J. Michael Bailey on twin research and sexual reorientation

Several new twin studies have been published over the past several months. A new one, just published on the Archives of Sexual Behavior website, deals with sexual orientation and neuroticism and psychoticism (more about that study in a future post). One of the co-authors of this new paper is J. Michael Bailey. Dr. Bailey is among the world’s top sexuality researchers and author of numerous publications involving twins and sexual orientation. Here he comments on the limitations of twin studies and sexual orientation change. This conversation was triggered in part by the recent NARTH report which stated that “homosexuality is not innate” without research supporting the statement.

In an email, I asked Michael to discuss how both the right and left misunderstand twin studies and their relationship to questions of innateness. His answers are indented and presented in full with some comments from me.

Both the left and the right conflate “genetic” with “inborn.” The debate over sexual orientation (and other traits) is more about inborn than genetic. As an example of the difference, it is common for identical twins to be discordant for homosexuality (i.e., given a gay identical twin, his twin is usually straight). It is a terrible mistake, though, to assume that this reflects the kind of social environment that can be manipulated. As you know, childhood gender nonconformity is very highly predictive of adult homosexual outcome. I’ve spoken to several mothers of identical twins discordant for

extreme childhood gender nonconformity (where one male twin wants to be a girl and the other is a typical boy). In each and every case, the mothers insist they did nothing–nothing–to differentiate the twins until well after the behavioral/emotional differences emerged. I

believe them.

On this point, some observers might not be quite as believing as Dr. Bailey. However, I lean in his direction on this, especially with extreme gender nonconformity. On this blog, we had an extensive conversation with a mother of twins, one quite non-conforming and the other not. In this context, it might be good to review those posts. (part 1, part 2). At the same time, I am aware of some parents who do indeed raise kids to prefer gender nonconformity. Extremes in childrearing may in some cases influence the trait of gender nonconformity in kids, but one does not need such parenting to get the same result.

The left often assumes some genetic influence means that social environment plays no role at the individual level. If some genetic factors operate for some, then they must operate for all. However, this cannot be assumed from twin studies. Neither can it be assumed that the differences between twins all relate to environmental factors which are alterable. On this point, Bailey says:

The main issue is nature-nurture. Heritability (which can be estimated from twin studies) generally is consistent with nature. But environmentality (the complement of heritability) DOES NOT MEAN nurture as it is typically assumed (i.e., social and reversible causation). MZ twins [monozygotic or identical] can differ (and I expect usually do) for biological reasons. At this point neither hypothesis (biological or social causation of MZ twin differences) has strong evidence to for it.

Note the last statement. We simply don’t know as yet. This is another reason why I think why I believe the NARTH paper is misleading. The paper uses weak therapy research to make a statement about innateness and immutability of sexual orientation. First we do not know whether twin differences occur for social or biological reasons. And then we do not know if any of the factors in any given case are alterable. Francis Collins made this same point when reacting to how Dean Byrd at NARTH quoted his book The Language of God:

The evidence we have at present strongly supports the proposition that there are hereditary factors in male homosexuality — the observation that an identical twin of a male homosexual has approximately a 20% likelihood of also being gay points to this conclusion, since that is 10 times the population incidence. But the fact that the answer is not 100% also suggests that other factors besides DNA must be involved. That certainly doesn’t imply, however, that those other undefined factors are inherently alterable.

The recent NARTH paper implies that studies demonstrating some shifts in sexual behavior disconfirm the view that homosexuality is innate. As Bailey notes above, we do not know. However, Bailey indicates a situation which provides a problem for environmental hypotheses.

Studies of the rare conditions of penile ablation and cloacal exstrophy (in which hormonally normal males are reassigned and reared as females from a very early age) show that such males grow up to be attracted to females, as per their biological, but not their social sex. To repeat something I’ve said many many times (and have never had a good answer), if you can’t make a male attracted to other males by cutting off his penis and rearing him as a female, how likely is any social hypothesis?

Bailey adds a bit of a challenge to his comments:

The folks who insist that (male) sexual orientation can be changed should put their money where their mouths are and fund you and me (and the researcher of their choice) to do a study with objective (i.e., penile and neural) pre-post measures.

We have discussed a study like this since 2006. I am aware of people who would participate but funding is an issue. Bailey and I both have sought such funding but no one has provided encouragement.

Anyone interested?

I will have more on the NARTH paper in future posts. Thanks to Michael for his comments and expertise.

Health care reform: Deja vu all over again

Eleven years ago, I wrote a brief history of health insurance for the Journal of Psychology and Christianity (“Managed care: It’s like deja vu all over again,” 1998, vol. 17, 131-141) as a part of special issue on managed behavioral health care.

I thought of that article this past week while reading various news reports about President Obama’s push to enact some version of health care/health insurance reform. I argued in that paper that managed care was one on many private sector arrangements designed in part to avoid government run national health insurance (NHI).

managed care

Obama says health care reform will lower costs, however, the Congressional Budget Office says reform as envisioned will spike the deficit by over 200 billion during the next decade.

For some reason, Democrats want us to believe this:

Democrats insisted the budget analysis ignores savings and Obama’s pledge not to add red ink to the federal ledger.

For about 100 years, the debate has come and gone. When a politician or anyone really says, buy now or else you lose your change, I worry. We needed the bailout now, we needed to bail out GM now, and now health reform now

President Obama urged Congress yesterday to push past their growing doubts and pass a comprehensive health-care reform package this year, saying that a better opportunity to remake the nation’s health-care system may not arise for generations.

Here is more on the CBO estimates. If you can read this and believe the current plans will be cost neutral, then you have more faith than I do.

The concern I have at this point in history, is that the private sector seems to have rolled over and may expect that NHI is truly inevitable this go around. The hope to offset more federalization of health care probably rests with conservative Democrats and resistance to two main policy points: one, the increases to budget deficit as noted and two, the proposed inclusion of abortion in any federal plan.

More on Ginsburg and unwanted populations

Ginsburg article wrap up regarding those “populations we don’t want to have too many of.”

World Magazine – Paul Kengor and I team up to discuss Ginsburg’s awareness of minority concerns regarding abortion and population control since at least the early 1970s.

Crosswalk – I take a little trip back to the 1970s and discuss the “population explosion.” Remember that? I grew up in Southern Ohio and remember thinking that we could get a lot more people in our neck of the woods. Also, there is a prophetic quote about health care from Richard Nixon in this piece.

Michael Gerson – Eugenics? Possibly; elitist and/or insensitive may better describe Ginsburg’s remarks.

Jonah Goldberg – Explores the question of eugenics.

On flip side, Andrew Sullivan takes Gerson to task for his contextual criticism. However, Sullivan provides no substantial exploration of Ginsburg’s remarks.

Obama says health care costs, sun to rise

Obama says health care costs, sun to rise

At a political rally today, President Barack Obama touted his new health care reform proposal to a sun-baked crowd in New Jersey. Stunning the crowd, he said, ”Mark it down, people, healthcare costs are going to go up.”

Obama added, “And if we wait long enough, the sun is going to come up in the morning too.”

Harmon Morris of Boonton, NJ, clearly overcome by the President’s predictions, said, “The President really convinced me. “

A few anti-health reform activists carried protest signs that read “God did not make little green apples.” Susan Sharp from Dover, Delaware said, “The Administration wants us to believe costs will go up and a lot of other stuff. But we don’t believe his rhetoric.”

Undeterred, the President stayed on message saying, “As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti, it will snow in Minneapolis in the winter time.”

Elsewhere, wrapping up her confirmation hearing, Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, revealed that she once fronted a band known as the Wise Latinas, but assured Senators that it would not affect her judgment on the High Court.

For more on this story, go here and here.

Why do some people write articles?

David Virtue posted what might be perhaps one of the worst articles I have ever read on why some people are gay.

Titled, Why are some people gay?, the article by Mike McManus begins by telling some of the sad story of someone I happen to like, Michael Reagan.

I just read Michael Reagan’s book, “Twice Adopted,” which reports the terrifying evidence of why many become homosexual. The adopted son of Ronald Reagan and Academy Award winner Jane Wyman – lived through their divorce and found himself in a boarding school at age five, crying himself to sleep.

Michael wondered why some kids in his school went home every night, while he did not. “What’s wrong with me?” he wondered. “Why don’t my parents like me.”

His mother was making two or three movies a year, like his dad, who was also President of the Screen Actors Guild. They had little time for him, though each saw him every other weekend.

In his book, Reagan told of his tragic abuse perpetrated by Don Havlik, the camp director. And just when you think McManus is going to tell you that Michael Reagan is gay, he writes:

What was most horrifying about his secret is that he was afraid he would be labeled. Though he had never heard the word “homosexual,” at age 7, he knew he had been touched by a man, which did not sound normal. Fortunately, Reagan did become heterosexual and married happily.

Talk about adventures in not making your point…

Then he quotes Arthur Goldberg’s new book, Light in the Closet linking sexual abuse and homosexuality.

Many studies estimate that 40 percent to two-thirds of homosexuals – are victims of child molesters, according to Dr. Arthur Goldberg, President of PATH (Positive Alternatives to Homosexuality.) He adds that even higher percentages of lesbians were victims of child molestation.

I have never seen these stunning figures in the secular press before.

There is a reason why you haven’t seen these stunning figures in the secular press. They are misleading numbers. The higher numbers come from non-representative and skewed samples, if they come from studies at all. The real numbers for gays are intolerably high but so the percentages for heterosexuals, especially women. See this post and this one for some sanity on the topic of sexual abuse and homosexuality.

The for good (bad) measure, the article ends with a reference to gay marriage, improperly conflating homosexuality with pedophilia.

This issue goes far beyond same-sex marriage. Every step which normalizes homosexuality will attract more people into this perverted lifestyle, endangering children.

About the only redeeming value in this article comes via the warning signs provided by Michael Reagan to parents regarding how to protect children from actual pedophiles. Otherwise, this is a confusing (why is straight man Michael Reagan’s story described in an article trying to advance the notion that homosexuality derives from molestation?), and harmful article. If being untruthful is harmful in itself, then we have that kind of harm to start with. However, there is another kind of pain that can be caused with this kind of article. I have direct experience with families where children and grandchildren have been kept away from same-sex attracted (not even gay identified) relatives because of the fears whipped up by this contrived link between same-sex attraction and child molestation.

Ginsburg Was Right about Abortion and Population Control

In her remarks to Emily Bazelon, which I linked to on Sunday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the following regarding Roe v. Wade, a feminist legal agenda and population control:

Q: If you were a lawyer again, what would you want to accomplish as a future feminist legal agenda?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Reproductive choice has to be straightened out. There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore. That just seems to me so obvious. The states that had changed their abortion laws before Roe [to make abortion legal] are not going to change back. So we have a policy that affects only poor women, and it can never be otherwise, and I don’t know why this hasn’t been said more often.

Q: Are you talking about the distances women have to travel because in parts of the country, abortion is essentially unavailable, because there are so few doctors and clinics that do the procedure? And also, the lack of Medicaid for abortions for poor women?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae — in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them. But when the court decided McRae, the case came out the other way. And then I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong.

Except she wasn’t “altogether wrong” — at least she wasn’t wrong about Roe v. Wade being “set up for Medicaid funding” and population control. Surrounding late 1960s and through the 70s, there was much public debate about the “population explosion.” In 1965, Griswold v. Connecticut struck down a law banning contraceptives. This case helped to establish the right to privacy as based in the Constitution which, in turn, was basis for Roe v. Wade.

As an example of the zeitgeist of the time, here are some excerpts from the 1972 Rockefeller Commission Report on Population Growth and the American Future. The Commission recommended that

…present state laws restricting abortion be liberalized along the lines of the New York statute, such abortion to be performed on request by duly licensed physicians under conditions of medical safety. In carrying out this policy, the Commission recommends:

That federal, state, and local governments make funds available to support abortion services in states with liberalized statutes.

That abortion be specifically included in comprehensive health insurance benefits, both public and private.

Sarah Weddington, co-counsel with her husband Ron Weddington, submitted this report as a part of her brief supporting Roe. Ron Weddington’s views were more pointed. He wrote then President-elect Clinton in 1992 and advised the president-to-be that traditional Democratic programs would not be effective unless Clinton started “immediately to eliminate the barely educated, unhealthy, and poor segment of our country.” How did Weddington propose to implement this draconian suggestion? He wrote to Clinton:

No I’m not advocating some kind of mass extinction of these unfortunate people. Crime, drugs and disease are already doing that. The problem is that their numbers are not only replaced but increased by the birth of millions of babies to people who cannot afford to have babies.

There I’ve said it. It’s what we all know is true, but we only whisper it, because we are liberals who believe in individual rights, we view any programs which might treat the disadvantaged as discriminatory, mean-spirited and well…so Republican.

…government is going to have to provide vasectomies, tubal ligations and abortions…RU486 and conventional abortions.

Weddington ended his letter with more words of sympathy for the children of poor families—and the need to prevent their existence:

We don’t need more cannon fodder. We don’t need more parishioners. We don’t need more cheap labor. We don’t need more poor babies.

So where Ginsburg was altogether wrong was not in her understanding of one of the forces behind Roe v. Wade. Where she was wrong was in her understanding of the High Court in the subsequent decisions regarding public funding of abortion. In any case, Ginsburg has been a consistent champion of tax-payer funding for abortions, even when she thought one purpose of Roe was to curb growth of “populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”

For Weddington such a policy seemed to be “discriminatory, mean-spirited and well…so Republican.” However, Ginsburg views public financing of abortion as a way to reduce, what she perceives as, gender discrimination. Which is it?

One thing seems sure. The issue of public abortion funding is as current as now. Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee rejected a bid by GOP Senators to eliminate abortion as a benefit in any government subsidized health reform package. If abortion as a benefit survives, then it will no doubt be challenged in the courts, eventually reaching the Supreme Court.

Justice Ginsburg is ready.

UPDATE: Since it is relevant to the above topic, I want to include the entire article by Paul Kengor and I and posted at World magazine on 7/16/09. In it, we find more information about what Ginsburg may have meant by “populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”

Disturbing Declarations

As Sonia Sotomayor was readying for her confirmation hearings, The New York Times Magazine cast a loving gaze toward the lone female Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In so doing, the Times inadvertently shed light on some remarkable thinking by Justice Ginsburg. Those thoughts are so bracing that they ought to upstage the abortion questions surrounding the Sotomayor nomination.

Ginsburg long ago declared her support for Roe v. Wade. Now, however, she has declared something more.

When the subject in her interview with the Times’ Emily Bazelon turned to abortion, Ginsburg said, “Reproductive choice has to be straightened out. There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore. . . . So we have a policy that affects only poor women, and it can never be otherwise, and I don’t know why this hasn’t been said more often.”

Bazelon then asked, “Are you talking about the distances women have to travel because in parts of the country, abortion is essentially unavailable, because there are so few doctors and clinics that do the procedure? And also, the lack of Medicaid for abortions for poor women?”

Ginsburg replied, “Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae-in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them. But when the court decided McRae, the case came out the other way. And then I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong.”

Ginsburg is correct in noting that concerns about population growth animated many of those who backed Roe v. Wade. For instance, Sarah Weddington, co-counsel in Roe, along with her then-husband, Ron, wrote in her book A Question of Choice that team Weddington submitted as evidence the controversial 1972 Rockefeller Commission Report on Population Growth and the American Future, which included a call for public funding of abortion.

As for Ron Weddington, his views are even more direct, as was evident in a January 1993 letter to President-elect Bill Clinton. Weddington advised Clinton to strive “immediately to eliminate the barely educated, unhealthy, and poor segment of our country.”

How did Weddington propose to implement this draconian suggestion? In his letter to Clinton, he candidly wrote, “[G]overnment is going to have to provide vasectomies, tubal ligations and abortions . . . RU486 and conventional abortions.”

Weddington ended his letter with more words of sympathy for the poor: “We don’t need more cannon fodder. We don’t need more parishioners. We don’t need more cheap labor. We don’t need more poor babies.”

A year later it was Clinton who appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court. For Ginsburg, that path was paved with help from one of the Weddingtons. As Sarah Weddington said in a 2007 interview, “I’ve also known Ruth Bader Ginsburg for years, and helped her get her appointment.”

Thanks to The New York Times Magazine, it looks like the Weddingtons and Ginsburg may be kindred spirits more than we had realized.

In fact, the Times piece prompts us to reconsider previous Ginsburg statements relating to “populations” that the justice doesn’t “want to have too many of.”

For instance, in an April 6, 1984, address to the University of North Carolina School of Law, published in the North Carolina Law Review, Justice Ginsburg described a 1971 speech where she faced tough questions on abortion policy:

“The questions were pressed by black men. The suggestion, not thinly veiled, was that legislative reform and litigation regarding abortion might have less to do with individual autonomy or discrimination against women than with restricting population growth among oppressed minorities. The strong word ‘genocide’ was uttered more than once. It is a notable irony that as constitutional law in this domain has unfolded, women who are not poor have achieved access to abortion with relative ease; for poor women, however, a group in which minorities are disproportionately represented, access to abortion is not markedly different from what it was in pre-Roedays.”

Ironic indeed. Instead of reducing “cannon fodder and cheap labor” via abortion, as the Weddingtons of the world had hoped, the Supreme Court upheld congressional bans on federal funding of abortion. According to her recent interview, Ginsburg was surprised the court upheld such bans. She continues to lament the fact that government does not fund abortions. Why?

Ginsburg’s comments to The New York Times Magazine open a floodgate of disturbing questions regarding a sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Perhaps even more amazing than her comments was the lack of clarification or follow up from theTimes. Maybe another newspaper can do the job. These questions are too serious to be left to speculation.

While I think Ginsburg would be fine with expanded access to abortion for poor women, I am not sure she believes poor women should be targeted. She believes all women should have access to abortion. She was repeating the irony that at least some of those who advocated for abortion wanted to reduce poor populations but, as it turned out, affluent women have access whereas many poor women don’t.

To me, an appropriate move would be to restrict abortion to medical necessity for rich and poor women and reject any elitist notion that poor people can be reduced by abortion. As those black men protested and Ginsburg acknowledged, such policies have unacceptable adverse effects on minorities.

APA brochure kerfuffle

The Southern Voice has an article regarding the recent breathless, echo-chamber enhanced series of articles from some conservative blogs and news services about changes in the American Psychological Association statement regarding sexual orientation.

As I noted here awhile back, the recent flurry was not new news. My first blog about it was when NARTH’s Dean Byrd produced an article for the NARTH website.

In the Sovo article, the APA’s Clinton Anderson seems bemused by the far right response to something they did over a year ago.

Clinton Anderson, director of the APA’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender concerns office, said the change was so subtle that “from our perspective, there really hasn’t been any change.”

But some conservative groups have hailed the wording change as apparent affirmation that sexual orientation is not genetically defined.

Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, said the reason “so many people in the pro-family movement are delighted by this is that it seems to confirm our doubts that there’s a gay gene, that homosexuality is inborn.”

“A lot of gay activists have used the idea of genetic homosexuality as a convenient argument to further their case,” he said. “This makes it harder for them to do that, because they can chastise the religious right, but it’s harder for them to chastise the APA.”

I still wait for NARTH to issue a similar position statement regarding the nature of homosexuality – multiple factors, multiple pathways, we don’t know how any of this works very well, etc.

Instead NARTH trumpets a paper saying that research leads to a conclusion that homosexuality is not innate – despite the absence of any evidence to support the “conclusion” in the paper.

What did Justice Ruth Ginsburg mean when she said “populations that we don’t want to have too many of”?

Read this GetReligion post and ask yourself, what could she possibly mean?

This section of a New York Magazine article out this week is what is at the focus of what should be significant controversy.

Q: If you were a lawyer again, what would you want to accomplish as a future feminist legal agenda?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Reproductive choice has to be straightened out. There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore. That just seems to me so obvious. The states that had changed their abortion laws before Roe [to make abortion legal] are not going to change back. So we have a policy that affects only poor women, and it can never be otherwise, and I don’t know why this hasn’t been said more often.

Q: Are you talking about the distances women have to travel because in parts of the country, abortion is essentially unavailable, because there are so few doctors and clinics that do the procedure? And also, the lack of Medicaid for abortions for poor women?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae — in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them. But when the court decided McRae, the case came out the other way. And then I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong.

Roe was decided in the way it was to curb population growth? — “…particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”

Which populations would those be, Justice Ginsburg?

And we may never know because the no one writing for a big paper or news outlet (save the UK Telegraph) has picked up this story.

Message to the US Senate: Please ask Sotomayor if she believes Roe was decided in order to help set up Medicaid funding to support aborting certain populations.

The Pink Swastika and Hitler

In the hunt for the gay Nazis, the biggest prize is Mr. Nazi himself, Adolf Hitler. And Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams do not let us down. In Chapter 4, from about page 151 on, Lively and Abrams weave together various rumors to make a case that Hitler was homosexual. In fact, they have an ally of sorts with Lothar Machtan, a German historian. Machtan believes Hitler was gay and wrote The Hidden Hitler to prove it.

Machtan is a historian and his book is to be taken more seriously that The Pink Swastika. However, having said that, the book has not been well received by historians. According to critics, Machtan traffics in the same sort of innuendo and guestimation which are characteristic of Lively and Abrams.

In this clip from the intriguing documentary, Men, Heroes and Gay Nazis, Machtan briefly advances his theory and then other historians assert he lacks any evidence for the gay-Hitler thesis.

You watch the entire documentary in eight parts on You Tube beginning here.

Prior posts in this series:

May 28 – Scott Lively wants off SPLC hate group list

May 31 – Eliminating homosexuality: Modern Uganda and Nazi Germany

June 3 – Before The Pink Swastika

June 4 – Kevin Abrams: The side of The Pink Swastika

June 8 – A historian’s analysis of The Pink Swastika, part 1

June 9 – A historian’s analysis of The Pink Swastika, part 2

June 11 – American Nazi movement and homosexuality: How pink is their swastika?

June 15 – Nazi movement rallies against gays in Springfield, MO

June 17 – Does homosexuality lead to fascism?

June 23 – The Pink Swastika and Friedrich Nietzsche

June 29 – The Pink Swastika and The Hidden Holocaust?

July 6 – The Pink Swastika and Hate 2 Hope

List of posts on Uganda and The Pink Swastika