In the April edition of Global Living, a magazine now devoted to expatriate living and some of the issues that arise, I wrote an article called Changing Places, Changing Faces http://globallivingmagazine.com/changing-places-changing-faces/ in which I discussed changing demographics in the expatriate world.
The traditional family make-up in expatland is still predominantly of the man moving his family abroad to further his career, and in most cases increase his earnings. Increasingly however the family dynamic is changing to include a male spouse/partner following his wife/partner, or single parents, or those in the LGBT community. The challenges awaiting the latter can be magnified greatly depending on where they have been assigned.
When writing anything I attempt to check facts and use words carefully, but this time I appear to have slipped up. I used the term “lifestyle choice”. It has been pointed out to me that “choice” does not come into sexuality. I did not choose to be heterosexual ergo my friends did not chose to be gay. I just am, they just are.
But I’ve been thinking a lot about this since the email arrived, sent by someone I like and respect and have known a number of years. I have spoken to others in various different relationships, and whilst I accept I might have been sloppy using a commonly used term, lifestyle choice, I do believe in some instances a choice is made. We, all of us whatever our sexuality, and without getting cute, make choices about our lifestyle when we form partnerships.
In the LGBT community some of those decisions must be agonising. To leave a straight marriage, after maybe living a lie for many years, with the possible ramifications with one’s children for example. Or indeed vice versa. An agony for all concerned, and sometimes the end of communication with those children, though thankfully often after a period of adjustment lines are reopened.
Now think of those whose life is turned upside down by the announcement of one in a heterosexual marriage who decides to change their gender. Besides possible breadcrumbs left in the bedroom or the closet, the actuality is a seismic shift in their own life. Is love turned off after years together in a seemingly happy existence? Or does the intellect, the connection beyond physical, accept the changes about to take place and make us able to still love the person, and adapt to the psychological/emotional changes and sexual needs in their relationship, whatever sex he or she wishes to become. A choice is most definitely made by both parties in this instance. Firstly to change sex by the one unhappy in their body, and secondly by the partner to in essence become something they didn’t think they were – gay or lesbian.
And so whilst I agree the vast majority of those in LGBT relationships do not make a ‘lifestyle choice’ and my use of the term in the original article was inadvertently careless, I do believe lifestyle choice does come into all our lives whatever our sexuality.
However and wherever we live, the demographics will continue to change. In some people and places acceptance is quick and relatively easy, in others not so, whether in rural America or urban Singapore. That is another choice we have to make.