Year in review: Top Ten Stories from 2007

Since it was so much fun last year, I decided to compile a top ten list of stories of the year on the blog. Since I am the only voter, the list is subjective and regular readers might arrange them differently or think I should have included another story over one of these. The stories are arranged in the order of the interest they seemed to create here on the blog and elsewhere.

1. APA Task Force on sexual orientation – I first reported here that the APA had convened a task force to review APA policy regarding therapeutic responses to sexual orientation. Initial information released from the APA noted that gay advocacy groups sought assistance from the APA in order to negatively evaluate efforts to change sexual orientation. The charge also involves therapeutic responses to individuals who wish to alter behavioral expression of their sexuality. The issue was the subject of a CNN segment involving yours truly, an Associated Press article and was the subject of several posts on the blog. A large coalition of religious groups and interested individuals wrote the APA regarding the religious aspects of the committee’s charge. Efforts to further regulate orientation change efforts spilled over to other professions, notably, the American Academy of Physician Assistants. The APA Task Force will likely be featured as a top story again since the report is expected to be released sometime in 2008.

2. The sexual identity therapy framework – The SIT framework was the subject of national news stories and identified by Stephanie Simon of the LA Times as an important component of changes in therapy for those in conflict over sexual identity. I did numerous posts on the framework in an attempt to distinguish it from other approaches. Mark Yarhouse and I presented aspects of the framework at the American Psychological Association convention, the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference and other local conferences. A revision of the framework and several high level presentations are slated for 2008. 

3. The release of the Exodus outcomes study by Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse – After months of speculation, Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse released the results of their longitudinal study of Exodus International participants at the AACC conference in September.  Although the study garnered little national media attention, many blogs, (including this one), and the gay and religiously based news services thoroughly covered the study. With additional data to be collected and reported, this story will most likely reappear in 2008.   

4. Donnie Davies – For a short time in January and February, blogosphere was captivated by the “Rev. Davies” and the “The Bible Says” music video. In a kind of “Where’s Waldo” cyber hunt, numerous bloggers were eager to crack the case and learn find out who Donnie Davies was, where was he hiding, and to learn if his act for real. I did 11 posts on the subject and became acquaited via email with Joey Oglesby, the actor behind the spoof. We even wondered if Mr. Oglesby and Rev. Davies were twins separated at birth because of their uncanny resemblance. Will Donnie do an anniversary reunion tour in January? Stay tuned.

5. The Cameron Eastern Psychological Association presentation – In March, Paul and Kirk Cameron released a series of news spots claiming that data from Canada, Norway and Denmark supported their contention that gays die between 20-30 younger than straights. In reviewing their study, first presented as a poster session at the Eastern Psychological Association annual meeting, I disputed key assumptions underlying their claims. In addition, Danish epidemiologist, Morten Frisch reviewed the study here on the blog finding it inadequate. Paul and Kirk Cameron provided rebuttals to criticisms and a nine-part series resulted.

6. New Warriors Training Adventure and the Mankind Project – A post regarding the suicide of Michael Scinto in an October issue of the Houston Press led to a series of posts about the Mankind Project and New Warriors Training Adventure. I received numerous emails from men who attest to benefit and those who believe NWTA was harmful and coercive. One irony about NWTA is that public proponents of reparative therapy and gay affirmative therapy both recommend NWTA to clients to enhance masculinity. Reparative therapists believe NWTA may lead to reduced same-sex attraction and gay therapists believe NWTA can enhance security in a gay identity. I remain curious about the mechanisms inherent in NWTA and other such programs to effect either benefit or harm. With the Scinto trial schedule for later in 2008, this story will remain of interest through the next year.

7. Montel Williams show on reparative therapy – The Montel Williams show purporting to examine reparative therapy was a lightning rod for controversy. On the show, psychiatrist Alicia Salzar falsely claimed that science has shown that 96% of people attempting to change orientation cannot do so and experience harm. Her claim was based on a study, the authors of which acknowledged cannot be used to make such a claim. The unwillingness of the show to retract the statement led to a ethics complaint against Dr. Salzar, filed by Exodus International. 

8. Pro-life/abortion related stories – The most viewed post on the blog consisted of an interview with Grove City College colleague and historian Paul Kengor regarding the religious beliefs of Hillary Clinton.  Other such interviews have been immensely popular with readers as well. Another APA task force, this one on abortion and mental health issues, stimulated grassroots activism, reported here in November. 

9. Emergence of the ex-ex-gay movement – At this year’s Exodus conference, a group of people once involved in ex-gay efforts had a parallel conference to discuss their efforts to recover from their experiences. Perhaps, the newest ex-ex-gay, James Stabile is a 19 year old young man from Dallas who encountered evangelists from the Heartland World Ministry Church in early September. Recorded on film and broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network, it appeared that Mr. Stabile was dramatically converted and even reported change in homosexuality. Later it was learned that Mr. Stabile had not changed and was back home with his parents after a stay at ex-gay residential program, Pure Life Ministry.

10. Richard Cohen – An early 2007 debacle on John Stewart’s Daily Show led Mr. Cohen to pledge on my blog that he would do no additional media appearances. He ended his email with a fundraising appeal. In response to this appearance, Exodus issued a statement distancing the organization from Cohen’s work, and NARTH and PFOX quietly removed references to Mr. Cohen from their websites. Cohen made something of a comeback however, with You Tube videos including his family, and a new edition of one of his books with Evangelical publisher, Intervarsity Press. Then, later, I looked into the Unification Church connections of Mr. Cohen’s assistant director and former board member, Hilde Wiemann. Both Cohen and Wiemann initially denied these connections but they were clear enough that cult expert, Steve Hassan, briefly placed the International Healing Foundation back on his list of Unification Church connected groups. Eventually, Mrs. Wiemann acknowledged, in contrast to the initial claims, that she had been involved in the church and had only recently left it. After her repudiation of Moon, Mr. Hassan then again removed the IHF from his list of Unification connected groups.    

Well, that was quite a year. I suppose one could make a case for other stories, e.g., the Omaha websites advocating violence, the quick emergence and then retreat of Michael Glatze as an ex-gay spokesman, Ted Haggard’s three week therapy, the wide stance of Larry Craig, the Surgeon General nominee James Holsinger, Stephen Bennett’s public division with Exodus, Al Mohler’s comments on biology and homosexuality, the retirement of I Do Exist, and my musical comeback and resultant #1 Internet hit.

Now cast your opinion – What would your top ten list for this blog look like for 2007?

Godspeed to all and a Happy New Year!

Post-Christmas Stress Disorder – Signs and symptoms

Now that Christmas is past, I suspect symptoms of Post-Christmas Stress Disorder will be observed frequently (no, don’t ask what frequently means, just go with me here). Be sure to seek treatment at the first signs of trouble.

Diagnostic Criteria for 311.5x Post-Christmas Stress Disorder

A. Four (or more) of the following symptoms have been present during the same two-week period and represent a change from previous functioning. The individual:

(1) refuses to take down Christmas decorations within one week after Christmas. (In chronic cases, leaves decorations up year round.) Note: In children, makes Christmas related requests year round;

(2) seeks out shopping opportunities on the day immediately following Christmas;

(3) describes depressed mood, more days than not (e.g., sings “Blue Christmas” repeatedly);

(4) manifests vocal tics (e.g., “Ho, ho, ho”);

(5) displays compulsive Christmas related behavior (e.g., Wraps and unwraps presents even though no gift is inside);

(6) displays at least once, catatonic, expectant behavior (e.g., Stands for long periods of time, immobile, under mistletoe);

(7) describes gift returns which outnumber presents received;

(8) is avoidant of references to Christmas (e.g., refers to “holiday trees,” “holiday ornaments,” “happy holidays” and/or “the Sparkle season;”

(9) displays irrational interpersonal behavior (e.g., Calls the time and temperature recording to wish him a Merry Christmas); and

(10) mainfests inappropriate startle response (e.g., jumps or easily startled by video game or other novel noises).

B. Symptoms do not meet criteria for Post-Christmas Adjustment Disorder

C. Symptoms cause clinically significant distress

D. Symptoms aren’t due to effects of a substance (e.g., eggnog, fruitcake, punch, etc.)

Specify (for current or most recent episode)

.x1 Mild – minimum number of symptoms are net

.x2 Moderate – six or more symptoms

.x3 Severe – nearly all symptoms but without delusions/hallucinations

.x4 Severe with hallucinations (e.g., Converses with “ghost of Christmas past, present or future”)

.x5 Severe with delusions (e.g., Arms self to protect against Grinch)

.x6 With trauma associated (e.g., Witnesses mother kissing Santa Claus)

.x0 Unspecified

May we be spared this fate.

Same-sex marriage conversation: What do we know? Part 2

As Part 2 of my series on same-sex parenting research, I am posting the transcript of a presentation delivered at the Catholic University just over a year ago. A section on same-sex marriage was provided after Michael Bailey and prior to my speech at the same comference.

(Quotes removed at the request of Brad Wilcox)

Here is a more socially conservative scholar who comes to an assessment similar to Meezan and Rauch: we don’t know much and not really enough.

Some distinctions are arising in the comments on other threads that should be sharpened going forward. Same-sex adoption of special needs kids should be distinguished from use of reproductive technologies to create kids without hope of knowing a parent of one gender. Whereas some would say public policy should not make these distinctions; others would say it can and should. What data exist to inform these discussions? Are there data that could address these issues? Or is policy to be made on the basis of presuppositional principles? How do we decide which principles apply? I would say the best interest of children would be such a principle. If research finds, on balance, discouraging results from studies of same-sex parenting (however defined), do equal protection arguments for adults trump any potential child consequences? What if research finds that some outcomes are better for same-sex parenting and some are not, then how should public policy take mixed results into account?

Let’s keep talking…

Top ten posts by number of comments, 2007

UPDATE: I knew the post regarding Michael Brown and the Southern Poverty Law Center article would continue to generate comments but it has now become the post with the largest number of comments (218 as of this update on Dec. 30) and so I am going to update the list as we go.  

Time to review 2007 and as I did last year, I will post a top ten list based on most comments now and one based on not much more than my opinion later.

Without further adieu and with full knowledge that posting the links may lead to more remarks, here are the top ten by number of comments as of December 27:

1. Michael Brown responds to the Southern Poverty Law Center article on ex-gays – 218

2. Debate continues on the Jones-Yarhouse study of sexual orientation – 205

3. Smooth thinking on sexuality: Labels don’t communicate well – 199

4. Our bodies tell us who we are – 168

5. Ex-ex-gays make public statements – 151

6. Queersighted: Imprison conversion therapists – 145

7. Check this out in the gaylibrary.com: Update – 143

8. Same-sex parenting: What do we know? – 134

9. Montel Williams Show on sexual reorientation – 133

10. Salt Lake City program examines cruising behavior, sexual identity – 126

11. APA declines to meet with religious coalition – 125

I like the APA post, so even though it was demoted from the top ten by the same-sex parenting post, I am leaving it on.

Compared to last year, the number of comments has increased substantially. I do appreciate the discussions, and real dialogue that has occured through the year. We are jointly writing several books here.

An antiboy antibody? Problems for the “maternal immune hypothesis”

In June 2006, Anthony Bogaert released a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science which created a world wide buzz about a possible biological basis for the same-sex attraction of some men.

A recent Journal of Biosocial Science article by Neil Whitehead takes on this hypothesis and finds several problems. I don’t have time for a detailed analysis at this time (I am behind on as it is on these – notably on the Witelson brain study), but I do want to get this on the radar. Here is his concluding section:

An antiboy antibody? Unlikely. Gooren (2006), in his review on psychosexual development, bluntly concludes ‘The biological basis advanced for the fraternal birth order hypothesis lacks any experimental support’. The present paper argues further that there is a significant weight of evidence against the MIH, whatever the explanation of the FBO [fraternal birth order] effect may be. The MIH was an intellectually clean and satisfying explanation for the FBO effect, and its original authors are to be commended. However, present evidence is for alloimmune reactions being probably too rare to account for the SSA prevalence observed, no support for macrostructural-level attack, unlikely attack on brain if not on testes, no MIH-related lower birth weight, healthier late-birth-order males. At the least, any modification of the MIH would demand serious consideration of the apparent disproportionate deaths of female fetuses during immune attack. One might sincerely hope that any revised theory will be simpler than the present one – which in any case attempts to account for only 17% of SSA.

The very division of SSA into FBO origin and other more major origins seems to raise difficulties. Twin study conclusions are challenging because they simultaneously dispose of most biological and social reasons for SSA; erratic and individualistic causes should predominate.

Because of the erratic nature of SSA in later-birth-order boys, even an acceptance of the MIH would seem to demand an acceptance of a principle that something akin to chance predominates.

This is close to my current view of orientation development on the whole – not terribly satisfying, but an honest appraisal of the research as it is. Note this is an assessment of the development of SSA and says nothing about how changeable it might be. Nothing here relates to women either. As an aside, I have been reading some research which suggests that the erotic orientation of men becomes more channelized than for women; meaning that in brain scans, for instance, men show very specific reactions to their preferred object of sexual attraction, whereas, women more frequently demonstrate sexual arousal to images of both gender.

Heartland Church purity siege video describes sexual identity struggle

Commenter isea metaphor referred to another video featuring a gay man involved in a Purity Siege in Cedar Springs area of Dallas. This man’s story does not involve a sudden change but rather he gives a sincere description of his inner experience of struggle between his sexual desires and his beliefs and faith.

In the comment section for this video, someone, perhaps James Stabile, with the name “jmstabile88” says:

I am living proof that the people above are not changing anybody. The guy in the cowboy hat is a gay regular at Round Ups.(a gay bar in Dallas) I have been “saved by them” and have come back to my life because I am telling you what they do is they “save you” and then ditch you. I tried to be straight and, I AM STILL A FLAMER. The only other thing I would say is JESUS never 1 time says gay people are going to hell.

No matter what your religious views, you have to empathize with the young man in the video, Greg and his sincere desire to find encourage in his faith and acceptance in his struggle.