Friday, January 18, 2013

Hate group leader Tony Perkins lies about gay depression and suicide research

One of the most tedious things about organizations like the Family Research Council is how they will either distort legitimate research or question the outcomes of said research if doesn't back up their negative claims about homosexuality.  But in this case, Tony Perkins, president of FRC does one worse. He pretends that such research  which contradicts his claims about homosexuality doesn't exist:




Perkins claims that there is no link between homophobia and negative behaviors in gays, such as depression and suicide. As far as I know, Perkins has never done any research on the issue. However, Massachusetts pediatrician Robert Garafalo conducted a study which found the link. And his name should be of interest of Perkins.

 In 1998, he complained that FRC and several other religious right groups were distorting his report on sexual orientation and at-risk behavior among gay youth. The groups used Dr. Garafalo’s study in a full page ad as proof that homosexuals are substance abusers and all-around violent people. Garafalo contended that his research was saying that when gay teenagers abuse drugs or contemplate suicide, it is because of the homophobic society they face. Regarding the distortion of his work, Garafalo said the following :

 “It’s a complete misrepresentation of my work. It was taken completely out of context. It comes to a complete opposite conclusion of what the paper actually said.” - Boston doctor says ads distorted his work on gays, The Boston Globe , Aug. 4, 1998

Furthermore, several other studies AND medical groups have also confirmed the link between homophobia and depression and suicide amongst gays including:

A 2011 study from Concordia University:
New research from Concordia University suggests that the stress of being rejected or victimized because of sexual orientation may disrupt hormonal responses in lesbians, gays and bisexuals. Recently published as a doctoral thesis in clinical psychology, this investigation examined environmental risks and protective factors that counterbalanced them in LGB youth. "Compared to their heterosexual peers, suicide rates are up to 14 times higher among lesbian, gay and bisexual high school and college students," says Michael Benibgui, who led this investigation as part of his PhD thesis at Concordia's Department of Psychology and Centre for Research in Human Development.

A 2009 study listed on  the American Psychological Association's online site:
Many studies find a higher rate of health and mental health problems among lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teens than in heterosexual youth, often fingering social rejection as the culprit. A new study of lesbians, gays and bisexuals, however, suggests another major possible cause: parental rejection. The research, published in the January Pediatrics (Vol. 123, No. 1), found that LGB adults who reported high rates of parental rejection in their teens were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to have had unprotected sex than LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection, reports the study team, headed by Caitlin Ryan, PhD, of San Francisco State University.

The Centers for Disease Control:
 Homosexuality  is not a mental disorder, but homophobia, stigma, and discrimination have negative effects on the health of MSM, lesbians, and other sexual minorities. The negative effects of social marginalization can be found in adolescent and adult MSM, for example, research has shown that MSM and other members of the LGBT community are at increased risk for a number of mental health problems.

Perkins vaguely cites a study of gays in the Netherlands to back up his claim that suicide and depression are indicative of the lgbt sexual orientation because according to him, the Netherlands is more accepting of gays, but they still engage in negative behaviors there.

By listening to Perkins, one would not know what study he was talking about and who conducted it.

But as it happens, I think I know the study and its author because I talked to him a couple of years. The study was  Same-Sex Sexual Behavior and Psychiatric Disorders. It appeared in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 2001 and looked at psychiatric disorders in gay adults from the Netherlands.

If so, this is the part Perkins was alluding to:

It is unclear to what extent findings from this Dutch study can be generalized to other cultures or nations. Compared with other Western countries, the Dutch social climate toward homosexuality has long been and remains considerably more tolerant. To the extent that the level of social acceptance of homosexuality induces differences in mental health status in relation to homosexuality, the observed differences might be greater in other Western countries than in the Netherlands.

In 2009, I contacted the author of the study, Professor Theo Sandfort. At the time, I was writing a post about how another religious right spokesperson (Regina Griggs of PFOX) was distorting his work. Via email, Sandfort said the following:

There is a difference between the U.S. and the Netherlands in terms of acceptance of homosexuality. That does not mean that there is no homophobia (and homophobic damage) in the Netherlands. It is not clear how difference in climate affects the prevalence of mental disorders. We don't know the final answers, but in the U.S. as well as the Netherlands, homophobia is related to mental health problems.

In his radio address, Perkins  was distorting and misleading to attack the famous "It Gets Better" program, which works to keep gay youth from committing suicide.  Perkins calls the "It Gets Better" program a "deceptive lie."

No, Mr. Perkins.

Pretending that research which contradicts your point of view doesn't exist is a deceptive lie.

Hat tip to Jeremy Hooper.


1 comment :

Tor said...

I often wonder if they actually talk to real gay people when they do this "research."