06/20/2014 06:16 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

A Gay Dad Offers Gov. Rick Perry a 12-Step Recovery Program for His Homophobia Problem


If you are gay and you are wishing upon a star, it is probably not a good idea for it to be the Lone Star of Texas. This past week that particular entity has been more than a little dim in terms of passing out bright news for gay people.

In Texas the anti-gay rhetoric has been more absurd, if that is possible, than it has been in other LGBT-unfriendly states. The recent news has been a trifecta of idiocy, with a pair of gay husbands being legally kept off their own sons' birth certificates, the leading political party embracing abusive therapy for gay teens, and a governor declaring homosexuality a destructive behavioral genetic disease.

Anti-marriage-equality pundits have claimed that marriage should be reserved only for people who can procreate together. Texans Jason Hanna and Joe Riggs probably don't agree with that assessment, but they made children anyway. With science and planning on their side, they have both fathered a pair of twin boys. Each dad has a biological tie to one of the boys, and the boys are both related to each other through the egg donor. For me, having adopted my "twin" boys as infants from foster care, sharing DNA was not something I felt was important or needed. Jason and Joe wanted it for their family. This is where choice comes in, how we each choose to create our families. Afterwards, ultimately that choice is unimportant. As life kicks in, where the children came from is not the issue; the issue is how to protect and love them.

The state of Texas is currently hindering how Jason and Joe protect their boys, and it has put their children at risk. Neither man is listed as the legal father of either of the boys. If they were legally married, they both would be listed on the birth certificates of both boys. Insanity, welcome to Texas.

At the same time, the state's Republican Party has embraced "reparative therapy" in its party platform. In practical terms, since all legislation against such "therapy," whose goal is to change people from gay to straight, has been aimed at protecting teens below the age of consent, this proposal specifically targets young people, who would be subjected to psychological abuse, according to assessments by all the major mental-health oversight organizations. Gov. Rick Perry has jumped on board and declared homosexuality to be a biological disposition akin to alcoholism.

He has been rightly taken to task for this conjecture. It has been pointed out to him that people under the influence of alcohol excesses pose great harm to themselves and society, while people under the constant influence of their sexual orientations, which is pretty much most living and breathing adults, do not. It should be noted that while under the influence of their individual bouts of homosexuality, Jason and Joe have done wild madcap behaviors like holding annual Toys for Tots drives in their home, bringing the joy of hundreds of teddy bears to children suffering from cancer. Perry's retort has been a compelling blank stare and a shrug.

I feel uniquely qualified to speak on this controversy, since besides being a lifelong homosexual, I also have over three decades of continuous recovery from alcoholism. In the process of maintaining that recovery, people in my situation are often called to help those who are suffering from the addiction disease, and in some cases actually provide intervention.

Gov. Perry clearly needs one. Here it is:

Dear Gov. Perry,

This week, speaking from your position as an experienced alcoholic ("I may have the genetic coding that I'm inclined to be an alcoholic," you said), you have decided that homosexuality is a similar "disease." Presumably having more experience with recovery than you have (over three decades), I would like to explore your idea a little further and offer you specific steps that will help free you from the problem from which you currently suffer.

One of the most popular recovery programs examines the nature of the disease in its first step. It states that under the disease, the sufferer is "powerless," and his or her life is rendered "unmanageable." Certainly that is true for those of us who have been brought to our knees by drugs and alcohol. Personal relationships, responsibilities, and any semblance of adequate decision making are often left in shambles.

For me, when I apply this scrutiny to my acceptance of my homosexuality and my sexual orientation in general, I cannot say either "powerlessness" or "unmanageability" happen. My experience has been the exact opposite. I found honest love, commitment and the inspiration to adopt and love two at-risk toddlers and raise them with stable, healthy lives. In fact, dealing with the reality of who I am made my life exceptionally manageable.

I do see you struggling with a disease. Homosexuality is not that disease, however; homophobia is. Homophobia creates the environment for the irrational decisions coming out of Texas currently. Homophobia is the thing tearing families apart, inspiring physical abuse, and leading to death. Homophobia is the disease, and it appears to be the one with which you, Governor, are afflicted.

Dedicated to "carrying the message" of recovery, I therefore feel it is my duty to share a suggested program of recovery. Here it is, in 12 easy steps, tailored especially for you:

1. We admitted that we were powerless over our homophobia, and that the driving need to control other people's lives had made our own, and theirs, unmanageable.

2. We came to believe in principles of equality that, when applied, could lead our country back to a sense of sanity.

3. We made a decision to turn our biases and knee-jerk reactions over to a greater sense of right and wrong, allowing others to pursue happiness and fulfillment in their own lives.

4. We made a searching and fearless inventory of the harm we had done by persecuting LGBT people.

5. We admitted to ourselves, the public and our consciences the damage that our homophobia had done.

6. We became entirely willing to stop harming our fellow LGBT citizens.

7. We humbly asked for the principles of true justice to be enacted on their behalf.

8. We made a list of all the LGBT people we had harmed, directly or indirectly, including the gay soldier left undefended in the Republican debates, the families of LGBT veterans left in the shadows, the LGBT teens bullied and inspired to suicide, the gay people forced from their homes or jobs, the gay-bashed, the fathers and mothers ostracized from their sons' Boy Scout troops and others. We vowed to make amends to all of them.

9. We made such amends to them, vowing that such indignities would end for them and all others.

10. We continued to take personal inventory, and when homophobic biases emerged, we promptly admitted them and apologized.

11. We continued to think and reflect on ways to bring true equality and justice to all people, and to seek the personal power to carry that out.

12. As a result of a cleansing of conscience through these steps, we sought to educate those who still suffer from homophobia, eradicate it, and exercise the principles of equality so that our loved ones and fellow citizens can enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Every night of my life, I kiss two little boys goodnight and put them to sleep. I desire to help them grow to be fine men who are free to be themselves. Each night I hold each of them against my chest and quietly vow to do the best I can for them, love them to my deepest depths and give them the best lives imaginable.

There are only two things that would prevent me from living up to those goals: giving in to my alcoholism and giving in to my internalized homophobia. Either of those ills would have killed me many times over. Neither of them has a place in my life.

Your homophobia is not a winning political strategy, Governor. It is a poison. The results of it cannot be smarmily smiled away as an American hero is booed or two dads are legally estranged from their children. The results of it cannot be ignored as families are subjected to turmoil and the vulnerable are destroyed by hate. You need to confront this and deal with it.

In order to do so, you need to do what always comes first in these situations: You need to admit you have a problem.

It's time.

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