I have a weird feeling this post is ripping off The History of Sexuality in some way I can’t locate just now – if so, consider yourself acknowledged, Foucault!
I’m troubled by the proliferation of “I was born this way” as a means of justifying otherness. I don’t think otherness has to be justified, for a start. Additionally, it reads like an attempt to prove innocence – I can’t be blamed for the way I’ve always been! – as though any other way of coming into otherness would be criminal. Apart from all that, why does it matter if one was born a particular way or not?
What this assertion implies is that otherness is less legitimate if it is a choice, or if it’s something one hasn’t experienced from birth. I’m thinking particularly of trans and queer people, and how many are often met with ‘you shouldn’t be choosing that,’ and return with ‘it wasn’t a choice’. This narrative says that there are possibilities, good and bad, and if the one socially coded as bad isn’t chosen, it isn’t bad. The implication remains that it would be if it was chosen, and only as innocent victim does the other merit equal integration into society. That’s not ground I want to give up. I think otherness should be okay, however it comes about. If it comes about later in life, well, people change and people realise and people choose different labels, and that should be okay.
The flip side is that the “born this way” rhetoric shifts the focus to causes. If you were born this way, why? Let’s find genetic and environmental causes, because you are an abberation. You are wrong, and if it’s about what’s located in you rather than in both you and your interaction with society, let’s find out why. Well, no. I know some other people want to know why they are the way they are, but I think that that socially speaking it ultimately shouldn’t matter why someone’s trans or queer or any given thing. People shouldn’t be science experiments and fascinating theoretical examples. There’s nothing wrong with it, you are who you are, and you are not the product of morally bad biology. Nobody’s trying to find the cause of straightness or cisness, because they’re normalised.
If “I was born this way” is powerful and comforting to someone, I don’t want to deny them that. I just don’t want it to be the primary or only story of the causation of otherness. It’s okay as long as it doesn’t lead to the delegitimisation of other possibilities, or the dissection of people under this one.