his comments about the Christian faith, but last week he once again challenged the dogma of the gay rights lobby that sexual orientation is fixed and unchangeable.
In an iconoclastic piece in the Times, titled ‘Who’s totally gay? There’s no straight answer’(£) the former Tory MP turned columnist provocatively lamented that ‘Same-sex male attraction used to be something you do, not something you are’.
Citing the story of Chris Birch, from Wales, who has testified to turning from being heterosexual to being gay after suffering a stroke, and Anglican Mainstream's controversial bus advert campaign claiming that sexual orientation can change, he takes the cherished belief that sexual orientation is always fixed and unchangeable apart.
‘On one thing, though, these opinions all agree — people can change… I do believe that male sexual orientation is less fixed than we suppose. It may alter. We gays fought that idiotic “section 28” on dishonest grounds. Homosexuality can, as the statute implied, be “promoted”. So can heterosexuality.'
He qualifies this by stressing that for some any change will be very limited if not impossible:
‘At once must come the qualifications. I don’t think that everyone is alterable. I don’t think change is possible without shelving part of one’s nature. I think that it’s generally unwise to fight a strong orientation unless it would lead to hurt. And I absolutely don’t think that homosexuality can be “cured” in the sense of expelling some kind of disease from the system.’
He then presents a popular vision of the Kinsey scale – the observation that some people are neither exclusively homosexual nor heterosexual but somewhere in between:
‘Try an experiment. Imagine that a majority of men are more straight than gay, a minority more gay than straight. Imagine this in terms of a scatter-graph from left (straight) to right (gay), with some very close to one end, some very close to the other and plenty spread between them. Imagine that those at either pole can feel little if any attraction to the other; but that those between the poles can, depending on where they are, feel weakly or strongly the attraction of both poles. Add to this picture a strong and unremitting social pressure to be considered (and consider yourself) as being at the left-hand (straight) end.
What would be the result? Everyone who, without making themselves too frustrated and miserable, could live a straight life would move towards the left in their behaviour and self-description; a minority who felt they just couldn’t would cluster (partly for self-defence) into a sort of ghetto at the right-hand end. And all the pressure would be to “make your mind up”, ie, shift towards the nearest pole.’
He emphasises the need for evidence to support his ‘hypothesis’, but from his own experience as a gay man says:
‘I’ve slept with as many men who considered themselves basically straight, lived basically straight lives and in some cases (I think) really were basically straight, as with men who were self-identifying gays.This is not my experience alone. Most gay men manage the considerable intellectual contortion of believing that there’s nothing they could do to alter their own sexuality while at the same time believing (not without evidence) that there’s quite a lot they might do to alter a straight man’s sexuality (“five pints of lager” is the usual prescription)… Even I, who feel myself to be exclusively gay, know from dreams and from occasional involuntary physical reactions that shelved somewhere in my unconscious must be a strand of heterosexuality. Millions of gay men will have the same experiences.’
His conclusion is iconoclastic to the extreme, and no one but a gay man could have got away with saying it:
‘“I can’t help it”. The very words carry a kind of whimper. I hate this plea. It isn’t accepted as an argument for paedophilia and shouldn’t be. I’d want to be gay whether I could help it or not. The day that the battle for homosexual equality is won and over will be the day a man, straight or gay, can boast that he chose.’
There is of course nothing new in what Matthew Parris is saying and he has said it before as has leading gay rights activist Peter Tatchell.
They are not alone in thinking this way.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has stated, ‘some people believe that sexual orientation is innate and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across a person's lifetime’. The APA also says that ‘for some the focus of sexual interest will shift at various points through the life span...’
A report from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health similarly states, ‘For some people, sexual orientation is continuous and fixed throughout their lives. For others, sexual orientation may be fluid and change over time’
But whether the general population will come to believe it is another matter entirely.