corinthians 6 as a basis for understanding homosexuality is fraught with interpretive problems. Paul was writing to a specific group of Christians about specific issues that were troubling them, and as is true with all Biblical writers, Paul had his own biases and baggage that came out in his writings. Whether it is God or Paul who finds these behaviors unrighteous depends on your own views about scriptural interpretation.

To use one phrase in one verse to single out an entire group as being unrighteous requires that we ignore a lot of other warnings by Paul. A reading of the verses and chapters that precede and follow his statement about homosexuality makes it clear that we are reading Paul’s agenda for the believers at Corinth, not a universal condemnation of homosexuality. To single out homosexuality is to miss the point of Paul’s letter and a misuse of scriptures.

Finally, I did not claim that sexual orientation was a “biological imperative,” something genetic and hardwired. I did, however, state that it is something innate and not a matter of willful choice. We have innate tendencies toward our emotional and sexual preferences just as we have innate tendencies toward handedness. As a natural lefty, I can decide to pick up my fork with my right hand, and with practice I could probably become proficient at throwing a baseball with my right hand. I’d still be a natural lefty. Likewise, I can choose to have a sexual relationship with a woman or a man, though one would be natural for me, the other would not.

I realize that with a topic such as this, where people have strong feelings and fears, information alone will not change any minds. As in my situation, it takes the experience of getting to know, respect, and love someone who is gay or lesbian. As I listened to their stories and their struggles of growing up having part of their identity devalued, I slowly changed my mind and my attitude.

To judge someone for who they are by nature is against the teachings of Jesus. To deny them basic civil rights because of our own fears or prejudices is against the letter and the spirit of our Constitution.