Rick Perry recently came under fire for some comments he made likening homosexuality to alcoholism:
Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that. I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.
Even if homosexual behavior were linked to a genetic predisposition, according to Perry, it can and should be resisted. Fanboys of the homosexual agenda take offense anytime anyone even hints that perhaps homosexuality is a behavior rather than an identity. As far as they are concerned, what Rick Perry said was that homosexuality is a behavioral disorder.
But aside from the obvious pain of having your self-ascribed identity relegated to a lifestyle decision—and a bad one at that—I fail to see why anyone would reject the core idea of what Rick Perry said here.
You really can’t legally define homosexuality as anything other than a behavior. Whether that behavior is rooted in genetics or choice or some combination of both, referring to homosexuality as a behavior or a lifestyle is the most humane and rational way to designate it.
Just think about it. If a so-called homosexual never engages in any homosexual acts, but merely has homosexual desires, should that person be legally or publicly designated a homosexual? No. Any more than a person who lusts after another man’s wife but never acts on those desires should be legally and publicly designated as an adulterer. Without the behavior, the designation is legally meaningless—even misleading.
This is not to negate the fact that a person is self-defined by that which predominates his thought life. But that’s not really an issue of public or civil concern, is it?
I think what is most upsetting to the homosexual community is not so much that Rick Perry deems their self-ascribed identity to be a behavioral choice rather than an ontological identity. I think what most upsets them is that he wants them, whether or not they have identity-shaping homosexual desires, to resist their desires. By calling for homosexuals to abstain from public acts of homosexuality, he is calling homosexual behavior bad. And homosexuals, for obvious reasons, don’t like that, because they believe that they themselves are defined by that behavior. Rick Perry, though he may not have intended to, didn’t just insult their lifestyle decision. As far as they are concerned, Rick Perry insulted them.
According to homosexuals, they are what they do. No one seems to want to talk about how destructive this perspective is. It leaves the homosexual enslaved to a behavioral identity. Why else would homosexuals need to set themselves apart with lisps and flamboyant clothing? Because, aside from their behavior and outward appearance, they have no distinct sense of identity. If they stopped doing “homosexual” things, they would lose any sense of who they are. That’s sad.
But the solution to this is not to tell the homosexual, “You are gay for sure. Nothing can change that. But you need to stop acting gay.” Speaking of likening homosexuality to alcoholism, think about how ineffective most addiction programs are. Why? Because most of these programs begin with this idea: “You are an addict. You are powerless to stop your addiction. No matter how long you go without taking a drink or a hit, you will always be an addict. All you can hope for is to manage your behavior.” Hogwash. And you wonder why relapse is the overwhelming norm for addicts? They are apparently pre-determined to relapse by their immutably broken natures.
If that’s the best we can offer homosexuals and addicts, no wonder they hate what we have to say about their condition. Because what we are saying is, “You are at root a broken person (unlike me). The best you can hope for is to hide your brokenness in polite society.” Again, that is rubbish. We are telling the homosexual, “Yes. I agree with you that at your core, you are defined by homosexuality, and there’s nothing you can do to change that. But I want you to change your behavior, and to do that, you must actually hate the very behavior that defines you as a person. In essence, you must hate the person you are, so you can act like someone you are not. You must hate the homosexuality in you that you can never hope to change, so that you can regulate your behavior for the normal, healthy people around you.” So you can understand why homosexuals would resent that. They are right to resent it. That attitude is self-righteous, blind, and unhelpful. It breeds resentment and hatred, and little else.
So while I agree with Rick Perry that homosexuality must be legally defined as behavior, I disagree that homosexuals, or addicts for that matter, are at root any more broken than heterosexuals or teetotalers. And I do not agree that resisting homosexual urges is the key to ending the socially and personally destructive behavior of homosexuality. The key is for so-called homosexuals to stop identifying as homosexuals.
I have all sorts of desires. Many of them are rotten. But I won’t allow my desires to define who I am. I am something more than the animalistic sum of my behaviors. We are all broken, and we all desire self-destructive things. Just because some of our self-destructive desires and vices are more or less socially acceptable, that doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme. Our behavior doesn’t need to be conditioned. No. Our hearts and wills need to be transformed. And that is possible for all of us.
We have to be able to offer hope to homosexuals, addicts, and anyone else who has become what he does. It is destructive to tell homosexuals they have no choice, but this choice should not be limited to what they do. Such a requirement to act like something they’re not is cruel and hypocritical. The fact is that no one is biologically, circumstantially, or socially predestined for homosexuality no matter what they might choose otherwise. We all make choices about what we do. That’s obvious. What’s less obvious is that we all have a choice about who we are as well.