Older brothers and gay little brothers

Anthony Bogaert has a new study out today about the older brother theory. Well, technically tomorrow, since it is not out on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science website yet. This study seems to leave the “feared older brother” theory looking pretty shabby. However, the hype over the study is sure to overlook Blanchard and Bogaert’s estimates that only about 15% of gay men owe their attractions to this effect.

I have been reviewing prior work in this area today. About half of the studies looking for a birth order effect have found it. The studies have either found no effect or an elevated ratio of brothers to sisters of gay men. One study examined the feminity hypothesis. Anthony Bogaert looked for a birth order effect in a general sample of homosexual men and then in very feminine men. He found it in very feminine gay men but not in a general sample, even among more feminine (but non – gender identity disordered) gay men. I would like to see a general study of cross gender behavior and sex ratio but this was not examined. In any case, cross gender behavior in childhood does explain some of the orientation in extremely feminine cases but not in all cases.

This study like most biological studies is a challenge for the media to report. Here a potentially very misleading statement from the LA Times writer: “In an analysis of 905 men and their siblings, Canadian psychologist Anthony Bogaert found no evidence that social interactions among family members play any role in determining whether a man is gay or straight.” Of course it is correct; the authors found no evidence, but the statement leaves the impression that the authors looked for all possible “social interactions between family members” and didn’t find anything. It appears they only looked a birth order.

NEA changing its approach to gay marriage resolution?

The National Education Association may be backpeddling on their original language regarding gay marriage. Originally, the education union offered the following proposed resolution:

The language in this statement mailed to NEA delegates a week ago states:




B-8 Diversity

The National Education Association believes that adiverse society enriches all individuals.Similarities and differences among races, ethnicity, color,national origin, language, geographic location,religion, gender, sexual orientation, genderidentification, age, physical ability, size,occupation, and marital, parental, or economicstatus form the fabric of a society.

The Association also believes that education should foster the values of appreciation and acceptance of the various qualities that pertain to people asindividuals and as members of diverse populations.

The Association further believes in the importance of observances, programs and curricula that accurately portray and recognize the roles, contributions,cultures. and history of these diverse groups and individuals.

The Association believes that legal rights and responsibilities with regard to medical decisions, taxes, inheritance, adoption, legal immigration, domestic partnerships, and civil unions and/or marriage belong to all these diverse groups and individuals.

The Association encourages affiliates and members to become part of programs and observances that may include cultural and heritage celebrations and/orhistory months. (1995, 2006)

However, the NEA seems to have shifted the language regarding this proposal within about a week. Here is a letter from the Ohio Education Association released yesterday.

Date: June 21, 2006 From: Gary L. Allen, OEA President
Dennis M. Reardon, Executive Director

To: OEA Executive Committee, District Leaders and OEA Staff

Re: NEA RA Anti-Discrimination Amendment and the American Family Association

We need to bring to your attention a malicious e-mail campaign to distort and criticize NEA’s position against discrimination and a proposed NEA RA resolution on that same subject.

As you know, the NEA opposes discrimination in any form and has a specific position calling for the protection of our members’ rights, regardless of race, color, creed or sexual orientation.

There is a new Resolution up for discussion at the July 2006 NEA Representative Assembly that would underscore NEA’s opposition to discrimination in any form. On June 29, the NEA Resolutions Committee will consider language that clarifies and reaffirms this
anti-discrimination position. The revised, proposed language states:

“The Association also believes that these factors should not affect the legal rights and obligations of the partners in a legally-recognized* domestic partnership, civil union, or marriage in regard to matters involving the other partner, such as medical decisions, taxes, inheritance, adoption, and immigration.”

Nothing is official until the delegates vote in July, but this issue has already drawn an e-mail attack based on claims by the conservative group, American Family Association (AFA). The e-mail claims NEA plans “to approve and promote gay marriage.” This e-mail is being sent to NEA affiliate staff and members throughout the country.

AFA’s message distorts both NEA policy and the process of formulating NEA policy. NEA President Reg Weaver has issued a statement explaining, “NEA has no position on same-sex marriages, and leadership is not seeking to establish such a position. We are focused on Great Public Schools for Every Child.”

We couldn’t agree more. Nevertheless, you should be prepared to answer questions from members who may have received the distorted information by e-mail. We will keep you updated.

Thanks for your support in this matter.
_____________________
*As of June 2006 in the United States, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts recognizes same-sex marriage, while California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, and Vermont grant persons in the same-sex unions a similar legal status to those in acivil marriage by domestic partnership, civil union or reciprocal beneficiary laws.

The new proposed paragraph(s) are in bold italics. NEA insiders believe the AFA letters have provoked the NEA leadership to change the language to focus on states with existing regulations regarding gay partnerships. I cannot verify as yet which is the actual language since the delegate’s resolutions book says one thing and the more recent OEA letter says something different.

Whatever one believes about gay marriage as a social/political issue, it seems offensive to require union dues to support initiatives that may be against conscience. Certainly socially liberal members would not want the NEA to go on record as being opposed to gay marriage. Seems best to me to commit to the provision of great schools for all.

UPDATE: Here is what I am hearing this morning:

The NEA sent information to State Leaders on Tuesday about this issue, as a result of questions posed by a state president and a member ofthe NEA Executive Committee. As the result, a change was recommended to Resolutions Committee Chair, Brent McKim. The Tuesday NEA memorandum stated, “The recommended language cited below was acceptableto all. If adopted, this language is proposed for movement to Resolution B10-Racism, Sexism, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identification Discrimination, and would clarify the meaning of the original proposed amendment, reaffirming the Association’s long-standing opposition todiscrimination in any form. This revised language will be considered at the June 29 Resolutions Committee meeting.” The proposed, revised language states: “The Association also believes that these factors should not affect the legal rights and obligations of the partners in a legally-recognized* domestic partnership, civil union, or marriage in regard to matters involving the other partner, such as medical decisions, taxes, inheritance, adoption, and immigration.”

This language is referenced in the OEA letter above. I suspect the NEA recognizes that it is losing membership among conservatives and this quick change may be a response to those concerns.

2004 Interview with Dr. Robert Spitzer

In early 2004, I interviewed psychiatrist Robert Spitzer for the documentary, I Do Exist. Only a portion of the footage made it in the video. During the Spring semester, GCC senior Randy Fulton transcribed the entire interview for an independent study. Thanks to Randy for that. The interview fully covers Dr. Spitzer’s much discussed study. Of current interest is what Dr. Spitzer had to say about sexual orientation and depression. There is some conflict over what his study actually suggested with regard to the relationship of sexual reorientation and depression. Wayne Besen quotes Dr. Spitzer as complaining that Melissa Fryrear misinterpreted his study. As I read Ms. Fryrear’s comments, it appears to me that she accurately represents what Dr. Spitzer said in 2004.

Here is what Melissa Fryrear said about the Spitzer study to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: “Some clinical studies, including one by Dr. Robert Spitzer, have linked contemplating suicide to unwanted attractions to the same sex, she said.”

Wayne Besen is reporting that Dr. Spitzer said this about Melissa’s comments:
“Unfortunately Focus on the Family has once again reported findings of my study out of context to support their fight against gay rights,” said Dr. Robert Spitzer, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University.”

and then…

“Although a third of the subjects in my study reported having had serious thoughts of suicide related to their homosexuality, not one of them blamed the gay rights movement’s advocating a ‘born-gay’ theory of homosexuality as the cause of their suicidal thinking,” said Spitzer.

I do not see Melissa saying that Dr. Spitzer’s study made a direct connection between the gay rights’ movement and contemplating suicide.

Now on point, I have reproduced my interview with Dr. Spitzer from 2004. It appears that some of the subjects did in fact feel depressed as the result of being told by therapists that they couldn’t change.

From our 2004 interview:

Dr. Throckmorton: Were there any mental health consequences of attempting to change?

Dr. Spitzer: The majority of subjects reported moderate to severe depression before they went into therapy. And a marked change, very few were depressed after therapy. So that was an important finding, I think, that depression was, you know, there was a tremendous conflict over homosexuality, and many were very depressed that they had made previous efforts, that was another interesting thing, was many of the subjects reported that they had gone to mental health professionals and were told, just, you know, accept it, that there’s no way to change. And they were not satisfied with that, and were very depressed thinking that they could not, you know, change.

Dr. Throckmorton: Were there any other mental health consequences.

Dr. Spitzer: Um, well many had been so depressed they were suicidal. And a few had made actual attempts. So, I mean they reported a very unhappy state of mind before they changed. The other thing is that the change was not quick…another reason why I believe in credibility; you would think that, if you want to present the best way of presenting therapy, you would say that it started to work pretty soon. You wouldn’t say that it was on average two years before there was really much change, which was the case. Many said it took several years before they actually noticed change, and on average it was two years. The people were in some kind of therapy for an average of 7 years. But, often that was still being in some group experience they would keep going to a support group for several years.

It does appear that he did get feedback from subjects saying that mental health professionals discouraged change and the position that sexual orientation was immutable was associated with depression. In other words, the depression was not adequately addressed by the mental health professionals saying just accept your feelings.

To read the entire interview, go here.

American Family Radio Two Part series on PFOX

Today, American Family Radio is broadcasting Part One of a two part series regarding the recent issues with PFOX and Richard Cohen’s appearance on CNN. I think to be fair, tomorrow’s segment will give Richard a chance to reply.

UPDATE: Part 2 of the PFOX/Cohen story came are here and here today.

UPDATE #2 – The print article derived from Jim Brown’s reporting is here.

To read the posts regarding this matter, click here.

National Review on Love Won Out

Eve Tushnet, writing for National Review Online, reviews the June 10, Love Won Out conference near Washington DC. It’s a pretty brief article but she finds most fault with the reparative therapy tone of the day. While she acknowledged that some men do fit the reparative-theory-predicted understanding of things, others don’t. Interesting was the man, “Frank,” who said he did fit the theory, but even with all the insight, he has not lost his same-sex attractions.

On the whole, she is unimpressed with the emphasis on causation. Reading further on her blog, she writes:

But there are all kinds of cases where family dynamics don’t explain very much. And honestly–family dynamics are often a reductive and boring explanation for homosexuality. Plus, the Love Won Out speakers were super defensive on the subject of origins, hammering on and on about how homosexuality isn’t genetic. Why on earth does this even matter? All kinds of things have a genetic component. Even from the ex-gay perspective, there shouldn’t be anything threatening about acknowledging that homosexuality has some kind of complex relation to genetics. People wouldn’t avoid treatment for anxiety disorders, or stop going to AA, or give up on controlling their tempers, just because anxiety or alcoholism or anger has a genetic component. So I really have no idea why the idea of an inborn predisposition to homosexuality wigged these people out so bad.

Yeah, I wonder that too. I suspect it is a reaction to those who say, “don’t tamper with someone’s feelings, they’re genetic!” However, I don’t think one overreaction deserves another.


Genetics and stigmatization

From the Journal of Health and Social Behavior (Dec., 2005), pp. 307-22 comes this interesting abstract:

Title: Geneticization of deviant behavior and consequences for stigma: the case of mental illness.
Author: Phelan JC. of the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, Department of Sociomedical Sciences, 722 W. 168th Street, New York, NY 10032, USA. jcp13@columbia.edu

Abstract: One likely consequence of the genetics revolution is an increased tendency to understand human behavior in genetic terms. How might this “geneticization” affect stigma? Attribution theory predicts a reduction in stigma via reduced blame, anger, and punishment and increased sympathy and help. According to “genetic essentialist” thinking, genes are the basis of human identity and strongly deterministic of behavior. If such ideas are commonly accepted, geneticization should exacerbate stigma by increasing perceptions of differentness, persistence, seriousness, and transmissibility, which in turn should increase social distance and reproductive restrictiveness. I test these predictions using the case of mental illness and a vignette experiment embedded in a nationally representative survey. There was little support for attribution theory predictions. Consistent with genetic essentialism, genetic attributions increased the perceived seriousness and persistence of the mental illness and the belief that siblings and children would develop the same problem. Genetic attribution did not affect reproductive restrictiveness or social distance from the ill person but did increase social distance from the person’s sibling, particularly regarding intimate forms of contact involving dating, marriage, and having children.

Polling data about homosexuality supplied by Wayne Besen on his website seems to be counter to the impact on mental illness. I wonder if the fact that most people do not see homosexuality as a mental illness could contribute to the difference. Not going anywhere particularly, just thought the study was interesting. I am interested in this because I am concerned that the advances in genetics will erode perceptions of free will and have impact on how clients perceive a variety of clinical issues. The whole chemical imbalance thing makes it difficult to establish talk therapy with clients who want to “wait until the meds kick in.”

Alan Colmes Radio Show: Wayne Besen vs. Richard Cohen

I listened to the Alan Colmes Radio Show tonight with a debate of sorts between Richard Cohen and Wayne Besen. During the call-in segment, Chad Thompson called in and said a cheery hello. Chad, you were the most reasonable voice on the show.

I think Richard mostly got the best of Wayne. Wayne needs to learn to let people talk. He sounds like he had way too much caffiene.

Wayne’s criticisms of Richard’s marriage were in very poor taste.

Richard made a point to emphasize that homosexuals are emotionally wounded and can change if they heal their wounds.

Wayne attacked Richard on several grounds. Of course, Richard is vulnerable here due to his expulsion from the ACA. Here is the expulsion letter and below are the sections of the code violated.

A.1.a: Primary Responsibility. The primary responsibility of counselors is to respect the dignity and to promote the welfare of clients.

A.1.b: Positive Growth and Development. Counselors encourage client growth and development in ways that foster the clients’ interest and welfare; counselors avoid fostering dependent counseling relationships.

A.5.a: Personal Needs. In the counseling relationship, counselors are aware of the intimacy and responsibilities inherent in the counseling relationship, maintain respect for clients, and avoid actions that seek to meet their personal needs at the expense of clients.

A.6.a: Avoid When Possible. Counselors are aware of their influential positions with respect to clients, and they avoid exploiting the trust and dependency of clients. Counselors make every effort to avoid dual relationships with clients that could impair professional judgment or increase the risk of harm to clients. (Examples of such relationships include, but are not limited to, familial, social, financial, business, or close personal relationships with clients.) When a dual relationship cannot be avoided, counselors take appropriate professional precautions such as informed consent, consultation, supervision, and documentation to ensure that judgment is not impaired and no exploitation occurs.

C.3.b: Testimonials. Counselors who use testimonials do not solicit them from clients or other persons who, because of their particular circumstances, may be vulnerable to undue influence.

C.3.f: Products and Training Advertisements. Counselors who develop products related to their profession or conduct workshops or training events ensure that the advertisements concerning these products or events are accurate and disclose adequate information for consumers to make informed choices.

Additional note: My friend David Blakeslee got on the show and reinforced the concept of people living in alignment with their beliefs and values. Chad and David were the highlights as far as I’m concerned.

www.truthwinsout.shh – TWO

Strange thing about Wayne Besen’s Truth Wins Out website; you can’t get to it without a password. I’ll bet he just forgot to send me mine.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: The website is active now and Wayne’s favorite therapist is on the front page. I suspect many thoughtful gay folk will be uncomfortable with TWO (the loneliest number since the number ONE). I think the most offensive aspect of it is this point from his 10 point program for ridding the world of ex-gay ministries: “TWO will verify credible information and potentially create devastating consequences for the future of the ex-gay ministries. Indeed, a limited ad campaign inquiring about such leads coupled with a hotline would likely yield results. We have uncovered major scandals with no formal mechanism for doing so. Imagine the potential for success if we address this issue with a laser-like focus.”

An ex-gay hotline? I-800-Gotcha!

Therapy vs. therapeutic

Relevant to recent discussions of touch in therapy:

Boundaries in psychotherapy are crucial for it to be psychotherapy. Otherwise, it becomes one of number of other wish-fulfilling relationships we could have (friend, physical therapist, hair stylist, parent, bartender, etc.). Just because therapeutic (read: helpful) things happen in a relationship doesn’t make the relationship therapy. For therapy to have impact beyond what these other relationships can have, it needs to be something different from what these other relationships can be.

I have had a few clients who have requested touch or some kind of physical contact. They explain that they see me as a parent figure and that it would be healing to experience non-sexual touch. I gently explain that we need to talk about feelings rather than act on them. Expressing feelings is not an end in itself as catharsis but it is a means of bringing about awareness and self-control. Gaining control over urges and feelings is the reason that they are seeking my help so it would not help for me to move in an opposite direction. Acting on feelings runs counter to the objective of understanding them and finding strategies to contain them. This has been effective with more rapid results than in experiential therapy (e.g., the client on the CNN segment – 3 years and running.)