Thursday, December 15, 2005

Homosexuality unhealthy?

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I was looking at my friend's blog today, The Southleft Corner and found this statement he made:
I think that homosexuality is not very healthy. I think that it's none of my business whom anybody sleeps with.
Congrats on the second sentence Sam! I asked him, by comment, why he thought homosexuality was unhealthy and what his justifications for such a statement were. Before my comment Sam said this in response to another commenter:
I never said that gay sex was "weird"--I said it was unhealthy. And it is. According to a study posted in the International Journal of Epidemiology, homosexuals have a life expectancy that is 20 years shorter than Heterosexuals. I'm a smoker. I'm a drinker. I am not judging anyone for who they have sex with. I just know that it is a less healthy lifestyle than heterosexuality. That's not a statement against gay rights, just a fact that makes me think that it's not a lifestyle that should be glorified. Homosexuals are undoubtedly entitled to the same rights as everyone else, including adoption and civil unions.
Oh... how I shudder: lifestyle? Sorry, Sam... I don't live a "homosexual lifestyle". I live a human lifestyle... a Matt Hill lifestyle. I just happen to be gay, just like you happen to be straight. But here is what Sam said in response to my question:
Well, as I mentioned in my earlier response, homosexuals have a life expectancy that is 20 years shorter than heterosexuals. They also tend to be more depressed. Causality is, as always, a major question. It is possible that it is not homosexuality, but the social isolation that is forced on homosexuals in our society that is the main cause of these differences. Sweden, for example, is often cited as the most gay-tolerant country in the world and the life expectancy gap is much smaller there. I was careful not to write that homosexuality causes health problems, because that's not necessarily true. I have no problem with homosexuals. I think that, if you can't be happy with the opposite sex then it is probably worth it to live 20 years shorter and be happy. I just try to be rational in my argument and I don't want to ignore facts.
I responded with this:
The studies which have gone to "prove" homosexuals have shorter life expectancies have all been either disproven or grossly misrepresented (usually by members of the radical, religious right). I suggest you do more studying. Thanks, btw, for not saying homosexuality causes health problems. As for the reason why there are more problems just look at the societal situation in which gay people live. Depression, higher suicide rates, higher rates of low self-esteem and higher rates of mental instabilities are all caused by oppression from society. Higher rates of smoking, drinking and other drug use are also caused by societal oppression (because people are stupid and think that these things will help to reduce their stress, depression, mental problems when all they really do is make things worse). Before saying "I think that homosexuality is not very healthy," you might want to know why there are so many unhealthy things... and what their causes are... if gay people were to be fully accepted in society, these problems would not be problems (you kind of hinted to this with the comment about Sweden). Homosexuality isn't the problem... prejudice is.
Now... I know Sam, both personally and professionally. I know that he is no where near being anti-gay, but as you can see... he's using some of the same arguments that the radical, religious right uses in trying to deny gay folk the same rights as all other American citizens. Homosexuality isn't unhealthy... discrimination and prejudice are unhealthy and those are the causes of so many problems within the gay community. If we were to get rid of the discrimination and prejudice, the "problems" would disappear. Sam admitted as much with his comment about gay-friendly Sweden. The African-American community has many of the same depression, mental, health, and drug abuse problems as the gay community... does that mean living "African-Americanism" is "not very healthy." No... because the problems within the African-American community have been caused by the same things as in the gay community. I'll say it one more time... Homosexuality isn't the problem... prejudice is. Oh... and Sam, you might just want to be more careful in the words you choose when talking about this subject... you come off as a member of the radical right. ;) Now about this life expectancy study: Sam talks about a study which proves that the life expectancy of homosexuals is 20 years less than the general public. Concerning the life expectancy "study":
Another case involves a 2001 study conducted in Canada that said gay men have shorter lifespans than heterosexuals. McEwen found that this study was cited by many religious conservative organizations. McEwen contends that the original researchers had written a letter in the same year to the National Journal of Epidemology declaring that their research was being misused by the religious right, but the Canadian study continues to be misused. In 2004, Concerned Women for America cited the study in talking points against same sex marriage. In 2005, Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council cited the study in a speech in Maryland. Sprigg and the Family Research Council were fighting the implementation of a sex education program. “ There seems to be a consistent intentional pattern of misusing legitimate research as well as using discredited research by members of the religious right,” McEwen said. “One has to ask the question how can these organizations be for morality when they can so quickly and easily lie to force forward their agenda.” Also according to McEwen, the religious right continues to utitlize studies from discredited researcher Paul Cameron. Among other “dubious” honors, Cameron was kicked out of the American Psychological Association for misusing the work of his peers in order to prove their theories. McEwen claims to have discovered that in some cases, religious conservative organizations not only continue to cite Cameron’s work but at the same time omit the fact that he is their source. Source: "New study says right-wing religious organizations engage in deceptive patterns"
Dr. Paul Cameron, mentioned above, of the Family Research Institute (one of many anti-gay, radical, religious right groups) has also done similar studies with similar findings (notice the other content on the website). As the quote above points out, Dr. Cameron has been disproved and discredited many times.

6 Comments:

Good for you for respectfully engaging with someone with a different (and misinformed) point of view. That sort of thing really breaks down barriers. Nice blog too.
Thanks for the compliment on the blog dude. I must say that the person with whom I am disagreeing is a friend of mine, as well as a colleague. He and I work in Student Government together. I must also stress that I believe he is merely misinformed, rather than being in actual "disagreement" about anything.

I really do believe my good friend Sam has been sucked into the arguments being used by the radical, religious right... it's my job to set him "straight." lol
Sorry if you're offended by the word lifestyle--I'd never heard anybody have a problem with it before. I'll avoid it in the future.

As a student of science, one thing that's drilled into me over and over is that a study means nothing if it cannot be replicated. That's why, when I first saw this study several months ago, the first thing I did was look for replications. This study has been replicated at least 20 times. I referenced three of them on my blog, http://southleft.blogspot.com. For UNCG Students, two of the three are available from Jackson Library, and they are all respectable and reputable journals of science.

After replicability, the second most important thing that is drilled into science students is to be cautious of causality. Only in a true experiment-meaning that a single variable is manipulated in a closed laboratory-can causality be determined. In any other study, such as the ones under discussion, one can only make correlational conclusions. Meaning that one can say that A has a relationship with B, but one cannot say thath A causes B, or that B causes A, or that X causes both A and B.

I also have read the letter from the authors of the study from the Journal of Epidemiology. You're right that they believe that the right has hijacked their study for their own purposes. But, they do not claim that their study was incorrect. The problem that they have is with the causal conclusions drawn by the religious right, not the actual results. The religious right makes claims that homosexuality causes poor health, which is an incorrect conclusion to draw from these studies. One can theorize about the causes, but cannot make conclusions about them. The authors, in their own summation in the article, believe that much of the difference can be attributed to AIDS. Also,openly homosexual men only make up a part of the entire population of actual homosexuals, and those who are not 'out' tend to be less courageous or strong-willed. Courageous and strong people take more risks. Third, the previously discussed issue of discrimination and social isolation may play a factor. Other variables likely play a factor as well. The right has misrepresented the findings too say that these experimenters claimed that homosexuality causes poor health. Causality is the issue, not the results themselves . There is no question in a study that has been replicated over and over that homosexuals have a shorter lifespan than heterosexuals. The question is why, and there are many reasons that are possible that have nothing to do with homosexuality itself.

I would suggest to anyone who is concerned about these findings, or who doesn't believe them, that you should read the actual articles, which you can find referenced on my blog. None of them make any negative claims about homosexuality itself.
Thanks for the clarification Sam. I just want people to understand the full reasons for your statement... "homosexuality is not very healthy" (I also think you could have worded it differently).

What you said could have been taken way out of context and used against you.

I know that you are no where near being 'anti-gay' or homophobic but your statement on your blog certainly could have been taken that way. In my experience working with gay and lesbian rights issues and advocacy I can assure that any politician who said such a thing surely would have faced a firestorm of criticism from gay rights groups such as the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, just to name a couple.

The word 'lifestyle' is offensive in large part because it has most often been used as a way to denote that homosexuals 'choose' to live in 'that lifestyle'. Certain words and phrases have been historically used by the right in demonizing gay people and 'lifestyle' is one of those words. Because of the simple fact that 'lifestyle' implies 'choice', the word is offensive to many persons within the LGBT community.

But what the heck... there is nothing wrong with learning something new... I bet you could teach me a thing or two about things I have no idea about.

In the future though... be careful about the words you choose and how you say things in relation to the LGBT community. UNCG doesn't need their new Speaker of the House being labeled a homophobe or bigot, when in all actuality you really aren't one.
I certainly always try to be sensitive to people's beliefs. I am only interested in truth, though. I believe in science above all, and, for me, politics will always take a backseat. Which is why I have little desire to be a politician...reality becomes very murky in that field.
That is quite true. People in politics (on both sides) tend to either ignore the truth or stretch the truth.

I just want to make sure that no one would ever use these studies as a basis for denying equal civil rights to LGBT folk. As you have said before you can only relate to factors, you cannot say one causes the other.

Homosexuality does not cause health problems and as you have admitted there may be various reasons as to why the statistics are the way they are.

I'm not denying the statistics. I just want to make sure that they are used properly and not on the side of discrimination, hatred or bigotry. Get what I mean?

I'll be the first to admit the gay community has some problems, but so does the straight community, the white community, the black community and the whole entirety of the human race.

If homosexuals do, indeed, have a shorter life expectancy we should work to figure out why and work to fix any problems which might exist, instead of using the studies to take away people's rights, as the religious, radical right does.

Thanks for the good debate Sam... all this is more about educating others (I know you are educated, lol)