Monday, December 15, 2014

Anti-gay billboard the latest in a long line of scientific lies by the religious right

PFOX's inaccurate billboard highlights the organization's willingness to lie.

Last week, the anti-gay group PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays) suffered a huge embarrassment because of a billboard it put up on a Virginia interstate:

 The billboard appeared recently beside I-95 in Richmond, Virginia, according to NBC affiliate WWBT. The sign depicts two males, one dressed in a suit and the other in a white T-shirt, and says: "Identical twins: One gay. One not. We believe twin research studies show nobody is born gay."

As it turned out, the two males featured in the billboard sign was only one man, Kyle Roux, who happens to be openly gay.  This slip provided a delicious degree of schadenfreude
for the lgbt community.

However, in the midst of the laughter and derision, the lgbt community seem to be missing the larger picture which can be potentially beneficial to the community.

The way PFOX cited twin studies is inaccurate, according to lgbt activist and Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen:

“PFOX’s billboard underscores the groups scientific illiteracy and shows that ‘ex-gay’ activism is about demagoguery and marketing, rather that truth and results,” said Besen. “In reality, twin studies prove that there is a genetic link to sexual orientation. It is stunning that PFOX would pay for a billboard to showcase its ignorance and incompetence.”

A Truth Wins Out press release accused PFOX and other anti-gay groups of continuously distorting science:

 . . . anti-gay activists consistently distort research. They point to twin studies and say, “if homosexuality was truly genetic, the concordance rate for identical twins would be 100-percent.” Scientists say that this is a gross misunderstanding of the research. According to Dr. Eric Vilain, Professor of Human Genetics, Pediatrics and Urology at UCLA, and the Director of the Institute for Society and Genetics:
“All sorts of traits that are clearly genetic do not show 100% concordance [in twins]. I’ll give you examples, if people look at obesity. Or autism, looking at twins. There is undeniably, no one will even challenge that there is a genetic cause for both obesity and autism.
The twin studies do not show that it is 100% genetic. They just demonstrate that there is a genetic influence. There could be other influences on sexual orientation. Some of them might be environmental. For instance, the older brother effect [studies showing the more older brothers a boy has, the more likely he is to be gay] is an environmental influence. That’s what has happened in the past, in the same womb seems to influence the sexual orientation of future pregnancies. So, it is certainly not an all or nothing phenomenon.”

Truth Wins Out's  press release also quoted  Dr. Marc Breedlove, Michigan State University, Rosenberg Professor of Neuroscience and Dr. Simon LeVay, author of Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation. They both went into detail about what was omitted by the simplicity of PFOX's billboard.

PFOX's  billboard is the latest in a long history of scientific inaccuracies and distortions undertaken by various anti-gay groups to bolster their negative claims against the lgbt community.

And at various times, authors of research distorted by anti-gay groups have been vocal in calling out  how their work was being misused.

In 2012, Rick Fitzgibbons of  the NARTH (the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) wrote a piece about same-sex adoption. In the piece, Fitzgibbons cited the work of Seton Hall professor Dr. Theodora Sirota to make the case that children in same sex households are not raised better than children "in stable homes with a mother and a father."

Dr. Sirota detailed in a letter how her work was distorted.

Other complaints include:

National Institute of Health director Francis Collins, who rebuked the right-wing American College of Pediatricians for falsely claiming that he stated sexual orientation is not hardwired by DNA.

Six researchers of a 1997 Canadian study (Robert S. Hogg, Stefan A. Strathdee, Kevin J.P. Craib, Michael V. Shaughnessy, Julio Montaner, and Martin T. Schehter), who complained in 2001 that religious right groups were distorting their work to claim that gay men have a short life span.

The authors of the book Unequal Opportunity: Health Disparities Affecting Gay and Bisexual Men in the United States (Professors Richard J. Wolitski, Ron Stall, and Ronald O. Valdiserri), who complained that their work was being distorted by Focus on the Family.

University College London professor Michael King, who complained that the American Family Association was distorting his work on depression and suicide in LGBT individuals

University of Utah professor Lisa Diamond, who complained that NARTH distorted her research on sexual orientation.

Dr. Carol Gilligan, Professor of Education and Law at New York University, who complained that former Focus on the Family head James Dobson misrepresented her research to attack LGBT families.

Dr. Kyle Pruett, Ph.D., a professor of child psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, who has also complained that Focus on the Family distorted his work.

Dr. Robert Spitzer, Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University, who has consistently complained that religious right groups distorted his study to claim that the LGBT orientation is easily changeable.

 Judith Stacey, Professor of Sociology at New York University, who has had to, on more than one occasion, cry foul over how religious right groups distorted her work on LGBT families.

Greg Remafedi, Professor  at the University of Minnesota, who has complained several times about how religious right groups such as the American College of Pediatricians and PFOX have distorted his work.

In 2011, Tom Minnery, a spokesman from Focus on the Family, was dressed down by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) during a Congressional hearing for deliberately misrepresenting a study. Minnery initially used the study to claim, as Fitzgibbons did in his misrepresentation, that same-sex households are inferior to two parent mother/father households.

Unfortunately because anti-gay groups are seen by the media as legitimate faith organizations, this history of scientific distortion (which probably includes more incidents than I have mentioned) go unmentioned. The fact that lgbt groups and our media don't pick up on this pattern of distortion and continue to publicly hammer it also plays a huge part in how anti-gay groups are able to get away with it.

Some have even said that to point out these distortions aren't important. Of course I disagree with that jaded notion and at times, I get very angry at those who voice it.

Anti-gay groups claim that they are working to preserve values and morality, but what values and morality can one truly preserve if one is willing to lie?

That's the heart on the religious right war on lgbts - lies. It's their power, their food, and the reason why they constantly want to put us on the defensive. They know that if  there was a good look at their tactics, a lot of their hypocrisy and contradictions would be pointed out and questioned.

I say it's about time for that to take place. And I hope that I am not the only one who feels that way.

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