Is Homosexual “Who Some People Are”?
“But maybe my son was born gay?” some parents ask me. “Is it possible that homosexual is just ‘who he is’?”
Science is often said to have “proved” that a homosexual orientation is a natural, inborn part of who a person really is. According to the “born that way” argument, a sexual orientation is a part of a person’s core identity, so such a homosexually oriented person must be accepted as expressing his or her own true, created nature.
But there are problems that undermine this argument even if a “gay gene” were discovered tomorrow. Science — in spite of what many people assume — is inherently limited in what it can tell us. Science describes the world and tell us “what it is,” but it cannot tell us “what it ought to be.” Let me illustrate with an example.
Your son Jack is born with a gene that makes it likely he will gain weight. You really love to cook for him, and so he grows up loving desserts and fried foods. At school, he is teased, excluded and called names, and so he goes home and comforts himself the way he knows best — by eating. (Maybe they’re right, Jack decides. Maybe this is who I am.) Pretty soon Jack is so overweight that his doctor gives him a note excluding him from physical education class.
Is fat “who he really is”? He got that way through a combination of biological factors, parental influence, social influence from peers, and behavioral choice. (Just as with homosexuality.)
Yet as much as overeating may be understandable for Jack (and indeed feel perfectly normal to him), we still recognise that obesity is not normal and healthy — for Jack or for anyone else. This is because human beings simply were not designed to burden their bodies with obesity.
Your son’s teacher sees Jack’s unhappiness and the teasing and exclusion he suffers. Her heart breaks. Naturally, she wants to protect him. As part of our program to “make schools safe” for children who are teased and ocstracized, should we — prompted by understandable feelings of compassion — teach that “obesity is normal for some people”? Furthermore, should the teacher say that the only problem with obesity is society’s discrimination against it?
The truly compassionate answer is no. This may be a painful course to take in the short run, but the farsighted response — taking these kids’ future lives into account — will require an accurate understanding of obesity. We are not designed to be seriously overweight. School administrators should affirm such a child as a person, and should have great sympathy for his struggle, yet they should not affirm his problem as an integral part of his identity.
The same goes for a sexually confused teenager.
Alan Medinger, who has counseled hundreds of men coming out of homosexuality and who was himself homosexually active for seventeen years, explains that true freedom is not to be found in coming out as gay but in choosing to live according to one’s true nature — as he says, ‘resuming the journey” to manhood from which “some men have gone AWOL”:
The road to manhood is a long one. it is a road of learning, trying, failing, trying again, a journey of victories and defeats. Most boys are not even conscious that they are on the road, and few realize when they have reached its primary destination, but the great majority do reach it…
Some boys, however, do not reach this destination. At some point the striving became too much, the defeats and failures too painful, so they opted out. They got off the main road; they took a detour… I was one of those boys… As with so many boys, my detour took me into the world of homosexuality… I came to see that my homosexual problem was largely a problem of undeveloped manhood.
Are Overweight People “Born That Way”?
As we mentioned previously, we see a good analogy to homosexuality in the problem of obesity. Researchers know that a gene predisposes some people to put on weight. But it would make no sense to say that being overweight is normal and healthy, just “because fat people are (sometimes) born that way.” Our genes provide only one influence — a predisposition, in some people, to gain weight. There is also family influence (“Did Mom put Coca-Cola instead of milk in your baby bottle?”), cultural influence (“Did your extended family celebrate get-togethers with marathons of fried sausage and pasta?”), situational stressors (“Are you under a lot of pressure at work, causing you to drink beer and snack in front of the TV all night?”), and, of course, your own choice to exercise self-control (“Do you choose to diet, or do you simply give in to the comfort and pleasure of eating?”).
Many people who are overweight undoubtedly have little or no genetic tendency to be fat. Their obesity is due to some combination of the above-mentioned environmental factors.
The situation with homosexuality is very much the same. As Dr. Whitehead has said, biological factors do not force us into particular behaviors; they only make those responses more likely.
Nicolosi, J., Nicolosi, L. (2002). A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press