Pattullo Responds


To The Editors of The Crimson:

Ms. Brown's letter in the May 17 edition is one of the very few I have seen since writing my infamous letter to the Independent that suggests an interest in discussing the issues. Her premise is that, "Homosexuality is not a choice, any more than heterosexuality is a choice." I accept that as her experience and the experience of many. However, the premise of my letter (and my belief) is that some others find themselves capable of sexual response to either sex and, in fact, can shape their lives in either direction. Society has reason. I argued to encourage them to chose heterosexuality.

It I shared Ms. Brown's premise. I would not have written as I did. It there are no circumstances in which an individual's wishes can affect his or her sexual development then, I agree, the only problem is to ensure that the dignity and rights of homosexuals are secured. But I think it is reasonable to maintain that some can "choose," despite the paucity of scientific fact about the etiology of sexual preference.

Many friends (gay and straight who share the substance of my belief have chided me for stating it publicly, arguing that none could possibly mistake the advantage of heterosexuality. To speak as I' did, they say, is simply to give comfort to those who are homophobic. The possibility that they may be right makes me uncomfortable, but I am not persuaded. It equally possible that a lack of candor on the part of heterosexuals could confuse some who admire GLAD's political courage and are in the process of shaping their own lives It is possible, too that the same lack of candor might heighten the frustration of those who insecure about themselves, persecute gays In the Harvard community, at least, a large majority is content to live and let live, ready and eager to acknowledge and defend the rights of those different from themselves. We should not allow in intolerant minority (on both sides of the issue) to prevent us from discussing the problems involved in securing the well-being of homosexual without misleading anyone as to the values of the majority

Ms. Brown says that "in the absence of values such as those expressed by Mr. Pattullo, most gays and lesbians" would not feel that they suffered from a disability. I suspect it is impossible to expunge from consciousness the high value heterosexuals place on that aspect of life. The main point of my original letter was to suggest that GLAD should acknowledge this and not equate the toleration it properly seeks with positive approval of gay life by those who think it less desirable than heterosexuality.


Finally, Ms. Brown seeks to discomfort me with an analogy between gays and Blacks, which totally reject. None would suggest that changes in the environment could give anyone a choice as to his or her race, and neither science nor the sum of human experience provide any basis for valuing one race above another. If Ms. Brown understands this distinction I think it is wrong for her to invoke an identity between gays and Blacks simply because both groups have been subjected to unfair discrimination. E.L. Pattullo

Professor Pattullo directs Harvard's Center for Behavioral Sciences. --Ed.