This article by Kathleen Melonakos from the NARTH website was recently reprinted by Lifesite News.
While I think it is important to advocate for healthy sexual conduct, I do question the sources and some of the conclusions of this article. I did not check everything but a few things seem important to note.
First, the article quotes the discredited work of Paul Cameron and relies on his conclusions based on questionable assumptions. One popular response to his work notes the problems with sampling and inference in his articles.
Also, Ms. Melonakos says: As far as I know, there is no other group of people in the United States that dies of infectious diseases in their mid-forties except practicing homosexuals. The evidence for this statement is in a footnote that leads to the 1997 article by Hogg et al that has been widely reported. The finding often quoted that is generalized to homosexuals as a group is:
In a major Canadian centre, life expectancy at age 20 years for gay and bisexual men is 8 to 20 years less than for all men. If the same pattern of mortality were to continue, we estimate that nearly half of gay and bisexual men currently aged 20 years will not reach their 65th birthday.
Rarely do sources that cite the Hogg et al study or that simply assume a mid-40s life expectancy then cite the follow up letter from Hogg et al where the authors provide context for their research. It is important to read this letter to understand the significance of their findings. In this note, they state:
In contrast, if we were to repeat this analysis today the life expectancy of gay and bisexual men would be greatly improved. Deaths from HIV infection have declined dramatically in this population since 1996. As we have previously reported there has been a threefold decrease in mortality in Vancouver as well as in other parts of British Columbia.
It is essential to note that the life expectancy of any population is a descriptive and not a prescriptive mesaure. Death is a product of the way a person lives and what physical and environmental hazards he or she faces everyday. It cannot be attributed solely to their sexual orientation or any other ethnic or social factor. If estimates of an individual gay and bisexual man’s risk of death is truly needed for legal or other purposes, then people making these estimates should use the same actuarial tables that are used for all other males in that population. Gay and bisexual men are included in the construction of official population-based tables and therefore these tables for all males are the appropriate ones to be used.
Ms. Melonakos then notes the psychiatric criteria for viewing a syndrome as a diagnosis. The behavior or syndrome must cause subjective distress and/or negative social/life consequences. She asserts that homosexuality satisfies these criteria because many gays are unhappy with their sexual orientation and being gay is a “lethal addiction.” First, the DSM does include a diagnosis for those who are in distress over their sexual orientation (302.90). Second, the evidence is not clear that simply having same-sex attraction or taking on a gay identity requires one to pursue practices that do indeed lead to shortened life or disabling disease. I have previously addressed this issue relating to mental health morbidity.
In short, I do not believe the article makes the case for considering homosexual attraction per se to be a psychiatric disorder. Disordered sexuality of any sort (many partners, risky behavior, comcommitant drug usage, etc.) can be treated under several diagnostic headings, whether the person is gay, straight or bisexual.
More on this article. In it, Ms. Melonakos asks: “Can anyone refute that increased morbidity and mortality is an unavoidable result of male-with-male sex–not to mention the increased rates of alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, suicide and other maladies that so often accompany a homosexual lifestyle?[v] People with this whole cluster of behavior patterns are somehow “normal”?”
This is pretty easily refuted by observing people who engage in male-to-male sex but do not have these disorders. Even in studies showing an increased risk of the disorders cited here, the majority of people studied do not have them. Somewhat, and in some cases, very minor, elevated risk, yes, but “unavoidable” incidence? No. Research does not show that increased morbidity and mortality is an unavoidable result of male-with-male sex.
To better understand the issues in anal cancer, see this National Cancer Institute article. HPV (against which condoms do not protect well) seems to be the major culprit. Men and women who engage in anal sex are at risk as are those who have had other STDs. The 4000% number quoted in the NARTH article seems pretty amazing until you consider that anal cancer is about unheard of in the general population. So instead of less than 1 case per 100,000, the rate is 35 per 100,000 in men who engage in anal sex. The risk is substantially elevated but the cancer is pretty rare. Even though the incidence is rare, I do think health professionals should provide this information to patients and in schools as well.
UPDATE (12/19/06) – NARTH Board member Dave Pruden tells me that the NARTH Scientific Advisory Committee is reviewing this article for accuracy.
1/4/07 -This article has been pulled from both the NARTH and Lifesite News websites.