Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Religious right leader distorts truth, twists logic to duck blame for gay teen suicides

According to People for the American Way, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council told NPR that gay teens are suicidal because they "know that they are abnormal:

"There's no correlation between inacceptance of homosexuality and depression and suicide," he says.

Rather, Perkins says, there is another factor that leads kids to kill themselves.

"These young people who identify as gay or lesbian, we know from the social science that they have a higher propensity to depression or suicide because of that internal conflict."

Homosexuality is "abnormal," he says, and kids know it, which leads them to despair. That's why he wants to confront gay activism in public schools. For example, his group supports the Day of Truth, when Christian high schoolers make their case that homosexuality is a sin.

But Perkins is wrong and the strangest thing is that his own words prove him to be a liar.

 Remember that piece he wrote which was published in the Washington Post on National Coming Out Day? A portion of it said the following:

There is an abundance of evidence that homosexuals experience higher rates of mental health problems in general, including depression.

Media Matters said the following:

Perkins links to a February 2002 American Psychologist article, which reported on the "results of several breakthrough studies are offering new insights on gay men, lesbians and bisexuals." While Perkins is right, "Several studies suggest that gay men, lesbians and bisexuals appear to have higher rates of some mental disorders compared with heterosexuals," he's totally wrong that these rates have nothing to do with discrimination. In fact, the article immediately goes on to report that "[d]iscrimination may help fuel these higher rates." The article reported: "In a study that examines possible root causes of mental disorders in LGB people, [Susan] Cochran [PhD] and psychologist Vickie M. Mays, PhD, of the University of California, Los Angeles, explored whether ongoing discrimination fuels anxiety, depression and other stress-related mental health problems among LGB people. The authors found strong evidence of a relationship between the two." Several other studies back up this finding. 

So while Perkins claims that there is no correlation between unacceptance of homosexuality and depression, he has no problem with distorting research that says just the opposite.

And it's not the first time he has done this.

According to Gay and Lesbian Medical Association's Ten Things Gay Men Should discuss with Their Healthcare Provider:

Depression and anxiety appear to affect gay men at a higher rate than in the general population. The likelihood of depression or anxiety may be greater, and the problem may be more severe for those men who remain in the closet or who do not have adequate social supports. Adolescents and young adults may be at particularly high risk of suicide because of these concerns. Culturally sensitive mental health services targeted specifically at gay men may be more effective in the prevention, early detection, and treatment of these conditions.
Me citing this piece is important because Perkins actually used it in 2009 as a part of his testimony in front of Congress in opposition to ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act). Endnote five of the printed testimony clearly says:

Evidence for the negative health consequences of homosexual conduct is available even from pro-homosexual sources such as the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. See their "Top Ten Issues to Discuss with Your Healthcare Provider" online at: http://www.glma.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.viewPage&pageId=586&parentID=533&nodeID=1

He used the GLMA piece to talk about the so-called negative behaviors associated with homosexuality, omitting of course how homophobia plays a part in these negative behaviors, particularly depression - which was something the piece made abundantly clear.

Tony, allow to paraphrase something for you:

It's better to be thought of as a lying homophobic bigot than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

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Religious right publication distorts AP headline and other Tuesday midday news briefs

Not okay, neither the misuse nor the AP's blind eye - One News Now distorts Associated Press headline . . . again.

Catching Up With Peter LaBarbera - Porno Pete strikes again.

NOM's Iowa 'toss the judges' bus tour is another big FAIL - The National Organization for Marriage seems to love failure.

Mike Huckabee's Army of Anti-Gay Zealots - About time someone else looks into this.

Dept of Education moves to aggressively curb anti-LGBT bullying - Not bad.

White House to Hold DADT Meeting - Time will tell.

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Why can't the religious right stop denigrating gay suicide victims?

Leave it to One News Now and the Liberty Counsel's Matt Barber to take the recent suicides of gay youth and tarnish them in a sad effort to cover up how their homophobia may play into the situation:

A conservative attorney agrees with a Cornell University psychology professor who believes the idea that there is a homosexual youth suicide epidemic is a dangerous misconception.

Following the recent suicides of four homosexual youths, Professor Ritch Savin-Williams stated he believes "it is important to point out...that there is absolutely no scientific evidence of an 'epidemic of gay youth suicide,' or even that gay youth kill themselves more frequently than do straight youth." Though he agrees the deaths are tragic, he decides they are rendered "even more tragic because they come at a time when growing up gay has never been better or easier."

The "conservative attorney" who agrees with Savin-Williams is none other than the Liberty Counsel's Matt Barber. Barber, who once called gay relationships "one man violently cramming his penis into another man’s lower intestine and calling it ‘love" and also defended the right of countries to persecute lgbts had this to say:

"As we've known all along, this line that is being pushed by radical homosexual extremist pressure groups that somehow societal homophobia is responsible...this is purely propaganda," he argues. "And as this professor points out, this is the case."

Studies show suicidal tendencies among homosexuals are about ten percent higher than the rest of society, but that occurs even in European nations where homosexual activity is celebrated and in areas of the United States where the lifestyle is more accepted. So since so-called "homophobia" is not the cause, Barber suggests another possibility.

"I think the cause is clearly we need to look to these kids who are sexually confused and are really disturbed and tormented internally -- it's not an external source," he notes. "So often times, unfortunately, with no other perceived means at hand, some of these kids are at risk to hurt themselves.

First of all, it doesn't take a blind, mute, and deaf man to know that Barber doesn't have an inkling of what he is talking about.

This particular statement of his is highly inaccurate:

"Studies show suicidal tendencies among homosexuals are about ten percent higher than the rest of society, but that occurs even in European nations where homosexual activity is celebrated and in areas of the United States where the lifestyle is more accepted."

The first part concerning Europe is a distortion of a Netherlands study. I talked about it earlier when referencing how Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council was misusing it. The second part of his statement concerning "areas of the United States" is a lie, plain and simple.

You see, Barber has an unfortunate habit of sometimes making things up.

Actually the entire premise of the article is wrong. From what I understand, there has been a lot of alarm and sadness over the recent suicides of gay youth, but no one has ever called it an epidemic or pandemic. Savin-Williams is doing some good by keeping such talk from becoming a hysteria. However, Barber is taking his words to trivialize the recent suicides in general.

The sad irony is that Barber omits the part of Savin-Williams's research which calls into question how much homophobia does play a part in the suicides of gay youth:

"First, middle schools can be tough places for youth who are 'different.' Bullies, however, seldom limit their attacks to gay youth. Research at Cornell's Sex and Gender Lab concludes that the life satisfaction of both straight and gay youth suffers if they behave in a gender 'inappropriate' manner (feminine boys, masculine girls). It is gender expression, not sexual orientation per se, that is linked with decreased psychological wellbeing, and this is likely the result of bullying.

"Second, some early adolescents who believe that they might be gay lack friend and parent support. Perhaps they have not yet developed their network of friendships and have parents who approach their child's same-sex sexuality as if it were a 'phase' that can and will change.

"Thus, to assert that there is an epidemic of gay youth suicide is not only speculative but also irresponsible because of the message it delivers to gay youth: 'be prepared to kill yourself.' Indeed, most gay youth love their life and wouldn't change their sexuality even if they had a magic pill to do so. Is this not the better message to deliver?"

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