“Tucker letter” to Sally Kern ignites bloggers

Check out this letter ostensibly from a young man named Tucker to OK state Rep. Sally Kern . Rep. Kern recently has been the subject of much controversy over her statements to a Republican group where she said gays have shorter life spans, could be responsible for the demise of our society if homosexuality was accepted and are a worse threat to the nation than terrorism. I have refrained from getting into the whole thing but I do think Rep. Kern needs help with facts, tact and her sense of perspective. The terrorism remarks are especially offensive on so many levels, but were repeated on a taped program for the Concerned Women for America. I wrote her late last week with no response, which I suspect is a common experience for many who have written. Today, a large protest took place at the state capitol.

This story may continue to have legs for awhile, in part since Rep. Kerns has not moved away from her remarks and since her curious reasoning hits so close to home for those who have no connection to homosexuality but do to terrorism. I cannot help but think of the current book, unChristian and the clear finding that young people believe the conservative church is anti-gay. The Kern controversy provides an exclamation point to this finding.

In the midst of the protests and defensive rebuttals, the Tucker letter has emerged. The letter is making the rounds on the blogs but has not been verified as authentic. You wouldn’t know that by reading blogs however. You can also read the letter here at Citizen Crain, who also has what appears to be the most up-to-date information on the matter. My contribution today is this – according to Equality Florida PR rep, Brian Winfield, the letter still has not been verified, although he has been told that Ellen DeGeneres has been in touch with him to appear on her show.

Whether true or not, I am interested in the issues the letter raises. We can use this post to discuss the Kern controversy as a whole. I am interested to hear from a variety of perspective on this and I suspect some social conservatives will take exception to my critical stance. 

Day of the Golden Rule?

The Day of Silence is looming once again with concerns expressed from social conservatives about adult identity politics intruding into the schools. As occurred last year, some conservative groups are calling on parents to keep their kids at home on the Day of Silence (April 25 in most places).

I have a different idea. How about considering this day an opportunity to promote treating others the way you want to be treated? Perhaps kids could go to school equipped with index cards which have Luke 6:31 written, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” with a pledge to honor this Scripture. It seems to me that Christian kids could be leading the way with a pledge to keep the Golden Rule.

Could this approach be more productive than staying home? 

Which is the real me?

In response to my current research project regarding experiences of heterosexuality among same-sex attracted people, I received the following email recently. This individual is quite interested in the research for reasons that are clear here. He gave me permission to include this portion of the email which speaks to the fuzziness of sexual orientation concepts as well as their inadequacy to guide value-based action.

I would probably have chosen to live a gay life if I was born 20-30 years later than I was. The option of choosing to pursue men in the early 80’s was nothing like it is today. I do love my wife very much, and do feel very attracted to her emotionally, physically and sexually – however I am not attracted to any other women at all. (Isn’t that what most women would prefer?)  Yet, I am often attracted to other men, some so intensely that I am convinced I could have lived a gay life had I never married.

So, a rhetorical question, if I may:

Do I separate from my wife just because of this? I could say that as a married man, my real identity is that of a gay male, and I should be honest with myself and pursue what I feel in my gut.  If I did, I think it’s quite possible that I could find another man to love, but eventually, still long for the softness and tenderness of my former wife.  I may be living out a straight life now while secretly longing to live a gay one; or, if I chose to follow the path of some others, I could end up living a gay life while secretly longing for what I missed from my straight one. So I have often wondered, which is the real me?  Am I really gay pretending to live a straight life, or if I switched, could I really be straight pretending to live a gay life?

Confusing? Hell yes, this dilemma has consumed me for much of my life. I know if I ever chose to leave my wife, I could never come back to her; it’s a one way road, so I have chosen to stay, “un-regretfully.” If I’m the only such man, then so be it; but surely you must come across other men just like me – do you not?

In answer to the last question, I certainly do come across other men like him and have written about this elsewhere. I began to explore the practical implications of men whose historical sexual desire includes men in general but only wives on the female side after reading this article by Daryl Bem (see especially the last paragraph). I am not sure where the term “spouseosexual” came from (from me or one of the people I have interviewed) but perhaps it comes closer than bisexual to describing this type of inner experience – although I wouldn’t quarrel greatly with any terms at this point in our understanding.  

Sexual orientation: An elusive concept

I have been way busy of late, more than usual, hence little time for the real important stuff – like blogging. The thread regarding sexual orientation theorizing has been pretty active, although for reasons that I did not anticipate. I thought perhaps readers would discuss the APA statement and how researchers are backing away from strong statements about causation. I thought some additional discussion might occur regarding NARTH and the prominence of psychoanalytic concepts there.

However, the discussion has revolved around definitions of sexual orientations. I have observed that the concept of sexual orientation is multi-faceted and continuous. However, we persist in wanting discreet, categorical labels to aid communication. These are understandable tensions; scientists want something to measure and everyday usage requires description to facilitate common communication.

So here is something to keep us occupied until the sexualorientationomometer is invented – how do you define the terms? No critical comments, please. Simply bring us definitions and/or descriptions of sexual orientations and SO itself. If you find the definition somewhere, like in a textbook (sexual orientation is…), then please cite the reference for us all to review.

Sexual orientation theorizing: Is change possible?

I post often about causal factors in sexuality; such factors are puzzle pieces that interest me (along with other human traits and variations). In addition, the intersection of personal values and sexuality ratchets up the interest level. Thus, the recent article, “Respecting Ex-gays”by John Corvino is a must read.

Corvino wants to take a live-and-let-live approach. He ends his piece with a familiar, but altered soundbite:

So when ex-gays announce, from billboards and magazine ads, that “Change is possible,” I say: Possible? Maybe. Likely? No. Desirable? Not for me, thanks.

He is fine with being gay and wants ex-gays to respect him in the same way he wants to respect their right and responsibility to steward their lives according to conscience.

He notes three problems he perceives among ex-gay ministries in general that will lead me to the next part of this post. First is “their tendency to promote myths about the so-called “homosexual lifestyle” by generalizing from some people’s unfortunate personal experiences.” He notes that testimonies of promiscuity and unhappiness do not describe his life and should not be taken as true of all same-sex attracted people.  Next, he laments “the ex-gay ministries’ abuse of science” saying, “Ex-gay ministries tend to lean on discredited etiological theories—domineering mothers, absent fathers, and that sort of thing.” Finally, he says, “The third and related problem is that many ex-gay ministries promote not merely a ‘change,’ but a ‘cure.’ ‘Cure’ implies ‘disease,’ which homosexuality is not.

Although I might quarrel with degrees, I essentially agree with Corvino’s assessment here. Along with the recent shifts in Exodus away from promoting public policy stances, I am hopeful that the issues of research and use of science will be vigorously addressed as well.

On the point of shifts in views of causation, Dean Byrd at NARTH has an article on the NARTH website giving some cautious kudos to the APA for a revised pamphlet regarding sexual orientation. The subtitle of his article is “The APA has now begun to acknowledge what most scientists have long known: that a bio-psycho-social model of causation best fits the data.”

Contrasting the original edition of the pamphlet with the new one, Byrd believes the current statement is more accurate. The new statement reads,

What causes a person to have a particular sexual orientation?

There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.

In response, Byrd opines:

Although there is no mention of the research that influenced this new position statement, it is clear that efforts to “prove” that homosexuality is simply a biological fait accompli have failed. The activist researchers themselves have reluctantly reached that conclusion. There is no gay gene. There is no simple biological pathway to homosexuality. Byne and Parsons, and Friedman and Downey, were correct: a bio-psycho-social model best fits the data (italics in the original).

My first thought after reading this paragraph was that those I know who are researching pre-natal factors have not concluded any such thing, reluctantly or not. Furthermore, the lack of current evidence for biological theories does not disprove a potential, now-unknown biological influence, nor does lack of strong evidence for general inborn factors prove true a bio-psycho-social model. Next, I wondered what that model looked like. As far as I can discern, all bio-psycho-social really means is that there are many factors and we do not know how they interact to yield adult sexual orientation.

Then I wondered when NARTH would make an APA-like statement about theorized environmental factors such as child abuse and same-sex parenting deficits. What if NARTH acknowledged “what most scientists have long known: that a bio-psycho-social model of causation best fits the data?” Wouldn’t there be a need for a statement cautioning readers of their materials that evidence for parenting playing a large or determining role is meager? Paralleling Dr. Byrd’s assessment of the APA pamphlet, shouldn’t NARTH say with italics, “There is no homogenic family. There is no simple familial pathway to homosexuality.” Appeals to those theories criticized by Corvino would be less frequent, right? Hey, changes are happening all over, why not this?

I wrote Dean and asked him about NARTH’s stance. He answered for himself by saying,

I think that the bio-psycho-social model of causation makes it clear that there is neither a simple biological or environmental pathway to homosexuality.

While I think NARTH should go much further, this statement may be the start of a more nuanced position from them. I would not go so far as Corvino did and say that familial factors have been discredited. On point, this is not what the APA said at all. What we should be saying is that there are many lines of research open with many factors under investigation. It appears pre-natal and post-natal factors play different roles for different people. Beyond that, the subject is still under study.

Would this change be so hard?

California court says parents must be credentialed to home school

Should home schooling parents have teaching degrees? A California court believes so. The transcript of the court ruling is linked in this Mercury News article.

Apparently, these parents thought they had their kids in an approved private school but the judges in this child abuse case thought otherwise.

My suspicion is that this ruling will not be sustained by higher courts.

House passes mental health parity legislation

I posted about HR 1424 recently, noting that the mental health parity bill was going to be voted on soon. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed HR 1424. See this New York Times report for details.

Today an email from the American Mental Health Counselors Association HQ provided more background.

E-News from Washington

Vol. 08-12

March 6, 2008

 

House Passes Historic Parity Legislation!

 

On March 5th the House of Representatives passed comprehensive legislation requiring private health insurance plans to use the same treatment limitations and financial requirements for mental health and addictive disorder coverage as is used for substantially all other covered services. H.R. 1424, the “Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007,” introduced by Representatives Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Jim Ramstad (R-MN), was passed with strong bipartisan support by a vote of 268-148. (House members’ votes are listed online at http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2008/roll101.xml.) The legislation is named for the late Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, a tireless advocate for Americans with mental illness.

 

House passage of H.R. 1424 is an historic step forward for mental health and addiction treatment advocates, and comes after years of hard work by the mental health and addictive disorder advocacy community. Although similar in many respects to legislation passed last year by the Senate, H.R. 1424 provides more consumer protections by requiring plans covering mental and addictive disorder treatments to cover the full range of disorders recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)—the same range of disorders as is covered for members of Congress and all other federal employees under long-standing requirements for Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) policies. Unlike the Senate’s bill, H.R. 1424 also stipulates that health plan covering out-of-network services for medical and surgical benefits must also offer out-of-network coverage for mental health and addictive disorder benefits. This requirement applies for both outpatient and inpatient care.

 

AMHCA and ACA applaud Representatives Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Jim Ramstad (R-MN) for their long, hard, heroic work in gaining House passage of H.R. 1424. During floor debate, both Kennedy and Ramstad spoke about their own personal battles with mental and addictive disorders, their treatment, and how their treatment has enabled them to lead productive lives. AMHCA and ACA also thank those counselors who took the time to contact their representative on this issue.

 

Attention now shifts to House-Senate negotiations to reconcile their chambers’ versions of the parity legislation. Like the business community, the Bush administration argued in favor of the weaker Senate version, issuing a statement of policy expressing opposition to H.R. 1424. Despite this, AMHCA, ACA and other mental health and addictive disorder advocates are now working to build upon the strong bipartisan support for H.R. 1424 and the unanimous passage last year of the Senate’s bill, to encourage the development and enactment of parity legislation that provides consumer protections that are as strong as possible.

Beth Powell

Director, Public Policy and Professional Issues

American Mental Health Counselors Association

I recognize some social conservatives and business advocates do not favor parity. However, I see this as a very family friendly legislation. Severe mental disorders sap the resources of working families and are leading causes of disability. If this bill is law, managed care companies/insurers will still be able to deny inappropriate care for the questionable diagnoses in the DSM (e.g., caffiene intoxication) but will not be able to deny appropriate care for those who need it.

Exodus International turns full focus on ministry, away from public policy

I welcome this announcement – Exodus President Alan Chambers disclosed on ExgayWatch this evening that Exodus let their Director of Government Affairs go in August, 2007 and is going to concentrate on ministry.  His personal blog contains additional personal reflections on a recent thread at XGW authored by Wendy Gritter, Director of New Direction ministry.  Early in February, I was pleased to highlight Wendy’s keynote address at the Exodus Leadership Conference where she called for a change of focus at Exodus.

I believe additional shifts called for by Mrs. Gritter would be helpful, including steps to make resources more scientifically accurate. For now, I wholeheartedly commend the leadership of Exodus for these moves.

McCain gains delegates needed to win nomination – “We make history”

McCains wrapped things up tonight. In his speech celebrating his wins, he was inspiring with this killer segment:

We’re the world’s leader, and leaders don’t pine for the past and dread the future. We make the future better than the past. We don’t hide from history. We make history. That, my friends, is the essence of hope in America, hope built on courage, and faith in the values and principles that have made us great.

I like it.

Mental health parity bill (HR 1424) debated this week

A bill that would force employers to provide mental health and addictions treatment coverage on par with medical conditions will be debated again this week. I say again because parity as a concept has been debated for a decade. It appears that this bill or something akin to it (HR 1424; SB 558) might pass this time around.

WashingtonWatch.com has this description:

Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007 – Amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), the Public Health Service Act, and the Internal Revenue Code to prohibit treatment limits or the imposition of financial requirements on mental health and substance-related disorder benefits in group health plans which are not similarly imposed on substantially all medical and surgical benefits in any category of items or services under such plans.

Directs the Comptroller General to study the effect of the implementation of this Act on various aspects of the health care system, including the cost of and access to health insurance coverage, the quality of health care, Medicare, Medicaid, and state and local mental health and substance abuse treatment spending, and spending on public services.

I favor this bill. Families are often frustrated in their efforts to care for a family members with a mental or emotional disorder due to inconsistent and inadequate insurance coverage. With inadequate coverage, very few people can afford to pay for treatment of chronic disorders. Psychiatric disorders are major causes of diability but with adequate care, some diabilities can be addressed in an effective manner. Even with a significant mental disorder, people can continue to work productively if they have proper care.

For those inclined, the American Counseling Association has a position paper with suggestions for calling legislators to register viewpoints about the issue.