Thursday, April 25, 2013


As humans we love analogies. "Life is a highway." "Life is like an old time railroad." Analogies help us make sense of our experience. They also help us verbalize for others what we are feeling, to help them better understand our situation. If I feel the Spirit, depending on the particular fruits I'm feeling, I may say, "I feel a burning in the bosom." This helps others begin to grasp the warmth I'm feeling. Hopefully they don't think I need an antacid.

With homosexuality, metaphors abound. Perhaps that's because it's a topic so many people cannot fathom. So we try to to find words to explain it. This post is about an oft used analogy. Feel free to share you favorite analogies, good and bad, in the comments. (I sort of started an informal collection a few years ago.)

"Homosexuality is like alcoholism. Some people may be predisposed to homosexuality like others are predisposed to alcohol abuse. But that doesn't mean either needs to be acted on."

First. what is accurate about this? Homosexual desires and the desire to drink are both urges that some people feel. Indeed my brother (as the son of a different marriage) is definitely more likely to become an alcoholic than me. If there is a gene for this, he's got it. It's true that neither of us needs needs to act upon our urges. So in that sense this analogy is true. Alcoholism (or the propensity towards it at least) is my brother's cross to bear and I am gay.

One of the problems with this analogy (and all analogies have problems) is that it compares my desires to love and be loved by another man with a potential vice. Homosexuality itself is not a vice, though uncontrolled promiscuity or perhaps even unbridled lustful thoughts, regardless of orientation, likely would be. But before we throw out the analogy, perhaps the issue is with our framing of it. Perhaps we should say, "Homosexual urges are like the predisposition some people have to alcoholism." I personally think this is a little better. But it still trivializes the issue.

If you agree with Maslow's hierarchy of needs, sex is lumped in with our most basic physical needs like food and water. An overly active desire to drink alcohol is not. (I suppose some may argue that this desire for drink is a perversion of the need to drink water. My brother would likely disagree.) Telling someone they shouldn't drink is not the same as telling them never to have sex. A better analogy would use food, since the need to eat is a most basic need.

"You not acting on your homosexual urges is like me giving up chocolate. It would be hard, but can be done."

This analogy still doesn't get at the root of the issue. True both sex and eating are basic human needs, but chocolate, even the finest of dark chocolate truffles, is not.  I suppose a slightly better analogy to help straight people understand what it sounds like when gay people are told to live a celibate life would be:

"For the rest of your life, you are only allowed to live on bread and water. You must do this while everyone around you is feasting on meat and fruit and vegetables and chocolate and bacon... lots and lots of bacon."


  1. This made me laugh and cry. :') I just found out my brother(28) has decided to live a gay life. My mother has said he will be like the prodigal son and one day return even though he has left the church I still love him deeply. What can I do to not feel heartbroken even though this man whom I look up to has chosen this life? I don't hate gays or what not, some of my closest friends are queer and I love them to bits! But I'm still very much in shock and only the immediate family knows at this point.... what are your suggestions? :)

    1. Hi Alison,
      I'm so sorry for not responding sooner. I sort of fell off the radar this past summer, taking a new job. I only have one piece of advice for you in dealing with your brother. Love him unconditionally. I think in the church we say, "love the sinner; hate the sin" but then spend all our energy on the second half of the couplet that we don't have strength for the first, which is the more admonition. Just tell your brother that you love him and want to be a part of his life no matter what.