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As many readers may be aware, the American Family Association (sponsor of conservative Christian news site OneNewsNow) has organized a boycott of McDonald's. (At various times during the past decade AFA has also boycotted Ford, Target, and Disney.) According to AFA's official "Boycott McDonald's" website, the fast food chain's sin is "refusing to remain neutral in the culture wars". McDonald's is a member of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and has donated money to the organization.  Richard Ellis, Vice President of Communications at McDonald's USA, is on the NGLCC's board of directors.

The "Boycott McDonald's" website explicitly states that "[the boycott] is not about how homosexual employees are treated", but other statements in various AFA documents indicate that this should not be taken at face value.  Only two sentences further, the boycott website follows with "McDonald's has chosen not to remain neutral but to give the full weight of their corporation to promoting the homosexual agenda, including homosexual marriage".  "The homosexual agenda", of course, means "any kinds of protections for LGBT employees". Many statements on AFA's main website make it abundantly clear that same-sex marriage isn't the only issue-- they are opposed to any kind of fair and equal treatment for LGBT people.

Some examples:

-From "Principles Which Guide AFA's Opposition to the Homosexual Agenda":  "We oppose the effort to convince our culture that because individuals participate in homosexual behavior, they have earned the right to be protected like racial and other minority groups." In other words, they are opposed to extending non-discrimination policies and antidiscrimination and hate crime protections to LGBT people.

-From "Same Sex Marriages": "
The terms homophobia, gay, diversity, and intolerant are used to divert attention describing the actual sexual behavior involved. This same type of reasoning is used by companies that provide Domestic Partner benefits for their employees based on bedroom behavior of their homosexual employees. The companies never describe the bedroom behavior of those employees that are granted Domestic Partner benefits."  Here, AFA makes it clear that they object to partner benefits of any kind.  The argument they employ is embarrassingly ludicrous.  Do they actually think that domestic partnership benefits are granted based on what people do in bed?  ("I'm sorry, Jeff. It looks like you and Wayne haven't been having enough anal sex lately.  We're going to have to take Wayne off your insurance policy.") The criteria for DPB eligibility are usually financial interdependence and/or evidence of a binding legal commitment (power of attorney document, etc.).  AFA also apparently believes that companies offering DPBs have a moral obligation to describe what same sex couples do in bed. Are they proposing that employee handbooks be turned into sex manuals?  (That would be a very odd stance, considering that AFA is staunchly anti-pornography.)

While McDonald's recent affiliation with the NGLCC may be the proximate cause of the boycott, it seems somewhat doubtful that AFA would reverse its position if McDonald's dropped its membership without changing several corporate policies.  McDonald's scored 85 out of 100 on HRC's Corporate Equality Index in 2007.  Among other things, they offer DPBs (including to unmarried heterosexual couples) and cover transition-related medical expenses (though their non-discrimination policy does not explicitly include gender identity). AFA's boycott website doesn't directly address McDonald's fair treatment of LGBT employees, but many of the other organizations supporting the boycott do, including AFTAH (Americans for Truth About Homosexuality).

Ultraconservative news site WorldNetDaily interviewed AFTAH's Peter LaBarbera in a July 19th article entitled "Boycott over McDonald's 'gay' promotions grows". LaBarbera's promoted the boycott using his favorite scare tactic-- demonizing trans women.

Excerpted from the article:

Your dollars for Happy Meals and Big Macs could end up paying for sex-change operations of McDonald's employees if the home of the Golden Arches continues its promotion of homosexuality, according to a pro-family group that has joined an expanding boycott of the fast-food restaurants and its Ronald McDonald's mascot...

LaBarbera told WND that the agenda supported by the NGLCC is pretty extreme. It recommends, for example, companies should "permit the [transsexual/cross-dressing]* transitioning employee to restrooms that correspond to his or her full-time gender presentation, regardless of where the individual is in the transitioning process".

"In other words, if a 'transgender man' or, say, employee at a McDonald's believes his supposed 'gender' is really a woman, so he wears a dress and high heels, he should be able to use the female restroom. That surely would do wonders for the productivity and workplace environment of female employees and customers at a small business, including all those local McDonald's franchises!" LaBarbera said.

He said other advice from NGLCC would include:

  • Use politically correct, 'inclusive' language: 'Ensure that invitations to company events use terms like partner or significant other rather than spouse.'

  • Provide 'adoption assistance' for homosexual 'domestic partners' – thus the corporate world helps create households for children that are intentionally fatherless or motherless.

  • Providing health care coverage to transsexual employees for so-called 'medically necessary surgical procedures' – will your Quarter-Pounder purchase help subsidize 'sex-change' operations for gender-confused men?...

[*The brackets and phrase "transsexual/cross-dressing" are original to the WorldNetDaily article. WorldNetDaily presumably added them to the original NGLCC document.]

So much for AFA's rhetoric that the boycott "is not about how homosexual [and presumably also transgender] employees are treated".

While LaBarbera is obviously upset that the NGLCC encourages equal treatment of same-gender headed families, he unleashes a disproportionate amount of venom on trans people (specifically trans women, as he and others in the Religious Right apparently perceive them as more of a threat than trans men).

He doesn't even bother to get his terminology right.  He refers to an employee transitioning from male to female as a "transgender man", when "transgender man" actually refers to a person assigned female gender at birth who transitions to male.  (I suspect that this phrasing was an attempt by LaBarbera to mock the terms used by trans people and allies, since he usually labels trans women "gender-confused men", as in third bullet point below the direct quote.) He then, comically, explains that the hypothetical MtF McDonald's employee would "wear a dress and high heels" to work.  LaBarbera does know what actual trans women look and dress like-- he frequently cross-posts photos of private citizens that MassResistance snaps at LGBT events without the subjects' permission-- and he knows that they don't wear heels and dresses every day any more than cis women do.  But the truth isn't sensational enough, so he embellishes.  The fact that a trans woman working at McDonald's would still wear the same uniform the rest of the employees do won't stir up the boycotters.

LaBarbera then implies that a trans woman who presents as female on the job is somehow a threat to female employees:  "That surely would do wonders for the productivity and workplace environment of female employees and customers at a small business, including all those local McDonald's franchises!"  He presents no evidence, scientific or anecdotal, to support this statement-- probably because there isn't any.

AFTAH, WorldNetDaily and others portray the NGLCC's support for equal access to medical treatment for trans people as "shocking" and "radical", when in fact it is also the position of the mainstream medical establishment.  Earlier this month, the American Medical Association adopted Resolution 122, which opposes the arbitrary exclusion of treatment for GID (gender identity disorder, also called gender dysphoria) from insurance coverage: 

Whereas, Our American Medical Association opposes discrimination on the basis of gender identity... Whereas, Gender Identity Disorder (GID) is a serious medical condition recognized as such in both the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th Ed., Text Revision) (DSM-IV-TR) and the International Classification of Diseases (10th Revision)... Whereas, GID, if left untreated, can result in clinically significant psychological distress, dysfunction, debilitating depression and, for some people without access to appropriate medical care and treatment, suicidality and death... Whereas, An established body of medical research demonstrates the effectiveness and medical necessity of mental health care, hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery as forms of therapeutic treatment for many people diagnosed with GID... Whereas, Health experts in GID, including WPATH [the World Professional Association for Transgender Health], have rejected the myth that such treatments are “cosmetic” or “experimental” and have recognized that these treatments can provide safe and effective treatment for a serious health condition... Whereas, Our AMA opposes limitations placed on patient care by third-party payers when such care is based upon sound scientific evidence and sound medical opinion... Whereas, The denial of these otherwise covered benefits for patients suffering from GID represents discrimination based solely on a patient’s gender identity...

RESOLVED, That our American Medical Association support public and private health insurance coverage for treatment of gender identity disorder (New HOD Policy); and be it further RESOLVED, That our AMA oppose categorical exclusions of coverage for treatment of gender identity disorder when prescribed by a physician.

The Religious Right's feigned ignorance of Resolution 122 is unsurprising, since they alternately ignore and deride mainstream medical groups such as the AMA-- they have their own. On July 2nd, OneNewsNow (the American Family Association's online news service) published an article on Resolution 122 entitled "Transgenderism--Purely Psychological?", featuring comments from Dr. David Stephens of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations. Stephens counters the solid research the AMA cites in its resolution with religious rhetoric:  "Well, the Bible does tell us very clearly that mutilation of the body is wrong, and it's sad that these people have this psychological disorder -- but it should be treated from a psychological perspective." Never mind all the studies demonstrating that treating GID purely "from a psychological perspective" doesn't work; if scientific findings clash with a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, the CMDA tosses them out.  Their website makes it clear that they're more interested in evangelical Christianity than scientific medicine-- their statement on homosexuality reads like one of the Family Research Council's anti-gay tracts.  The CMDA "opposes the practice of homosexual acts on biblical, medical, and social grounds", characterizing a homosexual or bisexual orientation as a " lifestyle obsessed with and/or dominated by personal sexual fulfillment".

The CMDA homepage helpfully provides a "Christian Doctor Search" link for evangelicals who prefer doctors who won't let inconvenient scientific evidence interfere with their treatment.

The Religious Right's promotion of its LGBTphobic McDonald's boycott with misinformation (disinformation?) and inaccurate stereotypes is complemented by its hypocritical coverage of another boycott.  At around the same time AFA's boycott of McDonald's was a dominant theme in the fundamentalist-evangelical media, a coalition of LGBT groups and allies launched a boycott of several hotels owned by San Diego businessman Doug Manchester. Manchester donated $125,000 to Protect Marriage, an organization working to enshrine marriage discrimination into the California Constitution. 

From OneNewsNow's July 15th article on the Manchester boycott:

Randy Thomasson of the Campaign for California Families says the activists are being "mean spirited." "They are trying to grind a person
into the dust, and they are really against free speech," he adds.

A boycott of a business that donated money to take rights away from LGB Californians is "mean spirited" and "against free speech", but AFA's attempt to force a fast-food chain to conform to its ideology is somehow admirable.  Double standards abound.

I for one hope that AFA's boycott of McDonald's ends up doing evangelicals a favor-- namely, helping them drop a few pounds.  (According to a 1998 study by Professor Ken Ferraro of Purdue University, 27% of Baptists meet the definition of obesity, as opposed to 17% of Catholics and only 1% of Buddhists and Jews.)

This is almost funny.

A man named Bradley LaShawn Fowler is suing Zondervan, an evangelical publishing house, for emotional distress.  Editions of the Bible published by Zondervan condemn homosexuality, and Fowler is gay. Fowler's family apparently uses Bible verses to condemn him. (I was unable to find sources indicating whether Fowler's family favors the New International Version, which is published by Zondervan.)

As the partner of a woman whose fundamentalist minister father has not spoken to her in four years, I sympathize with Mr. Fowler's suffering.  His decision to sue Zondervan, however, is stupid.

Perhaps Mr. Fowler missed the memo on the First Amendment: 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Freedom of the press means that Zondervan can publish anything it wants to, regardless of whether it causes anyone emotional distress.  This is an ill-thought-out, frivolous lawsuit.

An exception to freedom of the press is libel, which the Cornell University Law School defines as "False words, which damage another person's reputation or good character and are conveyed in a lasting manner, especially writing." 

So far, Fowler hasn't sued Zondervan for libel, but if he were to try to do so, he wouldn't have a case. According to the Media Law Resource Center, libel must meet the following conditions:

In order for the person about whom a statement is made to recover for libel, the false statement must be defamatory, meaning that it actually harms the reputation of the other person, as opposed to being merely insulting or offensive. 

The statement(s) alleged to be defamatory must also have been published to at least one other person (other than the subject of the statement) and must be "of and concerning" the plaintiff. That is, those hearing or reading the statement must identify it specifically with the plaintiff.

The statement(s) alleged to be defamatory must also be a false statement of fact. That which is name-calling, hyperbole, or, however characterized, cannot be proven true or false, cannot be the subject of a libel or slander claim.

[Public figures must also prove that the statements were made with malicious intent, but that does not apply to Fowler.]

The statements in the Bible do not meet the "of and concerning" criterion.  They refer to gay people as a class, not to Fowler in particular.  Further, they fall into the category of claims that "cannot be proven true or false".  Fowler takes issue with I Corinthians 6:9, which reads (in one translation) "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites."  Who (if anyone) will "inherit the kingdom of God" is a matter of opinion, and therefore unfalsifiable.

Fowler is representing himself, which is one indication that he isn't to be taken seriously.  Here are some others:

-There are several posts on his blog with the heading "Is Lucifer God?".
-He published a book entitled Reconciliation with the G.O.A.T. (God of All Truth).
-The "Author's Testimony" page on his website makes reference to aliens and wrestling with demons in his sleep (the context implies this isn't meant figuratively).  It also states: "...I thank God for every challenge he has bestowed upon me to become the vessel of light this world desperately needs."

On a personal note, Fowler is a resident of my hometown, Canton, Michigan. Canton is known for having an IKEA store and a large South Asian (Indian and Pakistani) community, and for hosting an annual youth soccer tournament.  Back in the 1990s it repeatedly elected a state Representative named Deborah Whyman, who was convicted of defaming the Triangle Foundation by claiming that they supported pedophilia.  (This was in a campaign brochure. Her Democratic opponent had accepted a check from the foundation, which is actually an LGBT civil rights advocacy group.)  The political climate hasn't changed much since. If not for term limits, she'd probably still be in office.

I would find the entire situation hilarious, if Fowler's ridiculous lawsuit wasn't playinginto the hands of the Religious Right.  They have taken notice of Fowler's suit and are using it in propaganda about the supposed aims of the LGBT community.

In a press release entitled "Man Sues Bible Publishers over Verses on Homosexuality", Focus on the Family's Bruce Hausknecht commented,  "As frivolous as this case may sound, it's an indicator of where the homosexual agenda is headed. Ten years from now, this type of case won't be humorous at all; we'll see organizations like the ACLU dedicating resources to them because such 'language' will no longer be considered protected speech. Sweden, Canada and the U.K. are already prosecuting religious speech as 'hate' speech, as it relates to the biblical view of homosexuality."

Unfortunately, Focus' readers are likely to take Hausknecht's statement at face value.  Most are probably unaware that the ACLU actually defended the First Amendment rights of notorious anti-gay preacher Fred Phelps in 2006.  While the Religious Right likes to paint the ACLU as an unwavering proponent of the so-called "liberal agenda", the fact is that they will defend anyone-- anyone-- whose First Amendment, equal protection, due process, or privacy rights are violated-- including far-right extremists.

WorldNetDaily's more in-depth article, "'Gay' Man Sues Bible Publishers", correctly treats the story more or less as a joke, but does make repeated reference to the fact that one of Mr. Fowler's blogs is on Barack Obama's website.  (Anyone can get a blog on Barack Obama's website.  All you have to do is fill out a form.) This is unsurprising. WorldNetDaily also recently published a story intended to cast doubt on the authenticity of Obama's birth certificate and has a featured link to a site devoted to perpetuating the myth that he is a Muslim

Almost funny.

The LGBT community, like any other group of people in the world, has its weirdos. We pretty much ignore them.  The Religious Right cites theirs as pseudo-experts on everything from LGBT parenting to global warming.

[Note to readers: As of my last post, all entries on trans-related subjects will be cross-posted to Transadvocate.com, a resource and voice for advocates of transgender rights. Some entries may be cross-posted in slightly altered form. If you haven't already checked out Transadvocate.com, I recommend it-- there are several talented contributors who discuss an array of issues pertaining to trans rights.]

Many readers are probably aware of the Congressional Hearing on Discrimination Against Transgender Americans in the Workplace, which took place on Thursday.  The hearings were held before the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions (part of the Committee on Education and Labor) of the United States House of Representatives. The subcommittee is currently composed of 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans. Five witnesses supporting protection from discrimination were called, along with two witnesses opposing such protections. You can view parts of the hearing online here.

Nearly every major Religious Right organization opposing LGBT rights has commented on the hearing.  Here's a look at what some of them have said.

On June 20th, the Associated Press released an article entitled "New transgender policy at New York juvenile jails". The article details New York State's decision to allow transgender youth in juvenile detention facilities to be treated as members of their identified gender.

The Family Research Council commented on the article later that day in a brief blurb entitled "NY Prison: Closet Supporters of Cross-Dressing" which appeared on their Washington Update. Predictably, they grossly misrepresented New York's policy, twisting the statements in the AP article.

According to the FRC, " As part of the 'anti-discrimination' policy, New York is dedicating taxpayer dollars to providing transgender kids with both a male and female wardrobe." 

This is a misrepresentation of the following paragraph in the original AP article: "All residents must wear a uniform, but the policy allows transgender youth to wear a uniform of the opposite sex, including underwear of their choice. Each facility must have underwear for both sexes. Borges said OCFS spent about $4,500 to stock its facilities."

While FRC implies that each of the 30 transgender youths will be supplied with complete wardrobes of both genders, the AP article makes it clear that each individual youth will have only one wardrobe.  AP continues, "...most clothing requests will be referred to the special committee to ensure their legitimacy...". Thus, while all juvenile jails will now stock both male and female undergarments, they are presumably not required to have a large number of undergarments on hand-- just enough that clothing requests approved by a committee can be granted.  As for the purported burden on New York taxpayers, according to the the United States Census Bureau, the estimated population of New York State in 2006 was 19,306,183. 76.6% of New York residents are over 18 years of age.  This means that each adult New Yorker paid less than one cent to clothe transgender teens.

FRC continues, "In addition to their clothes, officers are required to call these inmates by whatever name they choose..."  True, but officers are already required to call all teens in custody-- cisgender as well as transgender-- by whichever name they choose.  As AP states, "While all residents may ask to be called by a preferred first name rather than their legal one, the policy says males who believe they are female must be called 'she' and females who believe they are male must be referred to as 'he.' Staff must use the preferred name and pronoun in any documents they file." [my emphasis]

In other words, the new policy affects pronoun usage, not preferred names. And contrary to what the FRC would claim, being referred to by gender-appropriate pronouns is not a "special right". The majority of youth in custody, who are cisgender, already enjoy the right to be referred to by pronouns congruent with their gender identity-- because in their case, their gender identity conforms to their biological sex.  The new policy merely extends this right to a previously excluded group.

Most disturbingly, FRC completely ignores the reason that the new policy was implemented-- the increased risk of mistreatment faced by trans youth in juvenile facilities, perpetrated both by staff and by other inmates, is well-documented.  Here are some examples from "Justice for all?", a report published in 2001 by the Urban Justice Center.

"...a young transgendered girl sentenced to a juvenile facility on robbery charges was arbitrarily labeled a sex offender by staff, made to wear clothes designating sex offenders in the facility, and told to participate in sex offender therapy." (p. 11)

"Another transgendered girl was placed in isolation at every facility she attended, since staff believed that she would inappropriately touch other residents." (p. 12)

"One transgendered youth who spent three weeks in a DJJ facility was placed in the infirmary, despite the fact that she insisted consistently that she wanted to remain in the general population like everyone else.  The same youth has been living in the observation room at an OCFS facility for three months as of January 2001, whereas other residents spend at most one week in observation." (p. 33)

"...one transgendered youth described her experience, 'Most people [in here] are stupid. They treat me like I'm not human. They call me 'faggot' and tell me I have no life.' She continued to relate how, at the limited-secure OCFS facility where she is currently placed, she is regularly verbally abused and taunted by other residents."
(p. 36-37)

"One transgendered girl told of a situation in detention in which one boy hit her over the head while others pulled her hair. There were no staff people around, and so when she told a staff person of the incident, the staff person said there was nothing she could do."
(p. 37)

The purpose of New York's new nondiscrimination policy is to protect trans youth from harassment-- from being punished not only for their crimes (typically "survival crimes" such as theft and prostitution, committed by youths who run away from or are "thrown away" by abusive parents or foster homes), but for their sense of themselves as male or female. The rights to use their chosen names and appropriate pronouns, and to present as the gender with which they identify, will protect them from psychological distress. Being granted private sleeping quarters and showering facilities will protect their physical safety.

FRC apparently doesn't care that the new policy will keep vulnerable teenagers from being incorrectly treated as sex offenders or physically assaulted. According to them, "The only difference that these concessions are going to make is in the widespread encouragement of special rights for cross-dressing teens."  (The right not to be physically and psychologically tortured sure is special, isn't it?)

Their recommended solution? "...these disturbed young people need psychotherapy aimed at helping them to accept their biological sex." 

Actually, the AP article strongly implies that the trans teens are already receiving mental health care: "Under the policy, transgender youth may request placement based on gender identity. Those requests will be heard by a special committee composed of behavioral health and medical services experts as well as administrators." [my emphasis]  The therapy, however, will likely focus on reducing comorbid conditions including depression, not be "helping them to accept their biological sex".  Why? Because "reparative therapy" doesn't work. Transition does. [See Cabaj and Stein, 1996, p. 758-759:  ...Sexual reassignment including hormone therapy and surgery has been shown to be an effective treatment for a large number of these [gender dysphoric / transsexual] patients who otherwise would exist in constant emotional distress and socioeconomic despair...]

From FRC's misrepresentation of the new New York policy and their neglect to mention the harassment faced by trans youth, it is clear that they have no real interest in the teens' well-being. They see these vulnerable young people only as fodder to use to inflame their supporters against equal protection for LGBT citizens.

Update: Baehr's Source?

In my previous entry I critiqued Ted Baehr's article "'Gay' paradise never found", in which he cited Fergusson's 1999 study of a possible link between homosexuality and elevated risk of mental illness in young people, as well as a 2003 study by Theodorus Sandfort examining the quality of life of Dutch gays and lesbians compared to heterosexuals.  [The full text of the Sandfort study is not available online.] Both studies have flaws. Fergusson's sample population is very small; Sandfort defines "homosexual" as any person who has had sex with someone of the same gender in the past year, regardless of how they identify their orientation. (See my previous post for details.) Baehr's article ignores Fergusson's own admissions of his study's limitations and appears to misrepresent the findings of the Sandfort study.  I speculated that Baehr might not have read much further than the abstracts.

Now I think I have proof. 

The same figures from the same sources were cited, in very similar language, in a 2005 Agape Press article written by Ed Vitagliano, the editor of the American Family Association's AFA Journal.

Baehr: Furthermore, a study by D. M. Fergusson and other researchers, published in "Archives of General Psychiatry in 1999, found that 78.6 percent of homosexuals compared to only 38.2 percent of heterosexuals had two or more mental disorders. Also, 71.4 percent of homosexuals experience major depression ompared to 38.2 percent of heterosexuals. Sixty-seven percent of homosexuals reported suicidal ideation compared to 28 percent of heterosexuals. And, 32.1 percent of homosexuals actually reported a suicide attempt compared to 7.1 percent of heterosexuals.

Vitagliano: For example, a study by D.M. Fergusson and other researchers, published in Archives of General Psychiatry in 1999, found that "78.6% of homosexuals compared to 38.2% of heterosexuals had two or more mental disorders, ... 71.4% of homosexuals experienced major depression compared to 38.2% of heterosexuals. Sixty-seven percent of homosexuals reported suicidal ideation compared to 28% of heterosexuals. And 32.1% of homosexuals reported a suicide attempt compared to 7.1% of heterosexuals."

Baehr changed exactly two of Vitagliano's words. Now let's look at what the two men have to say about the findings of Theodorus Sandfort:

Contrary to the propaganda of most homosexual activists, a Dutch study by Theodorus G. M. Sandfort in the February 2003 issue of "Archives of Sexual Behavior" found that these mental health problems are not caused by the allegedly "homophobic" culture in which homosexuals often say they live. In fact, homosexual men in the Netherlands, arguably the most pro-homosexual nation in the Western world, reported to Sandfort that their general level of health and mental stability was less positive than heterosexuals, that emotional problems more often interfered with work or other daily activities, that physical health or emotional problems interfered with normal social activities, and that they felt less energetic.

Vitagliano:  While some activists insist that such evidence of mental health problems among homosexuals is caused by the homophobic culture in which they live, a study by Theodorus G. M. Sandfort and fellow researchers seemed to indicate that this might not be the reason. Published in the February 2003 issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior, Sandfort examined the "quality of life" of homosexual men in the Netherlands, arguably the most pro-homosexual nation in the Western world. The researchers said, "Compared to heterosexual men, homosexual men evaluated their general level of health and their mental health as less positive, reported that emotional problems more often interfered with work or other daily activities, that physical health or emotional problems interfered with normal social activities, and felt less energetic."

There are more differences in wording here, but note that Baehr still mentions exactly the same aspects of Sandfort's study that Vitagliano does-- no more, no less. You may also have noticed that several sentences of the paragraph from Vitagliano's article are in quotation marks.  This is because the subject of his article is actually a 2005 NARTH-sponsored publication entitled "Review of Research on Homosexual Parenting, Adoption, and Foster Parenting" written by George Rekers, and these sentences are a direct quote. (Rekers' discussion of Fergusson and Sandfort can be found on page 9.)

Baehr's information thus appears to be four steps away from the original research:
Fergusson/Sandfort > Rekers > Vitagliano > Baehr

If I am correct and Baehr never read the research he cited, he is guilty of intellectual laziness. It took me about three minutes to find the full text of the Fergusson article on the web, and four or five more to find abstracts and reviews of Sandfort's article (as well as to determine that I couldn't access the full text without paying a fee). Reading the Fergusson article took approximately 20 minutes. Furthermore, unlike me, Baehr gets paid to write his column, and presumably could have afforded the subscription fee to the online medical journal archives where he might have read Sandfort's research. At the very least, Baehr should have referenced Rekers, since that is probably the ultimate source of his information-- particularly since the last sentence of his paragraph on the Sandfort article parallels Rekers' phrasing so closely.

Then again, I doubt he read Rekers' work, either.

Part 2: Ted Baehr/ WorldNetDaily

Several days ago World Net Daily published an article entitled "Gay" paradise never found by conservative Christian movie critic Ted Baehr. While the article appeared as an installment of his "Movie Guide" column, it had nothing to with cinema.  Instead, it was a religiously-based condemnation of LGBT people. Here's a look at Mr. Baehr's article:

The article opens, "Every day the major newspapers have heartrending stories about attractive homosexual couples who waited years to be deemed married by the state that in reality can't sanctify anything as sacred." Mr. Baehr is correct that the State cannot "sanctify anything as sacred"-- but his statement indicates that he is misconstruing the purpose of civil marriage. Civil marriage legally recognizes a committed relationship, and accords the people involved certain legal rights, including the right to file income taxes jointly, breaks on inheritance taxes, the right not to be forced to testify against each other in court, the automatic assumption that they can visit each other in the hospital and make medical decisions for one another if one of them is incapacitated, etc. The definition of what is "sacred" is entirely left to religious institutions. My cousin and her husband chose to be married by a Justice of the Peace. Their ceremony made no reference to religion, and religious institutions might not recognize it as valid-- particularly the Catholic Church, since it was a second marriage for both parties. However, the State does recognize the validity of their marriage. The opinions of Mr. Baehr and his church, or any other church, have no legal bearing on the matter. They should also have no legal bearing on the marriages of same-gender couples. This is not a theocracy.

Mr. Baehr continues, "At the same time, deep within today's newspapers are tragic stories such as the recent report of women in the  Gay Pride Parade in Boston who had cut their own bodies to become more like men and the continuing Los Angeles Times story about the two lesbians in California who tortured their young son in unmentionable ways." I will not address Mr. Baehr's comment on top surgery for FtMs now, because I intend to publish another post on Massachusetts-based anti-LGBT organization MassResistance's sensationalist and inaccurate "coverage" of the Boston Pride Parade later this week.  As for Mr. Baehr's reference to Starkeisha Brown and Krystal Matthews' abuse of Brown's five-year-old son-- it is horrific. The LGBT community is in agreement with him on that. Child abuse by heterosexual parents, such as the recent high-profile case of Josef Fritzl, the Austrian father who locked his daughter in a basement for 24 years and repeatedly raped her, fathering seven children by her, is equally horrific. There is no evidence that child abuse is more common in LGBT-headed households.  In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, "A recent study of 256 lesbian and gay parent families found that, in contrast to patterns characterizing the majority of American parents, very few lesbian and gay parents reported any use of physical punishment (such as spanking) as a disciplinary technique; instead, they were likely to report use of positive techniques such as reasoning (Johnson & O'Connor, 2002)."  Mr. Baehr's attempt to use two women's abuse of a child to tarnish all LGBT parents is just as inaccurate, if not more so, as using Mr. Fritzl's abuse of his daughter to tarnish all heterosexual parents (or all Austrian parents) would be.

Reading a bit further in "'Gay' paradise never found", we find Baehr implying that most if not all LGBT people are mentally ill.  I quote: "...
a study by D. M. Fergusson and other researchers, published in "Archives of General Psychiatry in 1999, found that 78.6 percent of homosexuals compared to only 38.2 percent of heterosexuals had two or more mental disorders. Also, 71.4 percent of homosexuals experience major depression compared to 38.2 percent of heterosexuals. Sixty-seven percent of homosexuals reported suicidal ideation compared to 28 percent of heterosexuals. And, 32.1 percent of homosexuals actually reported a suicide attempt compared to 7.1 percent of heterosexuals." The study is real-- it was a conducted in New Zealand-- and you can read Fergusson's article here. The subjects were 1,007 people born in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1977. (The original "birth cohort" consisted of 1,265 people, but data on sexual orientation was available for only 1,007.) Roughly half of the subjects were male and half were female.  They were tracked from birth to age 21, and Fergusson's study was conducted when they were 21 years of age. Only 20 subjects of the 1,265 reported an LGB sexual orientation.  Of these, nine were men and eleven were women.

Here is how the subjects' mental health was assessed:

To examine the association between sexual orientation and psychopathology, a series of measures of the prevalence of psychiatric disorder observed over the period from age 14 to 21 years was constructed. The decision to assess long-term psychopathologic characteristics rather than current mental state was made on the grounds that stresses related to GLB sexual orientation were likely to have occurred throughout adolescence and into young adulthood and, accordingly, the effects of these stresses on adjustment would be more accurately reflected in the long-term prevalence of disorder rather than in measures of current disorder...

When cohort members were aged 15 and 16 years, subjects and their parents were interviewed using structured interview schedules that examined various aspects of the young person's mental health over the preceding year... Using this information, the parent and self-report symptom data were combined to classify subjects on the following DSM-III-R diagnoses: major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, conduct disorder, nicotine dependence, and alcohol and other illicit substance abuse and/or dependence.

At ages 18 and 21 years, subjects were again interviewed on a structured schedule that examined the young person's mental health over the period from ages 16 to 18 years and 18 to 21 years, respectively... For the purposes of the present analysis, the diagnostic information from these assessments was combined to construct measures of whether the subject had ever met criteria for major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, conduct disorder, nicotine dependence, other substance abuse and/or dependence, and multiple (>2) disorders during the period from age 14 to 21 years.

Baehr's representation of the results of the study was accurate, but he failed to note two important disclaimers by the researchers themselves, which appeared in the "Comment" section of the Fergusson article:

...A potential threat to the validity of this study clearly concerns the accuracy with which respondents reported their sexual orientation. In particular, it seems likely that not all subjects would have disclosed their sexual orientation accurately and that this would have been particularly likely for those facing psychological conflict in reconciling their sexuality with social, family, or personal expectations. While the effects of misascertainment of sexual orientation on the results of this study cannot be fully predicted, it seems reasonable to assume that any bias is likely to be in the direction of the underestimation of associations rather than their overestimation. This is because those who were most troubled about their sexual orientation would have also been most likely not to report that they were GLB. In future studies, we hope to examine this issue by reinterviewing the cohort at age 25 years to examine the stability of the reporting of sexual orientation over time and the extent to which associations between GLB sexual orientation and psychiatric risk vary with age...

While there is an emerging consensus from recent studies that young people who disclose homosexual behaviors or attraction are at increased risk of suicidal behaviors and mental health problems, the processes that lead to these associations remain unclear. Although such findings are frequently interpreted as suggesting the role of homophobic attitudes and social prejudice in provoking mental health problems in GLB youth, alternative explanations are possible. These include (1) the possibility that associations are artifactual as a result of measurement and other research design problems, (2) the possibility of "reverse causality" in which young people prone to psychiatric disorder are more prone to experience homosexual attraction or contact, and (3) the possibility that lifestyle choices made by GLB young people place them at greater risk of adverse life events and stresses that increase risks of mental health problems, independently of GLB sexual orientation. More generally, while recent research has established the presence of consistent and replicable associations between GLB sexual orientation and psychiatric risk, the extent to which these associations reflect the consequences of social discrimination or the extent to which these associations can be explained in other ways remains to be established...
[my emphases]

In other words, according to the researchers themselves:

1. The results of the study may have been skewed by underreporting of LGB orientation by the subjects-- in other words, the probability that many or even most of the LGB people surveyed were closeted could render the results inaccurate.

2. While there is a correlation between LGB orientation and an elevated risk of mental illness, the causation remains unclear. So unclear, in fact, that the researchers didn't feel comfortable taking any stand on the causation.

In addition to the potential problems reported by the researchers, I would like to add two others:

3. The subjects were only followed to age 21. It is possible that rates of mental illness between older LGB adults and their heterosexual counterparts do not show such large disparities, or that the risk of mental illness for LGB youths decreases in adulthood.  At 21 and under, most study participants would still have been living in their parents' homes. The stress of living with homophobic parents could have elevated the risk factor for depression and suicidal ideation.

4. The entire self-reported LGB sample consisted of only 20 people. Using such a small population to make broad assumptions about the health of LGB people seems a bit dubious.

Baehr glossed over all of this-- in fact, all of the information from the Fergusson article that he included appeared in the abstract, which suggests that he may not have bothered to read the article itself.

After his brief and somewhat misleading discussion of the Fergusson study, Baehr makes reference to a study by Theodorus G. M. Sandford: "Contrary to the propaganda of most homosexual activists, a Dutch study by Theodorus G. M. Sandfort in the February 2003 issue of "Archives of Sexual Behavior" found that these mental health problems are not caused by the allegedly "homophobic" culture in which homosexuals often say they live. In fact, homosexual men in the Netherlands, arguably the most pro-homosexual nation in the Western world, reported to Sandfort that their general level of health and mental stability was less positive than heterosexuals, that emotional problems more often interfered with work or other daily activities, that physical health or emotional problems interfered with normal social activities, and that they felt less energetic."

The Sandfort article in its entirety is not available for free online, so I don't feel comfortable characterizing his work in detail-- it is worth noting, however, that his research appears to be frequently cited by Far Right organizations, including the discredited NARTH. I was able to glean the following bits of information on the Sandfort study from two abstracts, one available at SpringerLink, the other from AccessMyLibrary.

The short abstracts suggest that Sandfort's conclusions may not have been as black and white as Baehr presented them:

This study assessed differences in quality of life (QL) between homosexual and heterosexual people and attempted to identify factors accounting for observed differences... Homosexual men, but not women, differed from their heterosexual counterparts on various dimensions of QL. Lesser QL in homosexual men was predominantly explained by self-esteem and mastery. Same-sex sexuality contributed independently to some of the observed differences. Although same-sex sexuality is related to QL in men, the lack of association in women suggests that the link is mediated by other factors, indicating the need to explore in what respect the situation of homosexual men and women differs. This study also suggests the importance of finding out how lower sense of self-esteem and of mastery come about in homosexual men... [emphases mine]

In other words, lesbians' quality of life didn't differ from those of heterosexual women, which suggests that the lower quality of life reported by gay men may not be due to their sexual orientation, but to other factors that affect gay men's self-esteem, but not that of lesbians.

Furthermore, one of the abstracts suggests that Sandfort and his colleagues' definition of which subjects were "homosexual" was seriously misleading and may have skewed their findings:

Respondents were asked whether they had had sexual contact in the preceding year and what the gender of their sexual partner(s) was. If one had had sex with someone of the same gender (exclusively or not), one was categorized as homosexual. Other sexually active people were categorized as heterosexual. Homosexually active participants and exclusively heterosexually active participants are subsequently referred to in this paper as homosexual and heterosexual persons, respectively. Sexual orientation itself was not assessed.

The participants were identified by sexual behavior, not sexual orientation.  Anyone who had slept with a person of the same sex, regardless of whether their romantic attractions were to men, women, or both, was classified as "homosexual" for the purposes of the study. A straight person who had a one-night, experimental, emotionally meaningless encounter with someone of the same sex was considered just as gay as someone in a fifteen-year committed same-sex relationship. Lumping bisexual and experimenting respondents with those who actually identify as gay or lesbian probably rendered the results of the Sandfort study inaccurate, and possibly even meaningless.

While he selectively quotes Fergusson and Sandfort, Baehr does not mention that many, if not most, researchers exploring mental illness in the LGBT population, believe that there is likely to be a link between the additional stresses our population faces and higher rates of depression, suicide, and substance abuse.

In "Rates and predictors of mental illness in gay men, lesbians, and bisexual men and women" (The British Journal of Psychiatry, 2004, 185: 479-480;) Warner, McKeown, Griffin, Johnson, Ramsay, Cort, and King state:

 ...Of the 1249 respondents to questions on experience of acts of hostility or discrimination, 1039 (83%) reported having experienced at least one of the following: damage to property, personal attacks or verbal insults in the past 5 years or insults or bullying at school (Table 3). Six hundred and ninety (66%) respondents who had experienced discrimination attributed this to their sexuality... We found high levels of perceived discrimination in the form of physical attacks, verbal abuse, property damage and bullying at school in our sample, and found a strong relationship between these variables and scoring above the threshold on the CIS–R and suicidal ideation. Although it is not possible to infer causality, because reverse causality, unidentified confounders and reporting bias may operate here, many respondents linked attacks with their sexuality... This suggests that schools, the police and health professionals should take harassment due to sexuality seriously... Our findings support the need for strategies that raise awareness of the vulnerability of gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals to psychological distress and self-harm...

  • Individuals defining themselves as bisexual appear to be a distinct group meriting further research.
  • Most respondents reported experience of discrimination, with a high proportion attributing it to their sexuality. These factors appear to be linked with higher rates of mental disorder.
  • Considered and attempted suicide is common in gay, lesbian and bisexual people. [all emphases mine]
The American Psychological Association states in their Guidelines for Psychotherapy with Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Clients that

Subsequent studies have shown no difference between heterosexual and homosexual groups on measures of cognitive abilities (Tuttle & Pillard, 1991) and psychological well-being and self-esteem (Coyle, 1993; Herek, 1990; Savin-Williams, 1990). Fox (1996) found no evidence of psychopathology in nonclinical studies of bisexual men and women. Further, an extensive body of literature has emerged that identifies few significant differences between heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual people on a wide range of variables associated with overall psychological functioning (Pillard, 1988; Rothblum, 1994; Gonsiorek, 1991). When studies have noted differences between homosexual and heterosexual subjects with regard to psychological functioning (DiPlacido, 1998; Ross, 1990; Rotheram-Borus, Hunter, & Rosario, 1994; Savin-Williams, 1994), these differences have been attributed to the effects of stress related to stigmatization based on sexual orientation. This stress may lead to increased risk for suicide attempts, substance abuse, and emotional distress...

Many lesbian, gay, and bisexual people face social stigmatization, violence, and discrimination (Herek, 1991). Living in a heterosexist society may precipitate a significant degree of stress for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, many of whom may be tolerated only when they are "closeted" (DiPlacido, 1998). Sexual minority status increases risk for stress related to "chronic daily hassles (e.g., hearing anti-gay jokes, always being on guard)" to more serious "negative life events, especially gay-relevant events (e.g., loss of employment, home, custody of children, anti-gay violence and discrimination due to sexual orientation)" (DiPlacido, 1998, p. 140)...

In addition to external stressors, Gonsiorek (1993) described the process by which many lesbian, gay, and bisexual people internalize negative societal attitudes. This internalization may result in self-image problems ranging from a lack of self-confidence to overt self-hatred (Gonsiorek, 1993), depression (Meyer, 1995; Shidlo, 1994), and/or alcoholism and other substance abuse (Glaus, 1988). Meyer and Dean (1998) showed that gay men scoring high on a measure of internalized homophobia were significantly more likely than less homophobic gay men to experience sexual dysfunction, relationship instability, and to blame themselves for anti-gay victimization. [all emphases mine]

To summarize, the stance of the APA is that any elevated risk of depression in LGB people is due to experiences of prejudice and discrimination, and that people who internalize the negative messages they receive from society are more likely to be mentally ill than the general LGB population. 

Contrary to Baehr's opinion, not all LGBT people are unhappy. While many of us experience depression at some time in our lives, this certainly does not mean that all, or even most, of us are depressed at any given time. We are not doomed to "stew in the juice of [our] own incapacity for happiness". We have the same capacity for happiness that anyone else does, and the fact that so many of us lead productive lives and  have fulfilling relationships despite persistent negative messages from people like Baehr we have received our entire lives is testament to that fact.

Why is Baehr convinced that all LGBT people are unhappy?  I do not doubt that it is because the LGBT people he knows personally struggle with depression, alienation, and self-hatred.  The LGBT people he knows, he likely knows through his church or through conservative Christian organizations and "ministries" he is affiliated with. They are isolated from other LGBT people and thus have probably never met a well-adjusted LGBT person themselves, and they are subjected to destructive messages like Baehr's continuously. They believe the Religious Right's message that they are sick and broken, and that unless they change their sexual orientation-- something that mainstream psychological and medical associations agree is not possible-- they will be miserable until they die, and then they'll go to hell. These are the people "scoring high on a measure of internalized homophobia" mentioned in the APA statement.

Like the studies he cited, Baehr's sample is skewed.
In light of the Supreme Court of California's monumental decision to support marriage equality for same-gender couples, it isn't surprising that the Religious Right has amped-up its rhetoric in favor of marriage discrimination.  In the next several posts I will examine and critique several articles defending marriage discrimination that have recently appeared on Religious Right websites.  In this first post, I will be examining the The Family Research Council's  article "Ten Facts about Counterfeit Marriage"

[Note: I am referring to "same-gender marriage" as opposed to "same-sex marriage" because I feel that the first term is more accurate.  In California and many other states, including some states with laws and/or constitutional amendments endorsing marriage discrimination, two people of the same chromosomal/anatomical birth sex can marry, provided that one of them had fully medically transitioned. Marriages between trans men and cis women (or trans women and cis men) are already legal. Marriages between two people with differing biological sexes, but of the same gender, are illegal-- as soon as my partner has an orchiectomy or GRS, we will not be allowed to marry in the State of Wisconsin.]

This article is essentially a re-hash of the same talking points that social conservatives always trot out when arguing that it's necessary to write marriage discrimination against non-heterosexual couples into the law. Here they are (some have been excerpted):

1.      Homosexual marriage degrades a time-honored institution  

Homosexual marriage is an empty pretense that lacks the fundamental sexual complementariness of male and female. And like all counterfeits, it cheapens and degrades the real thing... The eminent Harvard sociologist, Pitirim Sorokin, analyzed cultures spanning several thousand years on several continents, and found that virtually no society has ceased to regulate sexuality within marriage as traditionally defined, and survived.

The assertion that homosexual marriage is "counterfeit" rests on an extralegal definition of marriage--when it comes right down to it, fundamentalists have no interest in the law beyond ensuring that it conforms to their religious philosophy. They routinely refer to same-gender marriages in Massachusetts and Canada as "counterfeit", even though they are legally recognized in those jurisdictions, and usually also put the word "marriage" in quotation marks. Relying on an extralegal, purely religious definition of marriage essentially rejects the rule of law-- it's one more subtle hint that these people's ultimate aim is theocracy.

As for Pitirim Sorokin, he died in 1968 and his most widely read work was written between 1937 and 1941.  (I'm not a sociologist, so I can't comment much on how they're viewed today.) He has been recently cited by Focus on the Family, for-profit religious organization Crosswalk, and the Traditional Values Coalition. Everyone else seems to ignore him. It seems likely that the Religious Right is turning to Sorokin to support their arguments because they've gotten into trouble lately for misrepresenting the views of still-living anthropologists.  Since Sorokin has been dead for 40 years, he can't speak up if they twist his research.

2.      Homosexual marriage would radically redefine marriage to include virtually any sexual behavior.

Once marriage is no longer confined to a man and a woman, and the sole criterion becomes the presence of "love" and "mutual commitment," it is impossible to exclude virtually any "relationship" between two or more partners of either sex... The movement to redefine marriage has already found full expression in what is variously called "polyfidelity" or "polyamory," which seeks to replace traditional marriage with a bewildering array of sexual combinations among various groups of individuals.

In the first place, the movement for legal recognition of same-gender marriages is separate from the movement to legalize group marriages, and it is erroneous to imply that the two groups always agree with each other.  In the second place, as I understand it, polyamorous people are more likely to have multiple two-person (occasionally three-person) relationships, rather than one, say, eight-person relationship.  Many also have a higher level of commitment to a primary partner, and thus wouldn't be interested in marrying every person they have a relationship with.  [I'm not poly myself, and if any poly readers take issue with my characterization of polyamory, feel free to correct me.] In short, same-gender marriage does not equal group marriage.

3.      Homosexual marriage is not a civil rights issue

Defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman would not deny homosexuals the basic civil rights accorded other citizens. Nowhere in the Bill of Rights or in any legislation proceeding from it are homosexuals excluded from the rights enjoyed by all citizens--including the right to marry. However, no citizen has the unrestricted right to marry whomever they want. A person cannot marry a child, a close blood relative, two or more spouses, or the husband or wife of another person. Such restrictions are based upon the accumulated wisdom not only of Western civilization but also of societies and cultures around the world for millennia.

Yes, LG people currently have the right to legally recognized marriages-- but only to marriages of convenience, to people for whom they by definition do not and cannot feel romantic love. I would suspect that fundamentalists would argue that loveless marriages of convenience among heterosexuals make a mockery of marriage, and yet these loveless unions are considered entirely appropriate for homosexuals. Restrictions on adults marrying children rest on the issue of informed consent-- a child cannot consent to marriage or to sexual activity. The consent argument also precludes bestiality.  Restrictions on incestuous marriages are in place because of their high risk of perpetuating genetic diseases, and because of the likelihood that one party has been manipulated by the other into the relationship (particularly in the case of parent-child incest). Neither the informed consent argument, the genetic risk argument, nor the manipulation argument can be reasonably applied to same-gender unions between consenting, unrelated adults.

Restrictions on marrying more than one person are actually a fairly recent cultural phenomenon (in the grand scheme of things), not something endorsed by "societies and cultures around the world for millenia".  Most societies worldwide have actually been polygamous-- specifically, polygynous (one husband with multiple wives). An Ethnographic Atlas Codebook study of 1,231 societies found that 588 had "frequent polygyny", 453 had "occasional polygyny", 4 practiced polyandry (one wife having multiple husbands), and only 186 were monogamous.

4.      Upholding traditional marriage is not "discrimination"

Discrimination occurs when someone is unjustly denied some benefit or opportunity. But it must first be demonstrated that such persons deserve to be treated equally regarding the point in question. For example, FAA and airline regulations rightly discriminate regarding who is allowed into the cockpit of an airplane... Homosexual activists conveniently avoid the question of whether homosexual relationships merit being granted equality with marriage. Although not strictly comparable, radically altering the definition of marriage can also pose dangers to society in much the same way as permitting unqualified individuals to fly airplanes.

In their last point, FRC seemed to argue that LG people were already being treated equally under the law; in this point, they argue that equal treatment isn't always "just", and thus is not warranted in the case of same-gender marriage-- they're contradicting themselves. They admit that their own example-- unlicensed pilots flying airplanes-- is "not strictly comparable", but use it anyway, presumably because they can't come up with a better one. The pilot analogy is false because first because flying an airplane is a skill that requires hundreds of hours to learn, and secondly because allowing unlicensed pilots to fly would result in thousands of deaths every year.  Getting married does not require technical expertise and permitting same-gender couples equality in marriage will not kill anyone, and the FRC knows that, whether they like to admit it or not.

The FRC fails to cite any "strictly comparable" situations in which unequal treatment is just. They also duck the fact that the Supreme Court of California decided that same-gender couples do "deserve to be treated equally regarding the point in question".

The statement that supporters of marriage equality for same-gender couples "avoid the question of whether homosexual relationships merit being granted equality with marriage" is not supportable. In fact, the entire movement is built around that question, and upon demonstrating that same-gender partnerships can be just as stable and loving as heterosexual partnerships, and that legally recognizing them is ultimately good for society.

5.      Any comparison with interracial marriage is phony

Laws against interracial marriage sought to add a requirement to marriage that is not intrinsic to the institution of marriage. Allowing a black man to marry a white woman, or vice versa, does not change the fundamental definition of marriage, which requires a man and a woman. Homosexual marriage, on the other hand, is the radical attempt to discard this most basic requirement for marriage. Those who claim that some churches held interracial marriage to be morally wrong fail to point out that such "moral objection" to interracial marriage stemmed from cultural factors rather than historic and widely-accepted biblical teaching.

Whether or not the FRC will admit it, different societies have different "fundamental definitions of marriage", including the expected duration of the union (anywhere from a single day to a lifetime); which parties, if any, have the right to dissolve that union (among Orthodox Jews, a wife cannot seek a divorce without her husband's consent); the purpose of the union (economic, political, and/or romantic); the number of spouses any person is permitted to have (see my critique of point 3, above); and, yes, the biological sex and/or gender of the partners (a Cherokee friend of mine tells me that in traditional Cherokee society, two men could marry as long as one was willing to assume the economic function of a woman). Thus, current legal prohibition of same-gender marriage is also due to cultural factors, not to some inherent cross-cultural norm.

19th-century Americans (and some 20th-century Americans) believed that interracial marriage violated the "fundamental definition of marriage", often using Biblical passages to support their belief. It was, at that time, a "widely-accepted biblical teaching". Furthermore, in this country, "biblical teaching" is not a valid legal argument, because the United States is not a theocracy.

6.      Homosexual marriage would subject children to unstable home environments

Many homosexuals and their sex partners may sincerely believe they can be good parents. But children are not guinea pigs for grand social experiments in redefining marriage, and should not be placed in settings that are unsuitable for raising children. 

·        Transient relationships: While a high percentage of married couples remain married for up to 20 years or longer, with many remaining wedded for life, the vast majority of homosexual relationships are short-lived and transitory. This has nothing to do with alleged "societal oppression." A study in the Netherlands , a gay-tolerant nation that has legalized homosexual marriage, found the average duration of a homosexual relationship to be one and a half years.

·        Serial promiscuity: Studies indicate that while three-quarters or more of married couples remain faithful to each other, homosexual couples typically engage in a shocking degree of promiscuity. The same Dutch study found that "committed" homosexual couples have an average of eight sexual partners (outside of the relationship) per year.   Children should not be placed in unstable households with revolving bedroom doors.

Referring to someone's committed, long-time romantic partner as their "sex partner" is odious. Homosexual relationships are not about sex any more than heterosexual relationships are; they are about emotional intimacy.  Yes, we do love each other, every bit as deeply as you do. We support each other emotionally and financially, comfort each other in times of loss, share homes, build lives together, share our innermost thoughts with each other. Our long-term relationships usually include sex-- but so do yours. FRC director Tony Perkins would be horrified if someone referred to his wife as his "sex partner", though she probably is.  (Assuming the Perkinses have a healthy sex life, which I hope they do.)

Legitimate medical and psychological organizations in North America and elsewhere support LGBT parenting and deny that there is anything inherently "unsuitable" about same-gender-headed households.  As the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry stated in 1999,

"There is no evidence to suggest or support that parents with a gay, lesbian, or bisexual orientation are per se different from or deficient in parenting skills, child-centered concerns and parent-child attachments, when compared to parents with a heterosexual orientation. It has long been established that a homosexual orientation is not related to psychopathology, and there is no basis on which to assume that a parental homosexual orientation will increase likelihood of or induce a homosexual orientation in the child. Outcome studies of children raised by parents with a homosexual or bisexual orientation, when compared to heterosexual parents, show no greater degree of instability in the parental relationship or developmental dysfunction in children."

FRC and like-minded organizations ignore these statements and the research supporting them solely because it contradicts their religious beliefs.

The article's assertion that most same-gender relationships are "transient" and "the average duration of a homosexual relationship to be one and a half years" is based on the so-called "Dutch study", one of the most oft-distorted pieces of research on LGBT people. FRC neglects to mention that the purpose of the study was not to track the fidelity of same-gender couples, but rather to study the spread of HIV. According to Box Turtle Bulletin's excellent explanation of the Dutch study,

These studies began in 1984, and had several different protocols in their lifetime:

  • Oct 1984-1985: Gay men aged 18-65 with at least two sexual partners in the previous six months. In other words, monogamous partners were explicitly excluded.
  • April 1985-Feb 1988: Study enrollment was continued, except HIV-negative men were now excluded. Only HIV-positive men were added.
  • Feb 1988 – Dec 1988: The study was re-opened to HIV-negative men.
  • Various additional enrollments continued from through 1998. Especially notable was a special recruitment campaign for men under the age of thirty beginning in 1995. After 1996, all men above the age of thirty were dropped from the study. Their data was excluded from subsequent analyses.
  • Nobody outside of Amsterdam was accepted into the study except for AIDS patients who attended clinics in Amsterdam for treatment. This makes the study almost exclusively an urban one.
So, what do we have? We have a study population that was heavily weighted with HIV/AIDS patients, excluded monogamous participants, was predominantly urban, and under the age of thirty. While this population was good for the purposes of the study, it was in no way representative of Amsterdam’s gay men, let alone gay men anywhere else.

It is unsurprising that study excluding monogamous participants, and skewed toward AIDS patients, would show that participants tended to have short-lived relationships and multiple sex partners. This doesn't mean that a broad-based study would have the same results. Furthermore, the study tracked all relationships the men had, not just committed relationships.  When the study took place, homosexual couples could not yet marry in the Netherlands, so there was no subset of married participants to track separately. Even apart from the other problems it poses, using this study to make a statement about the presumed longevity of same-gender marriages is akin to predicting the heterosexual divorce rate by including dating couples, not just married ones. Also, as Box Turtle Bulletin points out,

By keeping the age of the sample population to those thirty and under, this artificially limits the length of time any of them could have been in a “steady relationship”. You’re certainly not going to find any twenty-nine-year-olds in thirty-year relationships, or even fifteen-year ones.

In other words, this study demonstrates nothing about the environments in which same-gender couples who have made a lifelong commitment to one another raise their children.

7.      Homosexual activists have a political agenda: to radically redefine the institution of marriage

Homosexual activists admit that their goal is not simply to make the definition of marriage more "inclusive," but to remake it in their own hedonistic image. Paula Ettelbrick, former legal director of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, states, "Being queer means pushing the parameters of sex, sexuality, and family, and ... transforming the very fabric of society." Homosexual writer and activist Michelangelo Signorile rejects monogamy in favor of "a relationship in which the partners have sex on the outside often ... and discuss their outside sex with each other, or share sex partners."

FRC is hardly in a position to condemn anyone for "hav[ing] a political agenda".

Unfortunately, Ettelbrick and Signorile's remarks were taken out of context, so I can't easily fact-check to see whether or not the article is misrepresenting their views.  Even if it is not, FRC should not assume that their views reflect those of the majority of LGBT Americans. Many of us are monogamous. According to a recent study of gay and lesbian youth by the Rockway Institute,

Researchers found that "more than 90 percent of females and more than 80 percent of males expect to be partnered in a monogamous relationship after age 30." About 67 percent of males and 55 percent of females expressed the desire to raise children. In terms of adoption, 42 percent of males and 32 percent of females said they were likely to adopt children.

8.      If victorious, the homosexual agenda will lead to the persecution of those who object on moral or religious grounds

If homosexual marriage becomes the law of the land, then children in public schools will be taught that homosexuality is a normative lifestyle, and that gay households are just another "variant" style of family.  Those who object may find themselves on the wrong side of the law.  Unbelievable?  This Orwellian situation has occurred in Massachusetts , which legalized homosexual marriage in 2004.  In April 2005, David Parker, the parent of a six-year-old boy, protested to the Lexington elementary school after his son was taught about homosexual "families" in his kindergarten class.  At a scheduled meeting at the school, when Parker refused to back down from his request that the school honor the Massachusetts parental notification statute, he was arrested for "trespassing," handcuffed, and put in jail overnight... In 2007, Parker's lawsuit against the Lexington school officials was dismissed by a federal judge who refused to uphold his civil rights and to enforce the Massachusetts parental notification statute.  Parker's shocking story will become commonplace in a society that forces the acceptance of homosexual marriage as normative.

The instruction young Jacob Parker supposedly received about same-gender parents was actually merely mentioning that they existed, and it didn't even take place within the school itself.  According to Box Turtle Bulletin,

In January 2005, Jacob Parker brought home a diversity book bag from his kindergarten. Included in the bag was books about other cultures and traditions, food recipes, and a book called Who’s in a Family. The illustrations included various family constructions: single parents, mom-dad-kids, grandparents, mixed-race families, and same-sex parents.

Same-gender-headed families were mentioned, but they weren't the main focus of the book bag.  Further, since it was intended to be read at home, Mr. Parker had the option of ignoring the offending passage in the book. Parker's demands didn't end with Who's in a Family, however:

David Parker... decided that young Jacob was entitled to ignorance of the existence of same-sex headed families. He set out to change school policy so that his child not be exposed to that fact. He extended his demands to include any discussion of same-sex parenting, regardless of the context or setting - including any conversations of children of gay or lesbian parents.

In short, he argued that the school should stifle the speech of other children, especially children of gay and lesbian parents, so that his son could remain unaware that LGBT people exist. Now who's persecuting whom? On another note, Parker wasn't arrested because of his religious beliefs, but because he refused to leave school property when asked. He was trespassing.

Parker would have a legitimate argument for religious persecution if his son had been excluded from school activities or reprimanded by a teacher because of his family's beliefs, or if he had actually been arrested for expressing his beliefs to school officials (as opposed to trespassing on school property) but that isn't what happened. Exposure to opinions you disagree with does not equal persecution. Most if not all children-- including children of LGBT parents-- will be exposed to ideas that their parents disagree with at school. That's life. No religious group is allowed to dictate or censor the curriculum of a public school to reflect its own ideology.

9.      Polls consistently show that the majority of Americans reject same-sex marriage

Public opinion remains firmly opposed to the redefinition of marriage. A May 2008 Gallup Poll asked the question: "Do you think marriages between same-sex couples should or should not be recognized by the law as valid?" Respondents opposed homosexual marriage by a margin of 56 percent (opposed) to 40 percent (agreeing). Respondents to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll in October 2007 rejected same-sex marriage by the same margins.

Fortunately for all of us, the United States is not governed by polls.  Just because the majority agrees with a practice (such as barring same-gender couples from marrying) doesn't mean it is just, or Constitutional. 90 years ago the majority of Americans were opposed to female suffrage. That doesn't mean that denying women the right to vote didn't violate our human rights.

10.    Support for traditional marriage translates into ballot initiatives and laws around the country

Because of strong public support for traditional marriage, same-sex marriage advocates have attempted to circumvent public opinion by redefining marriage through the courts.   Despite some victories, such as in Massachusetts and California where the courts have mandated same-sex marriage, there is a strong national movement to protect traditional marriage. A total of 45 states have instituted protections for traditional marriage either through state constitutional amendments or through laws...

Seeing as the Religious Right is responsible for these ballot initiatives to begin with, it seems odd that they are apparently criticizing the fact that they exist.

For all the Religious Right's rants about "judicial tyranny", the Supreme Court of California is a democratic (small-d) institution. Justices are indeed appointed, but they are subject to periodic retention votes-- the first one during the first general election after their appointment, and every 12 years thereafter. California voters could have eliminated the justices on their Supreme Court-- but they didn't.



And... we're back!

After nearly five months of absence, I finally have time to return to political blogging.  My "break" was longer than I had anticipated by about a month, due to various factors including a family wedding, an illness, and simply the need for a vacation from all things stressful after three weeks of cramming for my MA exam all my waking hours.  (I passed with flying colors, incidentally.)

In addition to posting here, I have been invited to cross-post on trans-related topics at Transadvocate. (Sorry I didn't take advantage of the offer sooner-- I hope it still stands!)

Look for an update later today on Right Wing responses to California's decision to honor same-gender couples right to marry, another post later this week, and hopefully regular updates after that.

Thank you for continuing to check back at SomethingToBe!

LJ on hold til May... sorry...

As some of you know, I am a full-time graduate student.  This is the long and short of why I haven't posted in quite some time, and why the dearth of posts is likely to continue until the second week of May, when I take my Master's Exam.

In addition to studying for the exam,  I'm taking three seminars (each of which requires a major paper) and teaching a course as the sole instructor.  My partner and I recently moved into a new apartment, and she is also going through a difficult time with her extended family.  I also need to apply for jobs, but haven't had time because of all the other stress in my life!

For the time being, activism will have to go on the back burner.  I'm still monitoring the Right Wing; I just don't have time to post about it.  Hopefully that will change fairly soon. I want to resume blogging as soon as possible.

In the meantime, if you want to keep your own eye on the Religious Right, here are some sites that should be watched:

-Citizenlink:  The political mouthpiece of Focus on the Family.  Notorious for brief press releases with no references, which can be somewhat difficult to fact-check.

-OneNewsNow:  Conservative Christian news site based in Mississippi.  They report some unbiased news (mainly taken from the Associated Press) but also publish some very biased, sensationalized articles on LGBT and other social issues. 

-WorldNetDaily:  Another Right Wing news site, probably the most prone to sensationalized headlines.  Takes a hardline Neocon stance on everything from human impact on the environment (which they once argued in an editorial was a blasphemous idea because it contradicted the promise God made not to destroy the world via the weather after Noah's flood-- obviously, they're Biblical "literalists") and features commentators with no qualifications other than sublebrity status (Chuck Norris, Pat Boone, etc.).

-Americans for Truth about Homosexuality:  A one-man "organization" run by vicious homophobe/transphobe Peter LaBarbera, occasionally featuring articles written by other Religious Right extremists he considers his friends.  Frequently compares LGBT people to child molesters, alcoholics, and adulterers, then argues that he's doing so out of "Christian love".

-Concerned Women for America: Conservative policy echo group devoted to imposing evangelical-fundamentalist ideals on the rest of the country.  Articles perpetuate the worst stereotypes about trans women and paint them as predatory monsters just waiting to rape young girls in the bathroom.  The most notorious articles are, oddly, written by a man-- J. Matt Barber.

-Ladies Against Feminism:  A site run by Christian Reconstructionist women who don't believe that women should have the legal right to vote or run for elected office.  They rarely if ever publish anything about LGBT issues, but the site is useful for probing the minds of Americans farthest to the Right-- people that even LaBarbera and Barber would probably consider extremists.

In the event that I have time, I may publish occasional short articles between now and May.  If not, see you in a month and a half!

A Child Is Dead

Reprinted in full from an article published in The Star, a newspaper in South Yorkshire, UK:

"Gender torment of 10-year-old Cameron"

A BOY of 10 has been found hanged at his South Yorkshire home after telling his mum he wanted to be a girl.

Tragic Cameron McWilliams had already asked for permission to wear make-up, and been teased after he was found wearing his half-sister's knickers.

His desperate mum Kelly McWilliams told a Doncaster inquest she had bought him girls' underwear to wear in private, but had refused his requests to be allowed to wear make-up.

She said: "It was apparent he was unhappy and said he wanted to be a girl. He did like girls' things."

Mrs McWilliams told a Doncaster inquest Cameron was older than his years and had expressed an interest in transvestism.

He had been teased after once being found in his half-sister's knickers, and had asked if he could wear make-up. His mum told him he would have to wait until he was older.

Mrs McWilliams found her son hanging, with a black leather belt around his neck, in his half-sister's bedroom at the family home in Montrose Avenue, Intake, Doncaster.

"When I got in the room he was not asleep, he was standing by the window with a dressing gown on," she said.

"His head was down and I realised something really serious had happened and I screamed."

The court heard Cameron was a lonely boy with no friends outside school. He spent all his time at home listening to music, playing on his XBox and using a laptop computer.

His mother revealed Cameron had been very interested in recent reports of a spate of teenage hangings in Bridgend, South Wales.

"He was not himself but he made no mention whatsoever that he would harm himself," she said. "On that day he was happy as Larry."

She said her son was in the habit of writing her notes if he wanted to discuss something, and added: "He would have asked me questions about hanging but he never did."

Doncaster coroner Stanley Hooper told the court: "I do not know what was in the mind of this little boy. All I know is he was an unhappy little boy and that he wore his sister's underclothing, and that would be a cause of worry to his mother and stepfather."

Referring to Victoria Beckham's famous claim that her husband David wore her knickers, he added: "If there is anything I can say to avoid similar fatalities in the future, I observe it is well-known that there is a very rich and successful footballer married to a pop singer who is known to have worn his wife's underwear."

Attempts by police to revive Cameron when he was found in the early hours last Monday were not successful, and his body was taken to Sheffield Children's Hospital for a post mortem examination. Inquiries into his death are continuing.

The inquest was adjourned to a later date.

A ten-year-old child is dead.  The child, born male-bodied, expressed the desire to be treated as a girl.  Inside-- mentally, emotionally, neurologically-- she most likely already was a girl.

A child is dead because the culture she was born into believes there is nothing more shameful for a male-bodied person than to feel female-- to want to wear make-up and a dress, to want to be a girl.  A child is dead because most of the population misunderstands her condition-- gender identity disorder in children.  Because the adults in her life either weren't aware of GID or didn't seek out information on it, she never received the treatment that would have allowed her to reach adulthood and lead a happy and productive life. 

A ten-year-old girl retreated into a private world of video games and computers, perhaps because the fewer people she interacted with, the less she had to deal with being perceived as a boy.  She was not alone in this strategy.  It's a story I've heard again and again from transgender women, including my own partner-- as children and adolescents, they cocooned themselves to avoid the pain of being defined by their bodies and not their minds and hearts.

A ten-year-old child hanged herself with a belt because she was told, explicitly and implicitly, that there was something inherently wrong with her feelings of being female and that expressing these feelings was wrong.  She was not alone her desire to end her life.  Retrospective studies indicate that more than 50% of transgender youth attempt suicide at some point

A little girl is dead.  Her name was Cameron McWilliams, and she lived in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, UK.  She was born trans.

Shortly before Cameron died, media on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean focused on an eight-year-old trans child in Colorado who was given an opportunity that Cameron was not-- to transition at school and express herself as a girl while in the company of other children.  In the name of morality, the American Religious Right condemned the Colorado child's school and her parents for pursuing appropriate medical and psychiatric treatment for their transgender daughter.  To further their agenda, these people propagated the same ignorance of GID that lead to little Cameron McWilliams' deathIn the name of religion, certain conservative Christians acted in ways that will lead to the sacrifice of more children's lives-- ignoring the verse in their own holy book that forbids the sacrifice of children to idols-- "you shall not let your children pass through the fire to Moloch" (Leviticus 18:21).

If she had not been allowed to transition, it is likely that within 10 years, the little trans girl in Colorado might have also attempted to take her life.

Without public education on GID in children, more children will commit suicide.

A little girl is dead.



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