A Modest Agenda Proposal

Nathan Richardson

For the first part of this satirical conversation, read “A Modest Lifestyle Proposal.” In it, two people converse about anorexia and bulimia, and what factors might lead to people getting involved in eating disorders. The first speaker (regular typeface) uses arguments in favor of eating disorders that are very similar to the ones most advocates of the homosexual lifestyle use. The second speaker (bold typeface) questions the coherency and conclusions of those arguments.

It baffles me that such a rationale has become accepted today, even by the educated—not for eating disorders, but for homosexuality. One of the greatest injustices of this deceptive “logic” is that it has discouraged so many people from seeking needed help. Even more alarming is that it has been used to encourage so many more to participate in a lifestyle that is deadly both spiritually and physically. Imagine the outrage if such rhetoric was used to encourage bulimia and anorexia?1

In the past, people have adopted a live-and-let-live approach. We have supposed that, even though we strongly disagree with the lifestyle, they aren’t affecting us directly so why not just let it alone? Over time, though, we’ve seen that homosexual activists have begun to affect society at large more and more, using ever more vociferous rhetoric. A couple decades ago, who would have ever predicted that homosexual activists would cease to be content with legalizing their behavior and would begin to openly attack the heterosexual lifestyle? But that’s exactly what is in the headlines today, and people have become so confused by the repeated rhetoric that they can’t see how far we’ve come from normal reasoning.

Again, this conversation has nothing to do with criticizing people who struggle with eating disorders or with same-sex attraction. On the contrary, both groups deserve our sympathy and help, not our harmful indulgence. The purpose of this fictional dialogue is to illustrate the smoke-and-mirrors argumentation used to promote homosexual behavior.

Imagine, for example, if people separated eating from nutrition, the way many people today separate sex from child-bearing.

I’ve read about people who struggle with anorexia and bulimia. I don’t know how you can in good conscience encourage someone in such a self-destructive lifestyle.
That is so offensive! What’s wrong with their lifestyle? They’re not hurting anyone.
It’s an unhealthy practice. If someone doesn’t eat, they’re not going to get much nutrition. That’s plain as day.
There you go confusing separate issues. Boy, are you behind the times.
What do you mean?
Eating is a totally separate issue from digestion and nutrition.
That’s what eating is for.
No, eating is about enjoying the physical pleasure of taste.
Well, yeah, that’s part of it, but I don’t see how you can separate eating and digestion. Why would you want to separate them?
How Victorian. Look, some people who enjoy eating don’t want to be burdened with excess calories and fat that come from digestion.
That’s the natural consequence of eating.
Not if people practice safe-purging. That’s why contradigestives should be made available in schools and why health teachers and dieticians should instruct teenagers on using protection.
Boy, that’s a pretty twisted view of the purpose of the health profession.
I should think that it would be obvious that eating is distinct from digestion. Do you never enjoy eating for eating’s sake? Do you only ever eat things for their nutritional value?
No, of course I enjoy eating, too, but—look, you’ve completely turned things around. This conversation isn’t normal.

Tinkering with Age-old Social Customs

Now imagine if people separated meals from food, the way many people today separate marriage from child-bearing and rearing.

That’s the problem with appetitists.
What’s an appetitist?
A conorexic—someone who has a traditional appetite, who likes eating and digesting food.
What’s the problem you see?
You think everyone should think your way. You’re so close-minded that you assume your view on social issues is what constitutes “normal.”
. . . I’m sorry, but I think eating for sustenance is normal.
That’s exactly the kind of burdensome thinking that leads to so many oppressive social practices today.
What kind of social practices?
Like not allowing anorexics and bulimics to join in meals.
What? Of course they can!
Not in the way they’d like to. Current laws, societal structures, and definitions of “meals” are designed to favor appetitists.
What do you mean?
Have you ever seen restaurants accommodate purging? Do free soup kitchens do anything but offer food to the homeless? Those prejudices are ingrained in our society.
You think it’s unfair that mealtimes are designed for people who want to eat?
You bet it’s unfair. Have you ever seen a school meal plan include provisions for an anorexic who doesn’t want to eat?
Why would someone who doesn’t want to eat buy a meal plan?
Because they want to take part in a meal.
You just said . . .
Someone who wants to have a meal but doesn’t want to eat.
But eating and meals are the same thing.
There you go again, confusing two separate issues.
You don’t think eating and meals are the same thing?
No, that’s a rather artificial, out-dated social construct. Meals aren’t essentially about eating.
What! The very purpose of meals is nutrition.
Oh, you’re so sheltered and ethnocentric. Do you really think that every society sees mealtimes the same way?
Every society has mealtime. They always have!
Yes, but there’s an incredible variety of cultural views on meals.
What kinds of views?
Some societies see mealtimes as a sacred event, but some don’t. Some societies eat meals in private; for others, meals are a public affair. Some societies eat sitting around a table, others eat standing up. Even within the same culture, some meals are cooked in the home and others are bought out in public.
What are you trying to say?
Mealtime has no “essence.” There’s no intrinsic purpose that mealtimes serve that remains constant across all times and cultures; it’s all relative.
I’m not contesting the fact that there’s differences, but it doesn’t prove your point. Regardless of cultural variations, meals have always been about eating and sustaining the body.
No, a meal is a social gathering where people who enjoy each other’s company spend time together talking and laughing and fulfilling a variety of other purposes. It’s any mutually agreed-upon gathering. It’s not about nutrition.
Of course it is. The purpose of mealtimes is to eat. That’s the definition of it.

Clinging to Exceptions

Don’t you see the inherent flaw in defining meals by eating?
No. Enlighten me.
That definition would exclude even some appetitists.
How would it exclude people who weren’t anorexic or bulimic?
Well, it would exclude someone who wasn’t hungry or was too sick to keep their food down.
They are still welcome to come to a meal! No one would ever prevent that. Anyone is welcome.
Anorexics and bulimics should be allowed to join in meals. The inequality needs to end.
They are allowed to join in meals. They’ve never been barred from it. In fact, they’re usually encouraged to join in.
Maybe, but can’t you see that your narrow expectations make anorexics and bulimics feel oppressed and excluded. Maybe they’re not interested in ingesting nutrients but still want to take part in the other benefits of a meal.

Government Benefits Available to All

Well, no one has ever said that a person with an eating disorder can’t join in a meal, even if they don’t want to eat.
Yes, but government favors appetitists by its policies.
Like what?
Take for example state-funded meal plans for students. It’s not fair that tax money is used to give people food because it favors people who like food. An anorexic draws no benefit from a state-funded meal plan.
What would you prefer?
They should expand the definition of mealtime so that anorexics could use those funds on things they want, like clothes or books.
Look, that’s a totally separate issue. You don’t need to redefine meals to get those benefits.
That’s what I mean by bigotry. You don’t think anorexics should be allowed to buy clothes or books.
That’s not what I said; they can do that all they want. I said meals are inherently about eating, no matter how you might try to deny that.
That’s fine if you believe that, but you can’t try to force that view on others through the law.
The word means what it means; the practice is what it is. We should expect that to be reflected in laws. How could it not be?

Historical Examples

There’s still no justification for redefining meals as “a mutually agreed-upon social gathering.”
What, so you don’t gather with others at mealtime to talk and enjoy their company? I mean, the Bible even defines it that way. Ecclesiastes 10:19 says, “A feast is made for laughter.”
Well yes, that’s a descriptive characteristic, but it’s not the defining characteristic.
Well, that’s your definition, but you can’t force it on someone else. And you certainly can’t base legal and social institutions on your own concept when others in our society don’t see it that way. (Food stamps for those who like eating—how prejudiced!)
That definition has been a necessary part of life on earth for eons. How can any society survive if the people don’t eat meals? Every society has had this practice.
Yes, every society has had meals, but it’s not always about nutrition or sustaining life. Haven’t you heard about the Roman vomitoriums?
Remind me.
They’d have huge banquets and then go to special rooms designed for purging. Then they’d go back to the banquet. You see? It’s not about nutrition. It’s about a social gathering for mutual enjoyment. That’s an example of an advanced civilization that didn’t meet your limited definition of “meals.”
The Romans civilization isn’t around anymore, is it?
Oh brother, do you really think it fell because they had these unique eating practices?
Not exactly, but they sure didn’t help. Look, I don’t care if you find a hundred aberrant examples. That doesn’t change the fact that meals are necessary for the perpetuation of civilization—for survival! I mean, think of the effects it would have if people didn’t eat at mealtimes.


Your fears are ungrounded—stop being an alarmist. This is just the next step in an advancing social consciousness.
Listen to yourself. In the last ten minutes, you’ve managed to justify seducing people into a physically and mentally destructive lifestyle, convince them that they have no power to choose another course, assert that the natural outcomes of a dangerous behavior are really the result of prejudice, twist and redefine such basic concepts as eating and meals, and undermine a social institution as old as mankind.
It’s called progress.
It’s called blindness.

Sound like science fiction? It’s called current events.


Thank you to my friend Tessa Farr for helping me develop this analogy. Of course, I alone am responsible for any factual errors I might have made.

1. In fact, disturbingly similar rhetoric has been used to encourage and support eating disorders on sites that fancy themselves to be “support groups,” such as BlueDragonfly.org. (The site has since been removed, but for a description, see NBC4, “Bracelets Reveal Secret Society of Eating Disorders,” NBC, 15 Feb. 2005).

This site is never meant to teach people how to be anorexic. I don’t think it’s something that you can learn anyway. And even if the tips on distracting yourself can get you to skip a meal or two one day, that does not an eating disorder make. . . . This site is for support: we pat each other on the backs for our successes (as they are successes to us). . . . So much more than anti-food-ness goes on here. . . . It’s a support group in the best sense of the phrase. . . .

Anorexia Tips: Instead of buying food, buy yourself flowers! Food is depressing, but flowers make you happy! . . . . Exchange a bad habit for a good one. Exchange eating for yoga, or meditation, or reading more. Make yourself nauseous! You won’t eat! Think higher or yourself! You’re too good to put THAT in your body! [And so on.]

2. Writer Julian Sanchez asserted the same idea about marriage in his review of Stephanie Coontz’s Marriage, a History.

Does marriage, as some conservatives seem to suggest, have an intrinsic nature and a deep purpose that remain constant across millennia, such that changes in its form or meaning should be considered inherently suspect. . . . Not so much, according to Coontz, who finds that when it comes to marriage, the most reliable constant is flux. . . . What emerges from Coontz’s account is the realization that marriage has no “essence.” There is no one function or purpose it serves in every time and place. (“Marital Mythology: Why the new crisis in marriage isn’t,” Reason Online, 17 Oct. 2008)

Sanchez quotes several interesting examples of cultural variation regarding marriage customs. The irony that he is apparently blind to is that every marriage system he describes from Coontz’s book involves (1) man-woman marriage and (2) rearing children. To have missed this constant in a book designed specifically to look for constants bespeaks a lack of rigor on the part of either the author or the reviewer.


  1. I can appreciate your post because you are making a decent case for the LDS in suggesting that your opposition is out of love. You have written a well thought out article and have done a fair job of presenting the homosexual side of the argument. (Admittedly, I did not read your entire conversation. Those hypothetical conversations are tough to read because the writer’s side is always the most calm and collected and the other side is the one being unreasonable.)

    But I think suggesting that eating disorders and homosexuality are similar is based on a false assumption. Mainly, that they are both physically harmful. I noticed you referenced in one of your notes how homosexuality is physically harmful but I didn’t track down that reference. There is nothing I can think of, inherent in homosexuality, that would be physically harmful. Unprotected sex is harmful and risky no matter what. Reproduction. No argument there. But that’s not physically harmful.

    But you also reference spiritually harmful. So this is where your argument really lies.

    I am friends with many homosexuals. Some are in committed relationships. Some are not. Some have children. Most are highly educated (graduate degrees) and gainfully employed. They contribute to society. And for all intents and purposes, they are just like any other heterosexual person or couple. I admire the love and commitment some have and hate the serial dating that others have.

    My honest thought about why they are gay… I don’t really care. I can see the genetic point. I can see the environment point. Like all things, I would think it’s somewhere in between. It seems more like hand dominance. When did I decide to be right handed? I didn’t. I just have always been right handed. Knowing a bit how the brain works during development, the decision for handedness probably just happened spontaneously. It’s easy to see that there could be a genetic predisposition to it since most people in the world are right handed. Evolutionarily speaking it’s hard to figure out a reason for that. But there are left handed people. Their brains made a hard wire choice at some point to be left handed. It’s interesting to note that left handed people have been shown to have higher IQ’s as a group. Clearly something is different about their brains. Or at least in the way their brains process information.

    I never made a choice to be heterosexual. It was just always there. Most of my gay friends say the same thing. Even as young kids they felt they were different than the social norms. From an evolution standpoint, certainly homosexuality is not wise. But again during development, their brains seem to become hardwired a certain way. Maybe there is some genetic mutation or some event in their life (pre or post natal) that causes the brain to develop a certain way. So, it’s not genetic and not really environment. It’s sort of a combination of the two mixed in with development. Before our bodies begin to show the effects of our X or Y chromosomes, we are uni-sex. The brain bud is developing. And timing is very important. Signals turn on and turn off different growth factors at different times. Some alterations cause a complete loss of the pregnancy. Other alterations are completely random and might be the reason someone likes tomatoes or is more inclined towards risk taking. Our bodies are incredible complex and our development is even more so.

    I agree that heterosexuality is the way nature/God intended. But I disagree that if someone develops with a physical/emotional attraction to the same sex, then they need to be fixed. A bulimic will die a very slow painful death if they continue with their lifestyle. That case can not be made for homosexuals. In fact, as with anybody, if they are surrounded by real love and acceptance, they can live a nice long happy life.

    I would be interested in your thoughts. Although I realize this article is several months ago.

  2. I would be interested in your thoughts, although I realize this article is several months ago.

    Hey, I’m happy to! We try to write about timeless stuff, as opposed to current events, so most articles are never really out-of-date.

    Those hypothetical conversations are tough to read because the writer’s side is always the most calm and collected and the other side is the one being unreasonable.

    So true; I am guilty of that here. If I ever do a second draft of this, I will try to be more even-handed with the tone of the two people. (Ideally, there would be four people: an extreme and a moderate on both sides. But then it gets hard for the reader to keep track of who’s talking, etc.)

    But I think suggesting that eating disorders and homosexuality are similar is based on a false assumption. … There is nothing I can think of, inherent in homosexuality, that would be physically harmful.

    Some would disagree about the degree of physiological harm inherent to homosexuality, but I think your main point is true—there are obvious differences between homosexuality and eating disorders. I made a list of those when I first began writing this, and I include them in part 5 of this series. Besides the fact that eating disorders cause clearly understood physiological harm while homosexuality does not, people with eating disorders do not have a history of being unfairly treated. There is also less of a moral component to eating disorders. I definitely see those differences. I imagine they are part of the reason that for one issue, everyone agrees people need help, and for the other issue, opinions are so divided.

    But you also reference spiritually harmful. So this is where your argument really lies.

    Yes, I would balk at trying to base arguments against homosexuality on the physical consequences. It seems to miss the greater problem.

    I agree that heterosexuality is the way nature/God intended. But I disagree that if someone develops with a physical/emotional attraction to the same sex, then they need to be fixed. A bulimic will die a very slow painful death if they continue with their lifestyle. That case can not be made for homosexuals. In fact, as with anybody, if they are surrounded by real love and acceptance, they can live a nice long happy life.

    Naturally I agree that no one should be forced to change (if that were even possible, to change in this way unwillingly). Do you think there are any harmful consequences to a homosexual lifestyle other than physiological ones? It’s hard for me to imagine that such a strong deviation from God’s plan would be without any real cost, spiritually, mentally, or emotionally.

  3. Thanks for you reply.

    I went back and looked up your references for physical and emotional consequences of homosexuality. It led me to an article about an interview. From the interview the doctor cites a few studies to support his claims. He is technically reporting the correct data, but is not coming to the same conclusions as the authors. In fact, one article he cites from the Archives of General Psychiatry in 1999 was only one article of basically an entire journal issue devoted to the discussion of homosexuality and psychological disorders. The one conclusion, if you look at all of the studies, is that there is no conclusion. Cause versus effect is impossible to determine mostly because there are too many variables to report.

    One last thing about the physical effects. All of the medical illnesses that are associated with homosexuality are all a result of multiple partners and unprotected sex. Again, nothing inherent with homosexuality. Even though anal cancer occurs more frequently in homosexual men, (a fact I didn’t know and think is sort of interesting), this higher incidence is the result of more frequent exposure to human papillomavirus (HPV). This is also the same one that can cause cervical cancer in women.

    So about your specific question. The short answer is “yes”. I do think there are harmful emotional, spiritual, mental consequences to a homosexual lifestyle. But similar to supposed physical consequences, I don’t think there is anything inherent with the lifestyle itself. These consequences stem from external events (real or perceived). It’s not a stretch to say that homosexuality is not widely accepted in the US. Certainly there are a lot of people that don’t have a real problem with it but there is a huge and vocal portion that are extremely against it. If my daughter came to me and told me that she was gay, I would be concerned about her happiness. Not because my acceptance would be in question. But because I know what kinds of possible issues she might face as a result.

    I will admit that I don’t think that all homosexuals just normally feel that way. I can easily see the sexual lust/fetish side of the argument. There are certainly some homosexuals that are not mentally balanced. One friend I have specifically sticks out. He’s a dentist. Has a very nice practice in the midwest. When you meet him it’s not really a surprise that he is gay. He is open about his homosexuality around friends but he can’t tell his family. They know he’s gay. He probably even knows that they know he is gay. And he knows that they still love him regardless. Especially his twin brother. But he can’t bring himself to officially tell them. Combine that with serial dating. Clearly he has some issues. But I also have several hetero friends that are the exact same way. They serial date and intentionally keep their dating life hidden from their family because they feel like they aren’t living up to implicit or explicit family expectations. Even if they know these expectations are only in their head.

    I could replace any components of these stories to include spirituality as well. But my theological take on homosexuality is that I think God would want to see a relationship based on love than one based on any other false pretense. I would let God deal with God’s plan and how homosexuals do or do not deviate from that. From that perspective, the spiritual is between God and that person.

  4. I do think there are harmful emotional, spiritual, mental consequences to a homosexual lifestyle. But similar to supposed physical consequences, I don’t think there is anything inherent with the lifestyle itself.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t know if you’d read about rectal tearing, or depression studies:

    These 1999 studies were corroborated by a large well-conducted study from The Netherlands (Archives of General Psychiatry, 2001) which does not provide support to the “homophobia” hypothesis as the source of the higher level of mental-health problems, because Dutch society is recognized as one of the most gay-affirming and gay-tolerant societies in the world, and yet the risk for mental illness among those who engage in homosexuality in Holland remains high, and significantly higher than among heterosexuals in that country. (Source)

    You’re right, though, that “the one conclusion, if you look at all of the studies, is that there is no conclusion.” The studies are inconclusive, and it’s hard to eliminate variables, especially in the social sciences. My intuition tells me that the consequences would eventually manifest themselves somehow, but apparently not in the laboratory yet.

    It just seems to me that a practice that diverts so much from nature must have consequences, even if they aren’t as clear cut as medical consequences. Let me use an example from another thread. If you had a friend who was a cutter (deliberately cuts their skin when they’re anxious, etc.), but they were careful and used sterile equipment and were never in any medical danger, would you think there was no problem? To me, that indicates that there might be something more, and help should be offered. Even if all the physiological consequences are removed, I still think there’s some issue not being addressed, and that they’d be better off for addressing it.

    The main reason I would balk so much at seeing a friend go into a homosexual lifestyle is that I believe it’s a sin, and inherent to that is unhappiness. (To explain, in case you’re not LDS, those beliefs come after hearing the leaders of our Church speak on the matter.) I don’t believe a person in the midst of sin will ever be as happy as they could be. Of course, that describes all of us, being sinners. But with such a serious mistake as this one, it seems the impediments to real happiness would be more in number.

    It’s OK if two people have different takes on this. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  5. Thanks for your thoughts as well.

    Rectal and anal tears and fissures can be caused from anal sex, or other objects, or from constipation/other related issues. But I see your point.

    I am familiar with the NEMESIS study from the Netherlands. Here is the link to it on PubMed and some related articles. http://tiny.cc/fJpGO

    The original is in Dutch. While it is true that the homosexual lifestyle is more accepted there and that homosexuals have a higher incidence of suicidal ideation, plans, self harm. This is only in the male population. Females don’t have these issues in the Netherlands. Also, those with suicidal thoughts, around 75% of homosexuals have a perceived discrimination. So no matter what can be said about societal norms, homosexuals still feel like they are not accepted. Additionally, I think it’s telling that the UN just passed a resolution saying that it opposes making homosexuality illegal (or something to that effect). Basically, the world is just now admitting that homosexuals are real and that discrimination against them should stop. Go figure that most homosexuals don’t feel very accepted anywhere in the world no matter what is legal.

    The cutting example is a pretty good example. However, the one issue I have with it, is that it again makes an assumption. And that is all homosexuals are depressed or are homosexuals because they have chosen this or because of some underlying issue that has caused this. Cutting is clearly a response to stress. It makes the person feel good. It’s a form of escapism just like any other addiction. I know many homosexuals that are perfectly happy in their relationships with friends, family, loved ones, etc… (Of course I admit it’s hard to tell if anyone is really happy). It does not appear as though their homosexuality is causing them any stress, other than not feeling accepted.

    I appreciate your dialogue very much. I also understand that your views come from your faith. I can respect that. And I’ll reiterate that I respect that you are attempting to approach, what you see as a sin/societal problem/personal problem, with love and compassion. I really do respect that.

  6. I’ll reiterate that I respect that you are attempting to approach, what you see as a sin/societal problem/personal problem, with love and compassion. I really do respect that.

    Thanks, Kevin. I understand when people say my reasoning isn’t persuasive to them, but it’s frustrating and hurts when people say my motives are suspect, just for seeing this issue differently from them. So that really means a lot.

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