Musings on sexual identity: Views from other bloggers

I don’t have time at present to comment at length on the following links from various bloggers but I wanted to note them.

Disputed Mutability has a series of posts regarding the abandonment of a gay identity. The links are as follows: Okay, here we go! Why I Forsook Gay Identity, Part 1, Introduction, ack! (2 points of clarification), Why I Forsook Gay Identity, Part 2: What Gay Identity Meant To Me, Why I Forsook Gay Identity, Part 3: Openness. For those interested in how people find congruence with a traditional sexual ethic, here is some provocative reading.

Over at Adventures of a Christian Collegian, CollegeJay pens a person response to the posts from Disputed Mutability. He notes that definitions are elusive and while reading, it occured to me that what gay means may cut along generational lines. Younger people may think of gay as an adjective on par with homosexual or same-sex attracted without conveying intention to act or approve. Older folks may see gay as describing a political and/or moral statement, as in, ‘I approve of gay.’

The Peter Ould at his personal blog gives an explanation of his preference for the term “post-gay” over “ex-gay.” I like his differentiation between ontological meaning and directional meaning. Another reason to dislike ex-gay: the term implies that sexuality is binary – you are either thoroughly hetero or homo – which of course flies in the face of reality for many people.

Feel free to suggest in commenting other sites and posts that grapple with identity issues.

“Multimedia manifesto” sent to NBC by Virginia Tech killer

In a disturbing turn of events, NBC News disclosed earlier this evening that Cho Seung-Hui sent a package of video clips, photos, and writings overnight mail on Monday to NBC News. The package was mailed between the first and second assaults. Naturally quite distressing to the families and traumatized, this information provides some insight into the mind of this very troubled man. More news is emerging that he was disturbed for some time and those in my field will be analyzing this situation for some time to come.

Christian Post carries Dr. Frisch’s statement about gay lifespans

In March, the Christian Post reported on the Cameron & Cameron study of gay life expectancy. Today, the CP reported the criticisms of this report by Morten Frisch first published here on this blog. I appreciate this balanced reporting.

Days of conflict: Sexual orientation and public schools

Today (April 25 in MA) is the GLSEN sponsored event, Day of Silence and then tomorrow is the Day of Truth, sponsored by the Alliance Defense Fund. This year a coalition of social conservative groups have urged parents to keep their kids home on the Day of Silence. Racheting up the rhetoric is the Massachusetts version of opposition to the Day of Silence called Day of Defiance.

My view is that none of these “days” belong in the schools. However, I do believe that issues surrounding sexual identity, safety and education must be discussed and resolved in a manner that respects all points of view. In a perfect world (and perhaps in some districts), both sides will respectfully express their views and perhaps some communication will take place. In the real social world of most high schools, I fear that the result will more often be a more polarized and tense scene. For this reason, just over a year ago, Chad Thompson and I wrote an article that was initially published on Townhall.com (and later removed) called Sexual Orientation: When Conflict Rules the School.

In that article, Chad and I wrote in support of the First Amendment Center’s effort to address the conflict in schools called Public Schools and Sexual Orientation: A First Amendment framework for finding common ground. One aspect of this framework I like is the creation of “common ground task forces” in school districts. These task forces are to be comprised of parents who hold conflicting views and are designed to come to agreement about school policy and practice. The guidelines acknowledge the current state of affairs which has only escalated in the year since they were released. The guidelines observe:

These differences are deep – and difficult to negotiate. Current efforts to legalize or ban same-sex unions in the courts, in legislatures and on ballot initiatives have only exacerbated the debate in schools and raised the stakes for public school officials. Every act by one side is seen as a hostile move by the other. A “Day of Silence” to promote awareness of discrimination against gays and lesbians is now followed by a “Day of Truth” to promote conservative religious views of homosexuality. A T-shirt proclaiming “Straight Pride” is worn to counter one professing “Gay Pride.”

However, I do not believe the framework has had much impact. What Chad and I wrote a year ago seems even more accurate today:

Thus far, the guidelines have built very few bridges. Groups on the political right and left have found fault with them. One recent headline from a conservative source said: “Christian education group caves to homosexuals.” Conversely, liberal Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) said the Framework was designed to foster discussion of gay issues in schools and that the views of ex-gays should not be considered. We believe critics are missing the central aim of the guidelines: “Educators can and should require that all viewpoints be expressed in a respectful manner, but they may not exclude some views merely because they don’t agree with them.”

I can see no real resolution of issues until something like what the First Amendment Center has proposed is actually implemented. Otherwise, where will this go? If conservative parents keep their kids home on the Day of Silence, isn’t it likely that liberal parents will keep their kids home on the Day of Truth? Who will hear what message? Will schools be any safer for any kids? Will another half week of instruction be further compromised by adult inspired activism?

To read the First Amendment framework, download this pdf file.

Virginia Tech Shootings

Even though I am no longer a college counseling center director, I maintain relationships with my colleagues in that field via a discussion list for college counselors. As you might imagine, there is much chatter on the list about this horrific tragedy at Virginia Tech today. As of 1:37pm, the Virginia Tech counseling staff was locked in their offices through the morning but have plans to remain open late tonight. A campus alert has been issued and the school will be closed tomorrow. Details are emerging about the circumstances.

Colleagues have been quite generous with offers to travel to Virginia Tech to assist as needed. My prayers are with the families and staff there…

As the news of this tragedy was coming in, I was teaching about video game violence in social psychology class. We had just seen a video featuring a speech by Jack Thompson, attorney who specializes in suing violent video game makers. Thompson, in a sense, prophesied Columbine by warning about the impact of video game violence on kids on the Today Show days before the event.

Some papers have predicted that this shooting might revive a debate on gun regulation, however, I hope with Dr. Phil on last night’s Larry King Show, that the debate will include discussion of the culture of violence, which includes violent video games.

UPDATE: 4/17/07 – More details are being reported about the mental status of Cho Seung-Hui. Grove City College Alumna, Professor Carolyn Rude (’67), chairwoman of the university’s English department, has been widely quoted saying Cho’s papers were so disturbing that she referred him to the university’s counseling service.

UPDATE: 4/18/07 – Clearly demonstrating premeditation and severe mental illness, NBC News received a packet of information mailed by Cho Seung-Hui between killings on Monday.

Only the gay die young? Part 2 – Danish epidemiologist reviews the Cameron study

Yesterday, I posted a letter from the EPA president, Phil Hineline, and then a response from Paul Cameron regarding a March presentation by Paul and Kirk Cameron purporting to show that homosexuals comprise a smaller than assumed percentage of the population because older gays are not included in prevalence estimates. Further, the Camerons assert that the reason older gays are not figured in to the prevalence numbers is because most of them die young. That post did not discuss in detail the claims of the Camerons, but rather some aspects of the presentation and the subsequent dissemination of the study by the Camerons.

However, to address the actual claims of early demise, I asked Morten Frisch, Danish epidemiologist, to review the Cameron’s paper “Federal Distortion Of Homosexual Footprint (Ignoring Early Gay Death?). Morten is the lead author of a recent report on environmental influences on marriages decisions among heterosexuals and homosexuals. I wrote about this study here and blogged about it here. He very kindly agreed to do so and replied earlier today. As I suspected, he did not find their arguments compelling, or use of data appropriate. Here is his brief analysis:

Cameron and Cameron’s report on ’life expectancy’ in homosexuals vs heterosexuals is severely methodologically flawed

It is no wonder why this pseudo-scientific report claiming a drastically shorter life expectancy in homosexuals compared with heterosexuals has been published on the internet without preceding scientific peer-review (http://www.earnedmedia.org/frireport.htm). The authors should know, and as PhD’s they presumably do, that this report has little to do with science. It is hard to escape the idea that non-scientific motifs have driven the authors to make this report public. The methodological flaws are of such a grave nature that no decent peer-reviewed scientific journal should let it pass for publication.

As a measure of gay individuals’ average ‘life expectancy at birth’, Cameron and Cameron gathered information about age at death from obituaries for homosexual people in the U.S., and they obtained Scandinavian data regarding the average age at death among homosexually partnered persons who died within a period of up to 14 years after the introduction of laws on homosexual partnerships.

Due in part to reports like the present homosexual persons remain subject to stigmatization. The majority of homosexual people, even in comparatively liberal countries like Denmark, are not open about their sexuality in public. Particularly older homosexuals who grew up in periods when their sexuality was either a crime or a psychiatric diagnosis tend to remain silent about their homosexuality in public. Therefore, the higher prevalence of self-reported homo/bisexual experiences and feelings in younger than older age groups most likely reflects that young gays and bisexuals are less hesitant than older ones to provide honest answers in sex surveys.

The majority of homosexual individuals in the report by Cameron and Cameron were presumably open about their same-sex preferences. The groups studied comprised homosexuals who had entered registered partnerships in Denmark or Norway, and homosexuals in the U.S. whose relatives considered homosexuality to be such an integrated part of their deceased loved ones’ personalities that they felt it natural to mention in the publicly available obituary. Since, as noted, age is a strong determinant of openness about homosexuality, the study groups of deceased homosexuals in Cameron and Cameron’s report were severely skewed towards younger people. Consequently, the much younger average age at death of these openly homosexual people as compared with the average age at death in the unselected general population tells nothing about possible differences between life expectancies in gays and non-gays in general. All it reflects is the skewed age distribution towards younger people among those who are openly homosexual.

To further illustrate Cameron and Cameron’s methodological blunder, imagine a country that sets up a new register to record all cases of sexual harassment against women. After 14 years of operation the register is contacted by an advocacy group who gets access to the data to examine how sexual harassment influences women’s life expectancy. Among those women who died during the maximum of 14 years of follow-up, few women will have died after the age of 50, simply because most sexual harassment cases occurred among young women. Using the same logic and methods as Cameron and Cameron, this advocacy group could arrive at the conclusion that sexual harassment reduces women’s ‘life expectancy’ by 30 years or more. Needless to say, this would be as pure nonsense as the conclusion reached by Cameron and Cameron that heterosexuals outlive gays by 22-25 years.

In theory, despite their possession of academic degrees, the authors may have been unaware of the flawed methodology they used and, therefore, they may have been in good faith when writing their report. If so, they should promptly retract it to avoid further stigmatization of homosexual persons. However, expectations that this will happen are slim. Results simply fit too well with the views they have previously expressed.

Morten Frisch, MD, PhD, DSc(Med)

Senior epidemiologist

Copenhagen, Denmark

Thanks again to Morten for his comments. I hope to summarize my thoughts about this episode by early next week.

Only the gay die young? Examining claims of shorter life expectancy for homosexuals

A spate of articles and news releases have appeared recently purporting to demonstrate that the life expectancy of homosexuals is in the neighborhood of 20 years lower than that of straights. Behind this flurry of activity is Paul and Kirk Cameron of the Family Research Institute and a poster session presented at the March, 2007 Eastern Psychological Association convention in Philadelphia.

The first news release was titled “1.4% of Adults Homosexual?” This release carried a link to a paper ostensibly presented at the Eastern Psychological Association, titled, Federal Distortion Of Homosexual Footprint (Ignoring Early Gay Death?). However, according to the letter below from the president of the EPA, Dr. Phil Hineline, the title and intent of the paper referenced by the news release is different than what the Camerons told the EPA they would do.

Following the first news release, others followed from the Camerons proposing that a reason fewer people over age 60 identify as homosexuals is because they are not alive (see them here, here, here, here, here and here). Again saying these data were presented at the EPA convention, the Camerons based their assertions on data from Denmark and Norway. On April 3, I received an email from Paul Cameron with “gays die too young to permit them to adopt” in the subject line. The email contain a Rocky Mountain News article quoting Cameron and an April 2 news release he said he gave to the Colorado legislative committee titled, “Gays Disruptive, Die Sooner & Their Kids Complain.” It was addressed to over 40 news outlets and bloggers, with this message: “How about an interview?”

These claims have never made sense to me, and I wrote briefly about this several months ago. So I dove into this a little further. In the mean time, Jim Burroway, over at Box Turtle Bulletin examined the Camerons’ work with an analysis of the study and a letter about the study from Dr. Paul Hineline, EPA president.

I also wrote to Dr. Hineline with questions about the Camerons’ study and to ask permission to include a response here. Here is the letter (which is identical to the one posted at Box Turtle Bulletin).

Dear Warren Throckmorton,

In response to your query, the following is a statement suitable for public distribution, provided that quotations from it are not lifted out of context.

Phil Hineline

– – – – – –

Paul Cameron and Kirk Cameron have posted for circulation a controversial and lengthy manuscript that purports, via the tagline at the bottom each page, to be the account of a presentation at the March 2007 meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association. The title of that manuscript, as well as its main emphasis, focuses upon an issue that was not present in the title nor was it in the supporting materials that were submitted by the Camerons for a poster presentation at EPA.

The submitted title, which appears in the EPA printed program, is: “Federal distortion of homosexual footprint.” The accompanying Abstract asserts that the proportion of the Canadian population identified as lesbian, gay and bisexual is substantially lowered if adults over age 60 are included than if they are excluded from the sample. The asserted implication is that federal agencies are exaggerating the size of the homosexual proportion of the population by excluding adults over 60 from the assessments.

In contrast, the manuscript at issue carries the title: “Federal Distortion Of Homosexual Footprint (Ignoring early Gay Death?).” Two of the three paragraphs in its accompanying Abstract focus upon the topic of the added parenthetical phrase, which is an inference — indeed a topic — that was not present in the materials submitted to EPA. Irrespective of its potential for controversy, it is highly unlikely that the augmented/altered version would have been accepted for presentation, for there clearly are many reasons other than differential longevity that could result in the under-reporting of homosexuals over 60.

Whatever its content, even the format of the manuscript to which the EPA identification has been affixed — a manuscript of more than 7000 words plus three tables and six graphs, would have been completely inappropriate as a poster presentation, which was the venue in which Dr. Cameron proposed to participate in the meeting.

To clarify the relevant history and circumstances: After putting out the call for submissions to be proposed for the EPA meeting, we typically receive over 700 submissions as was the case this year. These submissions are divided into categories (e.g. Animal Learning, Social psychology, etc ..) and each section is reviewed by a volunteer on the program committee. As each submission typically has at least two authors, vetting authors against other organizations’ lists of people with problematic ethical records is simply an impossibility, especially given the time-frame of preparations for an annual convention.

For acceptance, a work had to be complete, be methodologically sound using proper data collection techniques and/or experimental methods, the

conclusions had to be derivable from the presented results, and the topic deemed to be one that could stimulate interest and discussion among those attending the meeting.

The submission by Dr. Cameron indicated that there was a possibility that the prevalence of homosexuals in the population had been overestimated by previous techniques. Data were presented, reportedly using a broader defined sample than that used by government agencies, which indicated that the prevalence of homosexuality in the population was smaller than had been previously suggested. The submission by Dr. Cameron was for a poster presentation, and it was accepted as a poster, not as a paper or address. Whatever the Camerons ultimately presented, occurred in an hour-long “poster session” among approximately 70 posters.

There was nothing in the materials submitted by the author for review by EPA that indicated that the work could, or would, be informative with respect to the longevity of homosexuals.

Sincerely,

Philip N. Hineline

President, Eastern Psychological Association

I provided Dr. Cameron with the letter from Dr. Hineline and asked for an on-the-record response to it. The following email is Dr. Cameron’s reply:

Dear Professor Throckmorton:

I’m not surprised – not even annoyed — that Dr. Hineline has made an issue of the fact that we covered more ground in our poster than we promised in our abstract. In making this point, he implies that the rules for the presentation of posters at the EPA are as rigidly codified and enforced as procedures in a criminal trial. Such is by no means the case.

As you know, posters are probably the most informal way our profession has devised to present new information at a convention. You put up the poster and you hope people will stop and ask you questions about your research or request a copy of the findings you are presenting.

At a recent meeting, one scholar attached the word SEX to the top of his poster. When asked why did it, he smiled and said, “Just to catch people’s attention.” Did he seek permission from the EPA to include that Attention Grabber in his poster presentation?

Surely Dr. Hineline knows that, over the years, numerous posters have contained information not included in the abstract. So is he implying that if the organization had known what the Canadian, Norwegian, and Danish reports told us about the gay lifespan, the EPA would have rejected the proposed poster? I hope not. If so, then the EPA has sacrificed scientific inquiry to political correctness. If not, then what is Dr. Hineline’s point in bringing up this matter?

Besides, what he says about the presentation is in error. He writes that there was: “nothing in the materials submitted by the author for review by EPA that indicated that the work could, or would, be informative with respect to the longevity of homosexuals.” Inspection of Table 1 and the four-page abstract itself would challenge that assertion.

Table 1

Note: Hetero = heterosexual; Homo/Bi = homosexual or bisexual; Unknown = refused or coded as “don’t know”; Hetero/Homo = Ratio of heterosexual to non-heterosexual

The almost 1 of 50 adults homosexual before the age of 45 plummeted to 1/233 adults homosexual after age 64. These data demand explanation. And (from the proposal)

In the Canadian database, a decline in homosexuality was evident by the fourth decade of life. Those who identified themselves as homosexual constituted a relatively stable fraction of adults only for those aged into their mid-40s (e.g., one of every 47-48 adults). Thereafter, their proportion dropped regularly, down to one of every 234 adults in old age (65+), resulting in an overall estimate of 1.4% of adults who ‘were

homosexual.’

As you can see, in both the table and the abstract, we note the precipitous decline in the homosexual population following middle age. Indeed, failure to consider the reason for this decline would have constituted negligence on our part.

We extrapolated the figures on the gay lifespan after we had submitted the abstract; and since they came from Census Bureaus as the Canadian statistics, we thought they deserved inclusion. I think this incident illustrates the sad truth that if you publish research that is inconvenient to the gay rights movement, you encounter more obstacles than those whose work supports gay claims.

Given the number of typos in Dr. Hineline’s email, I wonder if it was not written in haste and hence without the reflection necessary to state his case clearly and accurately. Perhaps he has read the misleading information about me that the American Psychological Association distributes and has assumed them to be a reliable indicator of my skill and diligence as a scholar. If such is the case, I understand his attitude. Few professionals – whether doctors, lawyers, or psychologists — like to question the integrity of their national organization. Yet all of these groups have become battlegrounds for proponents of various political agendas.

All the best,

Paul Cameron

My initial interest in this topic is as always, to provide the best information to those with sexual identity conflicts. Another interest I have is to examine the accuracy of this study and the claims made based on the study. To do that, I am reviewing the study and I have asked others to do so. I hope to have an analysis of the claims of shortened life spans soon. For now, I will leave it to readers to digest and comment on the public presentation of these claims by the Camerons, the response of the EPA president and the rebuttal by Paul Cameron.

NOTE: View all posts on this topic here: Cameron discussions.

Psychology Today: Do gay and straight couples split up at the same rate?

Psychology Today editor, Kaja Perina penned an article in the January/February, 2007 issue called Queer IQ: The Gay Couple’s Advantage. The subtitle line reads: “Gay relationships are less mired in deception and perhaps even less prone to friction, according to multiple studies.” She develops the idea, with help from Maureen O’Sullivan and John Gottman, that gay couples talk more about sexual matters and need to keep fewer secrets. O’Sullivan is quoted as saying,

Romantic lies are, after all, a sort of Rosetta stone on which gender differences are coyly inscribed. Straight men lie about their commitment to the relationship and about their resources, finds psychologist Maureen O’Sullivan. They are also more likely to lie to keep their partner from getting angry at them, a small but telling testament to the wrath of women. Women, in contrast, lie to flatter a man’s sense of self and to downplay their interest in other men.

Ms. Perina finishes her article with this paragraph:

Whether a same-sex edge to mating intelligence makes for longer unions is unclear. Among the couples Gottman studied, the projected break-up rate for homosexuals, over a four-decade span, is a grim 64 percent (gay men are far more likely to split than are lesbians). The 40-year divorce rate for straight couples in first marriages is 67 percent. To amend George Burns: If you wait long enough, every couple wants different things.

I was puzzled by these numbers and emailed Editor Perina for her sources. She kindly emailed back a reference to a John Gottman et al article in the Journal of Homosexuality. Titled, “Correlates of Gay and Lesbian Couples’ Relationship Satisfaction and Relationship Dissolution” and published in a 2003 issue of Journal of Homosexuality, (Vol. 45, #1), the study examined relationship satisfaction and stability among gay couples. Gottman and team sought to make comparison with heterosexual couples. On page 26, the authors wrote:

For the remaining twelve years of this longitudinal study, data were collected on relationship status. In the years between 1987 and 1999, eight couples broke up (20%), one gay couple and seven lesbian couples. This breakup rate for homosexual couples, if it were to be computed over a 40-year period would be 63.5%, which is quite comparable with Bumpass and Martin’s (1989) 67% breakup rate for first marriages among heterosexual couples within a 40-year period.

First of all I cannot find an article with the reference, “Bumpass and Martin (1989).” I believe the article in question is actually, Martin and Bumpass in the journal Demography but it was not included in the Gottman reference list so I am not sure I have the proper article. Whatever the citation, this rate for straights seemed inflated. A quick check of several sites confirmed that the divorce rate is not that high. According to a 2002 Census Bureau bulletin the divorce rate is not quite 50%. A New York Times article in 2005 quoted Dr. Bumpass as revising downward his early predictions for a much higher rate, with other experts suggesting the rate is closer to 40% and falling. And finally, a recent Demography study found differences between same-sex and opposite-sex couples in Norway and Sweden, especially among lesbians (Hat tip to Bradford Wilcox, for that study). When I alerted Ms. Perina to these data, she wrote back saying (quote with permission):

“Thank you for the clarification. To be honest, I wrestled with whether to include those numbers and now regret doing so.”

She is considering a correction on their website.

The point is not that same-sex couples are incapable of stability (see Gates, nd) but rather that under current circumstances, even in countries with legal supports, there are differences in longevity associated to some degree with sexual orientation of the partners. It may be that all of that honesty isn’t such a good thing…