Year in review: Top ten stories of 2008

As in year’s past, I have enjoyed reviewing the posts from the year and coming up with the top ten stories.
1. Cancelation of the American Psychiatric Association symposium – Amidst threat of protests, the APA pressed to halt a scheduled symposium dedicated to sexual identity therapy and religious affiliation. Whipped up by a factually inaccurate article in the Gay City News, gay activists persuaded the APA leadership to pressure symposium organizers to pull the program. Gay City News later ran a correction.
2. The other APA, the American Psychological Association, released a task force report on abortion and mental health consequences. Basing their conclusions on only one study, the APA surprised no one by claiming abortion had no more adverse impact on mental health than carrying a child to delivery. I revealed here that the APA had secretly formed this task force after a series of research reports in late 2005 found links between abortion and adverse mental health consequences for some women. New research confirms that concern is warranted.
3. Golden Rule Pledge – In the wake of Sally Kern saying homosexuality was a greater threat to the nation than terrorism, I initiated the Golden Rule Pledge which took place surrounding the Day of Silence and the Day of Truth. Many conservative groups were calling for Christian students to stay home. This did not strike me as an effective faith-centered response. The Golden Rule Pledge generated some controversy as well as approval by a small group of evangelicals (e.g., Bob Stith) and gay leaders (e.g., Eliza Byard). Some students taking part in the various events were positively impacted by their experience.
4. Exodus considers new direction for ministry – At a leadership training workshop early in 2008, Wendy Gritter proposed a new paradigm for sexual identity ministry. Her presentation was provocative in the sense that it generated much discussion and consideration, especially among readers here. It remains to be seen if Exodus will continue to move away from a change/reparative therapy focus to a fidelity/congruence ministry focus.
5. New research clarifies sexual orienatation causal factors – A twin study and a study of brain symmetry, both from Sweden and a large U.S. study shed some light on causal factors in sexual orientation.
6. Letter to the American Counseling Association requesting clarification of its policies concerning counseling same-sex attracted evangelicals. Co-signed by over 600 counselors (many of whom were referred by the American Association of Christian Counselors), I wrote a letter to the ACA requesting clarification regarding how counselors should work with evangelicals who do not wish to affirm homosexual behavior. The current policy is confusing and gives no guidance in such cases. Then President Brian Canfield replied affirming the clients self-determination in such cases. He referred the matter back to the ACA ethics committee. To date, that committee has not responded.
7. Paul Cameron’s work resurfaces and then is refuted – Insure.com resurrected Paul Cameron’s work in an article on their website about gay lifespans. The article was later altered to reflect more on HIV/AIDS than on homosexual orientation. Later this year, Morten Frisch produced a study which directly addressed Cameron’s methods.
8. Mankind Project unravels – This year I posted often regarding the Mankind Project and New Warriors Training Adventure. Recently, I reported that MKP is in some financial and organizational disarray.
9. Debunking of false claims about Sarah Palin’s record on support for social programs – I had lots of fun tracking down several false claims made about Sarah Palin during the election. Her opponents willfully distorted her real record to paint her as a hypocrite. I learned much more about Alaska’s state budget than I ever wanted to know but found that most claims of program cuts were actually raises in funding which not quite as much as the agencies requested. However, overall funding for such programs increased.
10. During the stretch run of the election, I became quite interested in various aspects of the race. As noted above, I spent some time examining claims surround Sarah Palin’s record. I also did a series on President-elect Obama’s record on housing, including an interview with one of Barack Obama’s former constituents.
I know, I know, number 10 is an understatement. (Exhibit A)
Happy New Year!

Blagojevich to name former IL Atty General Burris to Senate

Long time Illinois pol, Roland Burris, will be the next Senator from Illinois according to Chicago Breaking News.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich is expected today to name former Illinois Atty. Gen. Roland Burris to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate.
The action comes despite warnings by Democratic Senate leaders that they would not seat anyone appointed by the disgraced governor who faces criminal charges of trying to sell the post, sources familiar with the decision said.
Shortly after Obama’s Nov. 4 victory, Burris made known his interest in an appointment to the Senate but was never seriously considered, according to Blagojevich insiders. But in the days following Blagojevich’s arrest, and despite questions over the taint of a Senate appointment, Burris stepped up his efforts to win the governor’s support.

Crazy like a fox or just crazy? Anyway, let’s see what Harry Reid does. Reid said he wouldn’t seat anyone named by Blago, but will Reid turn down an Illinois icon?
More: Burris has a history with Blago – Hey it’s a Chicago thing.

Family acceptance and same-sex attracted teens

A study in Pediatrics about family reactions to same-sex attracted kids is getting some media coverage over the past few days. There appears to be an effort to get the message out via LGB media. Here is a news release from Cathy Renna’s group.

San Francisco, CA -­ For the first time, researchers have established a clear link between rejecting behaviors of families towards lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) adolescents and negative health outcomes in early adulthood. The findings will be published in the January issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in a peer-reviewed article titled “Family Rejection as a Predictor of Negative Health Outcomes in White and Latino Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Young Adults.” The paper, authored by Dr. Caitlin Ryan and her team at the César E. Chávez Institute at San Francisco State University, which shows that parents’ rejecting behaviors towards their LGB children dramatically compromises their health, has far reaching implications for changing how families relate to their LGB children and how LGB youth are served by a wide range of providers across systems of care. The study and development of resource materials was funded by The California Endowment, a health foundation dedicated to expanding access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities. For the first time, research has established a predictive link between specific, negative family reactions to their child’s sexual orientation and serious health problems for these adolescents in young adulthood “such as depression, illegal drug use, risk for HIV infection, and suicide attempts,” said Caitlin Ryan, PhD, Director of the Family Acceptance Project at the César E. Chávez Institute at SF State and lead author of the paper. “The new body of research we are generating will help develop resources, tools and interventions to strengthen families, prevent homelessness, reduce the proportion of youth in foster care and significantly improve the lives of LGBT young people and their families.”
Major Research Findings:
Higher rates of family rejection during adolescence were significantly associated with poorer health outcomes for LGB young adults.
LGB young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse, compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection.
Latino males reported the highest number of negative family reactions to their sexual orientation in adolescence.
“This study clearly shows the tremendous harm of family rejection, even if parents think they are well-intentioned, following deeply held beliefs or even protecting their children,” said Dr. Sten Vermund, a pediatrician and Amos Christie Chair of Global Health at Vanderbilt University.
“In today’s often hostile climate for LGBT youth, it is especially important to note that both mental health issues like depression and suicide and HIV risk behaviors were greatly increased by rejection. Given the ongoing HIV epidemic in America, in which half of all new cases of HIV are found in men who have sex with men and there is growing concern about prevention messages reaching young people, it is vital that we share these findings with parents and service providers who work with youth in every way” Vermund continued.
“When put to practical, day-to-day use and shared with families and those who serve LGBT youth, these findings will lead to healthier, more supportive family dynamics and better lives for LGBT young people,” Vermund concluded.
The prevailing approach by pediatricians, nurses, social workers, school counselors, peer advocates and community providers has focused almost exclusively on directly serving LGBT youth, and does not consider the impact of family reactions on the adolescent’s health and well-being.
Subsequent work with ethnically diverse families by the Family Acceptance Project indicates that parents and caregivers can modify rejecting behavior once they understand the serious impact of their words and actions on their LGBT children¹s health. In addition, even a little change in parental behavior appears to have a clear impact on decreasing LGBT young people’s risk. This new family-related approach to working with LGBT youth being developed by the Family Acceptance Project engages families as allies in decreasing the adolescent’s risk and increasing their well-being while respecting the family’s deeply held values.
“The new family-related behavioral approach to care being developed by the Family Acceptance Project offers great promise to change the future for LGBT youth and their families by helping parents and caregivers learn how to support their LGBT children and to prevent these extremely high levels of risk related to family rejection,” said Erica Monasterio, MN, FNP, in the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Family Health Care Nursing at UCSF.
“Rather than seeing families as part of the problem, this approach engages them as an essential resource in promoting healthy outcomes for their LGBT children.”
“We are using our research to develop a new model of family-related care to decrease the high levels of risk for LGBT young people that restrict life chances and full participation in society,” said Dr. Ryan.
“Our easy-to-use behavioral approach will help families increase supportive behaviors and modify behaviors their LGBT children experience as rejecting that significantly increase their children’s risk. However, redirecting practice and professional training ­ from not asking about family reactions to a young person’s LGBT identity to engaging families in promoting their LGBT children’s well-being – requires a substantial shift on the part of both mainstream and LGBT providers, health systems and community programs.”
“Family Rejection as a Predictor of Negative Health Outcomes in White and Latino Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Young Adults” is the first of many research papers on outcomes related to family acceptance and rejection of LGBT adolescents, supporting positive LGBT youth development and providing family-related care to be released by the Family Acceptance Project.
Methodology
The Family Acceptance Project uses a participatory research approach. The research sample included 224 LGB young non-Latino white and Latino adults, ages 21-25, who were open about their sexual orientation to at least one parent or primary caregiver during adolescence. These youth were recruited within California from 249 LGBT-related venues. Family rejection measures in the survey were developed based on a prior in-depth qualitative study of LGBT adolescents and families throughout California from 2002-2004.
About the Family Acceptance Project
The Family Acceptance Project is a community research, intervention and education initiative that studies the impact of family acceptance and rejection on the health, mental health and well being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. Results are being used to help families provide support for LGBT youth; to improve their health and mental health outcomes; to strengthen families and help maintain LGBT youth in their homes; to develop appropriate programs and policies; and train providers to improve the quality of services and care these youth receive in a wide range of settings.
For more information, please visit: Family Acceptance Project

I will comment more after I see the study methods and sampling. Given what the news release says about the study group, I am not sure I would generalize these results to other parts of the country. On the face of it, the write up seems to be a confrontation of religious parents and communitites who disapprove of homosexuality. On the other hand, I know some reactions from disapproving parents go so far overboard that real harm is done.

Reparative therapy: The musical?

This one is kind of funny in a way but in a non-funny way, it keeps us on track discussing how worldviews clash.
In Italy, a big music festival may feature soon a tribute of sorts to reparative therapy. Here is the scoop:

ANSA) – Rome, December 23 – Italian gay rights group Arcigay on Tuesday threatened to disrupt Italy’s biggest musical event of the year, the Sanremo song festival, if a song apparently about ‘converting’ gays to heterosexuality is not pulled.
The song by 36-year-old Milan singer-songwriter Povia, entitled Luca Was Gay, was announced on Monday as one of 16 numbers that will compete for the title of best song at next year’s festival in February.

Luca Was Gay (maybe it sounds more lyrical in Italian) is causing a fuss because it apparently tells the story of a reparative therapy success story.

The Arcigay president said Povia had gone on to say that he had ”had a gay phase, it lasted seven months, and then I got over it” as well as claiming to have ”converted” two of his friends who ”thought they were gay” but were now married.
Mancuso claimed the song referred to a formerly gay man called Luca Tolve, who claims to have been ”cured” of his homosexuality thanks to the controversial reparative therapies of American Catholic psychologist Joseph Nicolosi ”widely refuted by the global scientific community”.

So what is an offended party to do? Protest!

Mancuso warned state broadcaster RAI, which shows the glitzy five-day event each year, that protests would be ”extremely strong, noisy and organised” if the song was not withdrawn from the festival.
Some 200 people signed up to a Facebook protest group launched by Arcigay on Tuesday within hours of its going online.

Even though I am not a reparative therapist, I lean toward agreement with this assessment:

But politician Luca Volonte’ of the Catholic UDC party described Arcigay’s efforts as ”a clear attempt at discrimination and censorship”.

All kind of songs extolling one form of love or another are sung in broad daylight, why not a song about trying to change the direction of one’s attractions? Maybe there will be tennis raquets providing some of the percussion. Maybe it is an emo song with people screaming about their moms. An encore might be Katy Perry singing, “I kissed a girl and used to like it.”
Oy.

Top ten posts by number of comments and page views – 2008

Time to wrap up 2008 with a review of the stories told and topics covered. I also will give the top ten posts based on page views.
By far the election was the broad topic which generated the most page views. Aside from the Berg vs. Obama thread, readers prefer to comment on the sexual identity related posts. As in past years, I will pick out my top ten themes in a later post.
Top ten by number of comments (fluctuation should be minimal since most of these threads are quiet now)
1. Berg vs Obama: Response to Supreme Court due December 1 (796)
2. New study casts doubt on older brother hypothesis and reparative drive theory (460)
3. Gay City News prints letter clarifying sexual identity therapy (282)
4. New Direction for Exodus? (277)
5. Day of the Golden Rule? (264)
6. Sally Kern: What should she do? (248)
7. Study examines brain differences related to sexual orientation (239)
8. Multiple factors involved in sexual orientation, part 2 (221)
9. Sexual orientation theorizing: Is change possible? (219)
10. 60 Minutes Science of Sexual Orientation: An update from the mother of twins (217)
Top ten by page views are:
1. Berg vs Obama: Response to Supreme Court due December 1
2. Hey Florida, is this ok with you?
3. Ohio plumber Joe Wurzelbacher talks about his dialogue with Obama and spreading the wealth
4. Berg vs. Obama: Update and current status
5. Michelle Obama likes upscale clothes too
6. Donofrio vs. Wells: NJ Obama citizenship case slated for SCOTUS conference
7. What Might Have Been – The Man Who Could Have Reversed Roe v. Wade, Part two
8. Some light on Sarah Palin’s church affiliation
9. Did Barack Obama vote to withhold treatment to infants surviving abortion?
10. Day of Silence and Golden Rule Pledge on Appalachian State University
The top post has been viewed over 15,000 times with the other posts gradually decreasing from there. These numbers are constantly changing.

Blagojevich defiant to Chicago station

Saying he has done 25 things right, Rod Blagojevich predicts he will be vindicated.
You can see video at the link.

“I think the accomplishments for people speak for themselves. If that’s impeachable then I’m on the wrong planet and living in the wrong place,” the governor said. “I know what the truth is — and the truth is, I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong, and I’ve done a lot of things right — even in this process, without saying too much, that was all about trying to end up with the right decision that could do the most things for the people of Illinois. When the full truth is told, you will see precisely that.”

About those tapes…

Andy Shaw asked the governor if he would be embarrassed to have those profanity-laden tapes played before the committee.
“If I’d have known people were listening, I probably wouldn’t have said some of the things you say in private conversations. But I think there is tens of millions of people across America who talk like that from time to time.”

I have been away from this story for a few days. Since my last post, Obama’s report has been filed and Blago’s attorneys want to subpoena Obama aides, including Emanuel. You gotta wonder what is up. On day 2 of the scandal, Obama said Blago should resign. Now, Blago’s attorneys think Emanuel will vindicate Blago?
I wonder if his defense will be: I didn’t do anything wrong, I only talked about doing something wrong.

Now Obama is a bigot?

We are most likely at an impasse of sorts in the culture. The Rick Warren prayer is the kind of event which brings into bold relief the issues which divide. We have discussed on this blog before whether or not the gay-evangelical divide is a zero-sum situation — for one side to prevail, the other side must be defeated. John Cloud at Time magazine gives me evidence to think the divide continues to be wide. About Barack Obama, he writes:

Obama has proved himself repeatedly to be a very tolerant, very rational-sounding sort of bigot. He is far too careful and measured a man to say anything about body parts fitting together or marriage being reserved for the nonpedophilic, but all the same, he opposes equality for gay people when it comes to the basic recognition of their relationships.

John Cloud here redefines bigot. Bigot means someone who is intolerant of others opinions and actions. Seemingly unaware of the contradiction, Cloud calls Obama a “very tolerant sort of bigot.”
I am thinking out loud here, but I wonder if the impasse comes down to beliefs and how these are properly lived out in a democracy. I don’t think it is about “being” gay/straight or being wired to experience opposite- or same-sex attraction. I say this because one may experience same-sex attraction and find that experience something unacceptable for reasons of morality, or for more pragmatic reasons. One may not value some impulses which rightly or wrongly are believed to lead to undesireable consequences. Thus, the divide may be more about ideology than ontology.
If I am right about the basic difference being ideological, then how do we regard people who disagree with us on matters of belief? Do we call them bigots? Do we say you disagree with me so you hate me and all that I am? Let’s leave “do” and go to “should.” Should conservatives say to liberals, you are bigots because you disagree with my beliefs? I do not think so. When John Cloud (who in my contacts with him seems quite tolerant of those who he apparently considers bigots) calls Barack Obama a bigot, does he not invite the same treatment? John you are a tolerant sort of bigot, I might say, when you come to an Exodus conference and converse cordially with the ex-gays.
In the newspeak, bigot means someone who disagrees with me. I doubt this will be good.

Was Obama candid when he said, "I had no contact" with Blago?

Blogs and news sites are giddy with the news that Obama cleared his incoming Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, of any wrongdoing secondary to Emanuel’s contacts with Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who said he did no wrong in his contacts with Team Obama or with anyone else for that matter.
So everybody is in the clear?
On December 9, Pres-elect Obama said this about the Blagojevich matter:

“I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening.”

Today, George Stephanopoulos reports that he has been briefed on the report and that some contacts occured, writing on his blog:

The sources add that the report will show Emanuel also had four phone calls with Blagojevich Chief of Staff John Harris. During those conversations, the Senate seat was discussed. The pros and cons of various candidates were reviewed, and the sources say that Emanuel repeatedly reminded Harris that Blagojevich should focus on the message the pick would send about the governor and his administration.
Sources also confirm that Emanuel made the case for picking Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett during at least one of the conversations. In the course of that conversation, Harris asked if in return for picking Jarrett, “all we get is appreciation, right?” “Right,” Emanuel responded.

Reader time – Was Obama being candid in the first statement?
He did have contact with Blago’s office through Rahm Emanuel and they pushed for Valerie Jarrett to become Senator. Ms. Jarrett said later she wasn’t interested. Are we to assume that she was never interested but that Obama and Emanuel were pushing for her anyway? Or did her lack of interest develop as the result of knowledge of the investigation and/or the demands for a deal from Blago?
And what does contact mean?