Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Homosexual visibility and beyond the concept of "coming out of the closet"

The rising tolerance of the existence of homosexuality has perhaps invalidated, or at least significantly modified, the expected experience of LGBT people's lives. Homosexuality need no longer be hidden in as many social mileux as it once was, prompting academic author Steven Seidman to describe contemporary western society as gradually becoming a "post-closet society".

In his book, Seidman uses "closet" in a way that I don't often see these days: a "closeted homosexual", per Seidman, is someone who has accepted their homosexuality and engages in same-sex relations, but conceals it totally from people in their everyday, "normal" life. In my experience, most times "closet case" these days instead refers specifically to someone who still hasn't admitted their own sexuality to anyone at all, perhaps not even to themself. I find the evolution of language telling: there is less of a need for a term to describe someone who accepts their homosexuality but conceals it from everyone. Is this because such a thing is gradually ceasing to exist?

Perhaps such total concealment is getting phased out, but this is not to say that concealment is no longer necessary. In fact I think the situation now is more complicated that a binary closeted/out dichotomy can properly describe. Jon Lasser and Deborah Tharinger performed a study of LGB youth, published in the Journal of Adolescence (volume 26, issue 2, April 2003, pp 233-244), called Visibility Management in School and Beyond: A qualitative study of gay, lesbian, bisexual youth The concept of "visibility management" that they came up with seems to offer a richer understanding than that of the traditional concepts of the closet and of coming out.

Visibility management differs from coming out of the closet in several ways. First, where coming out is an event, visibility management is a proces: "While 'coming out' functions as a common expression for simple disclosure of one's sexual orientation, visibility management captures the complexity of the strategic and continuous process that GLB youth employ over time" (Lasser & Tharinger 2003, p237).

This is as much about non-verbal cues as it is about verbal announcements of one's sexuality. Dress and speech were all described by the study participants as influenced by how visible they wanted their orientation to be: "participants modify dress, speech, and body language to manage their visibility. They use subcultural symbols, euphemisms, humour and references to pop culture to manage their visibility" (Lasser & Tharinger 2003, p238)

Second, visibility management occurs on a continuum: "the extreme points of the continuum are most restrictive visibility management and least restrictive visibility management ... most participants (N=16) placed themselves between the endpoints" (Lasser & Tharinger 2003, p238). Rather than being "closeted" or "out", the youth studied had disclosed their sexual orientation to some people, but not to others. Further, and logically, they had to monitor and manage their disclosure in order to ensure that only people that they wanted to know about their sexual orientation would know about it. This of course further entailed decisions about who they wanted to know, and why.

Lasser & Tharinger didn't go into specific detail about what influenced these decisions, beyond describing it as an outcome of their interactions with their environment. This is a pity, as I think it's important, and should be a part of any more general theory of how LGBT people engage in visibility management.

Examples tI've come across in my day to day life of the kinds of pressures influencing the decisions of LGBT people about how to manage their visibility include: issues of safety, the issue of "why is it other people's business anyway?", the desire to dispel myths and fears about homosexuality by being open about it with friends and acquaintances, or simply the desire to let a potential significant other know that you swing the same way they do. There are almost certainly others, and I'd be interested in finding out what they are.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Conroy and the Australian Christian Lobby make sweet, sweet love together

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has started the political process of spinning his upcoming report by meeting with Jim Wallace, managing director of the ACL, to discuss..something or other about the proposal which ABSOLUTELY WAS NOT any details about the upcoming report on the ISP filtering trial, shortly after which Jim Wallace said that he believed he'd "found out" enough to know that ISP-filtering would work.

Nobody else has been in any such discussions about...something or other which ABSOLUTELY IS NOT details about the upcoming report on the ISP filtering trial, particularly ISPs and free speech supporters who might be motivated to scrutinise the data a little more closely than uncritical cheerleaders like the ACL. The Greens have noticed this funny business, and would like further details. I suspect they won't get any, but it's nice that somebody is asking.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chaid Feldblum quote in context

An openly lesbian woman is being nominated to America's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Predictably, the Christianist right in America is having an absolute fit. The website Good as You has already demonstrated that a video of Chai circulated by anti-gay activists has been significantly edited in a misleading way. I'm still exploring all the many claims being circulated, but I would like to put one quote back into context.
From this anti-gay website we have the claim

Feldblum has written: "Once a religious person or institution enters the stream of commerce by operating an enterprise such as a doctor's office, hospital, bookstore, hotel, treatment center, and so on, I believe the enterprise must adhere to a norm of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity." Feldblum believes that every organization must ascribe to her vision of society or else face penalties from the EEOC.

Unusually for anti-gay activists, they include a reference to the original article. It is entitled "Moral Conflict and Liberty: Gay Rights and Religion", and I find it notable just how much she stands up for the rights of religious believers in it. Of course, you wouldn't know that from reading the one small passage that anti-gay activists cherry-pick from it.

And as is quite usual for anti-gay activists, the cherry-picked quote is taken out of context and a supposed "summary" is provided which misrepresents the true meaning. Nowhere does Feldblum say that she requires "every organization" to "ascribe to her vision of society". Feldblum, in the very next paragraph of this article explicitly cites situations in which she does believe religious organisations should be allowed to discriminate against gay people.

The text of the quote, and the continuation of it that demonstrates that anti-gay activists are lying, is on pages 52 through 54 of Feldblum's article. I'm including the two paragraphs here so people can see for themselves what's going on. I'd actually recommend reading the whole thing, though, so you can get a complete picture of Feldblum's views instead of relying on anti-gay distortions.
As a general matter, once a religious person or institution enters the stream of commerce by operating an enterprise such as a doctor's office, hospital, bookstore, hotel, treatment center and so on, I believe the enterprise must adhere to a norm of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This is essential so an individual who happens upon the enterprise is not surprised by a denial of service and/or a directive to go down the street to a different provider. While I was initially drawn to the idea of providing an exemption to those enterprises that advertise solely in very limited milieus (such as the bed & breakfast that advertises only on Christian Web sites) I became wary of such an approach as a practical matter. The touchstone needs to be, I believe, whether LGBT people would be made vulnerable in too many locations across society. An "advertising exception" seemed potentially subject to significant abuse.

Nevertheless, I believe there might be a more limited exception that would be justified. There are enterprises that are engaged in by belief communities (almost always religious belief communities) that are specifically designed to inculcate values in the next generation. These may include schools, day care centers, summer camps and tours. These enterprises are sometimes for-profit and sometimes not-for-profit. They are within the general stream of commerce, together with many other schools, day care centers, summer camps and tours.

I believe a subset of these enterprises present a compelling case for the legislature to provide and exemption in a law mandating non-discrimination based on sexual orientation. The criteria for an exemption should be as follows: the enterprise must present itself clearly and explicitly as designed to inculcate a set of beliefs; the beliefs of the enterprise must be clearly set forth as being inconsistent with a belief that homosexuality is morally neutral and the enterprise must seek to enroll only individuals who wish to be inculcated with such beliefs.

The dignity of LGBT individuals would still be harmed by excluding such enterprises from the purview of an anti-discrimination law. But in weighing the interests between the groups, I believe the harm to the enterprise in having its inculcation of values to its members significantly hampered (as I believe it would be if it was forced to comply with such a law) outweighs the harm to the excluded LGBT members.

I am more hesitant regarding the second limited circumstance, but I offer it for analysis and criticism. I believe there may be a legitimate exemption that should be provided with regard to leadership positions in enterprises that are more broadly represented in commerce. Many religious institutions operate the gamut of social services in the community, such as hospitls, gyms, adoption agencies and drug treatment centers. These enterprises are open and marketed to the general public and often receive governmental funds. It seems quite appropriate to require that the enterprises' services be delivered without regard to sexual orientation and the most employment positions and that most employment positions in these enterprises be available without regard to sexual orientation

But the balance of interests, it seems to me, shifts with regard to the leadership positions in such enterprises. Particularly for religiously-affiliated institutions, I believe it is important that people in leadership positions be able to articulate the beliefs and values of the enterprise. If the identity and practice of an openly gay person will stand in direct contradiction to those beliefs and values, it seems to me that the enterprise suffers a significant harm. Thus, in this limited circumstance, a legislature may perhaps be legitimately conclude that the harm to the enterprise will be greater than the harm to the particular individuals excluded from such positions and provided a narrow exemption from a non-discrimination mandate in employment for such positions.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Quote for the day

"Most liberal opinion is horrified by persecution of homosexuals and supports abolishing anti-homosexual laws without really accepting homosexuality as a full and satisfying form of sexual and emotional behaviour. Such tolerance of homosexuality can co-exist with considerable suspicion of and hostility towards it, and this hostility is reinforced in all sorts of ways within our society." - Dennis Altman, Homosexual Oppression and Liberation, 1972

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Weird statistical reporting from Rasmussen Reports

For reasons unfathomable to me, the US public opinion poller Rasmussen Reports has decided to measure President Obama's popularity by a Presidential Approval Index rating arrived at by strange means. They get it by subtracting the percentage of those who strongly disapprove of his Presidency from those who strongly approve of it.

Why exclude moderate approval and disapproval? The current figure of -8% arrived at by Rasmussen Reports through their methodology seems to the casual viewer to suggest a negative overall view of President Obama. Yet the total numbers provided by Rasmussen in the article (50% overall approval and 49% overall disapproval) suggest a much more even split. I don't see much room here for interpreting this as Obama having negative overall popularity the way this Index misleadingly suggests. I think that there is room for interpreting this as Obama being more unpopular among rabid partisans than he is among the general population, though.

Curious also is the decision by Rasmussen to only survey likely voters to determine approval rating. As the survey summary notes, "President Obama's numbers are always several points higher in a poll of adults rather than likely voters". I can understand why this might be relevant in a poll of how people are likely to actually vote, but in general overall approval? Does being unlikely to vote automatically make your opinion completely worthless when it comes to politics? I can see how some people might argue that it should, but personally I think the principle of democratic accountability extends well beyond the single moment of an election. If people, even people unlikely to vote, have an opinion about government, then that opinion should be known and taken into account. It's a shame that Rasmussen doesn't do that.

It does seem awfully convenient that both these statistical oddities have the effect of making President Obama's approval rating seem much lower than the results reported in other surveys with more meritorious methodologies. If I was a conspiracy-oriented person I might start wondering if this was deliberate. Good thing I'm not a conspiracy-oriented person, then.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ex-gays to ex-ex-gays: it's your fault you didn't change

I recently found myself at the first official recognition that I've seen of the existence of ex-ex-gays from a supporter of an ex-gay ministry. The piece is written by one Sue Bohlin of Probe Ministries and is available here. It's also notable in distinguishing between the "reparative therapy" used by psychoanalysts trying to "cure" homosexuality and what Bohlin calls the "redemptive approach", in which homosexuality is "healed" through cultivating a relationship with Jesus Christ. She describes the latter as the superior method of the two.

The specific reference to ex-ex-gays is an attempt to explain their existence. Ater all, if a relationship with Christ is all that is needed to heal homosexuality, then why do ex-ex-gays even exist? Unsurprisingly, the answer is to blame the victim: Bohlin outright states that it is because ex-ex-gays failed to really do what is necessary to change that they didn't change. Notably, she didn't talk to a single ex-ex-gay before leaping to this conclusion, merely assuming it to be true based on her own assumptions about religious belief. This is understandable given the ex-gay ideology: after all, in the Fundamentalist worldview God cannot fail, therefore He can only be failed, therefore it must be the ex-ex-gays and not the "Godly" ex-gay ministration that failed.

But it's also quite destructive. Unlike Miss Bohlin, I have spoken one-on-one with ex-ex-gays (the undergraduate assignment for which I did this has been publicly posted about halfway down this forum page), and I understand just what the accusation that "they're not trying hard enough to change" did to them when they were in ex-gay ministries. It laid a whole new heaping of undeserved shame onto them, over and above the shame they experienced in the first place for "experiencing unwanted same-sex attractions", as the ex-gay movement puts it. Having given their all in the effort to change, these people were then told by the ex-gay ministries that their all wasn't good enough. Is it any wonder that Shidlo and Schroeder's 2002 ex-gay study found that the many individuals in ex-gay institutions who experienced no change at all reported that they found the ex-gay experience harmful? The ex-gay ministries make it abundantly clear to them that they will never be able to change, and that this is their own fault.

This is why the demands by the ex-gay movement for "tolerance" fall flat. They do not merely want tolerance for how they live their own lives, they want people to be "tolerant" of the way they dictate how much or how little faith other people must allegedly have, without any regard for the actual feelings of those other people about the matter. They can also be dangerous to a same-sex-attracted person's mental well-being: their harmful imposition of shame onto those who they fail, demanding that their failure be treated as the failure of their victims, is not something that deserves any tolerance at all.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The response of Bryce Faulkner's family

As I expected, the parents of Bryce Faulkner have hit out against efforts to locate their son, speaking to a media outlet that is sympathetic to their side of the story, specifically, Fox News. Notably, there is still no direct contact with Bryce Faulkner, despite a written statement from an unidentified "family representative" allegedly from Bryce saying "Every decision that I've made has been based solely upon my beliefs and I have not been manipulated or coerced by anyone to do anything".

The Facebook groups that were set up concerning Bryce's situation still appear to be down, and the original "help save Bryce website has been updated with correspondence between the site maintainer and what he believes to be members of the Faulkner family (The e-mail address is unverified but the wounded effrontery, bad spelling and unironic signing off of a really angry letter with "in Christ," suggests to me that the letters are indeed from a small-town Christianist family that has found their actions unexpectedly scrutinised).

I have an obvious bias in the matter, but the Faulkners deserve a fair hearing, so I'm glad the letters are up. The website maintainer for his part is to my mind responding well to all allegations made about such things as the alleged length of the relationship between Bryce and Travis Swanson and the reason the relationship ended. One troubling thing does stand out for me however.

In one letter, signed by "The Faulkner's [sic]", it is stated "Bryce has ended this relationship and is moving on with his life. It is no different than any other relationship...its over...". This is a highly unusual thing to see in Christianist writing, specifically placing a homosexual relationship on the exact same emotional footing as "any other relationship". The standard anti-gay rhetoric as I understand it is that there's simply no equivalency between a heterosexual relationship and a homosexual one: the latter is a product of "sexual broken-ness" and can never be emotionally satisfying. So why is a rather different point of view about homosexuality being put forward by the Faulkners?

The Fox News article has a quote from Mrs Faulkner in which says that Bryce "got caught up with friends who were pulling him that way", which Fox News interprets (probably correctly) as Mrs Faulkner believing that friends were influencing Bryce towards homosexuality. So she apparently believes homosexuality is a choice, and one that can be influenced by outside factors. Yet the usual rhetoric doesn't quite match.

I'm not sure what to make of that. It could be that the Faulkners have never really had to think the issue through, and so have amassed a collection of contradictory beliefs that they've never taken the time to examine. I'm afraid that'll probably change now as anti-gay activists turn them into "victims of the homosexual movement" and instruct them more formally in the assumptions of anti-gay ideology. Pity.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Xavier High School, villification, and freedom of speech

Somewhat unusually for a GLBT person it seems, I'm opposed to the criminalisation of "hate speech". That includes opposition to the villification laws that exist in New South Wales and other Australian states. That means that on principle I must oppose the decision by Gary Burns to use villification law against Xavier High School in Albury after they printed a letter to the editor in their Alumni magazine from "former homosexual" Matt Price entitled "Imagine a world free from homosexuals".

Gary Burns is suggesting that this can only be interpreted as a call to murder gay people. I disagree: as an ex-gay, the author of the letter most likely thinks that "a world free of homosexuals" is more akin to the idea of "a world free of unbelievers" that the Catholic church presumably aspires to through its prosetylising. It can be interpreted as a call to conversion of homosexuals to heterosexuality rather than a call for elimination. Admittedly, other people might not think so.

It's especially difficult to judge as the full text of the letter is no longer available online. As Channel Nine reports, the online version of the newsletter in question has changed the text in question to remove all references to homosexuality. Price's letter now reads as the following inoffensive pablum:
Sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. My family
moved from Sydney and then to Howlong, but my
parents divorced when I was in Year 7.
I started at Xavier North Campus in 1985. I stayed until
Year 11 when I transferred to Albury High, doing Year
11 again and completing my Year 12 certificate. Later
I was accepted into Sydney University to become a
Registered Nurse.
I have been a Registered Nurse since 1994 and have
pretty much worked full time since then. I am currently
living in Noosa and my mother is here also. I am really
pleased to say I am going regularly to church where I am
a reader. It is enjoyable and I can lead/heal my spiritual
life in the way I was guided as a child. “The Truth Will
Set You Free” is what Xavier taught me.
I have a surfboard which I’m still trying to learn, but I can
get up! I had a friend that I used to catch the school bus
with from Howlong – his name was Paul Lavis. I have
not heard from him since I left school. If you hear his
name in passing could you say Hello to him for me.
God bless! Yours,
Matt Price

According to SX News, a local paper called the Border Mail may have posted the original letter under the heading "world of sex and drugs", alongside an article entitled "gay activist demands cash from schools" which trys to paint Xavier High School as the victim. But again, neither of those two articles are available from the Border Mail website. There is an online copy of a letter to the editor of the Border Mail complaining that the Border Mail's coverage of the situation was inaccurate and misleading, but nothing more.

My approach to issues like this is that it is better to publicly expose bigotry as bigotry rather than try to censor it. I mean, it's kind of hard to publicly demonstrate just what's wrong with the letter when nobody's able to read it. Presumably it's out there somewhere, even if it's not online. If I find something, I'll post it. Otherwise....

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Australian Christian Lobby's misleading press release on GetUp's "misleading" ad

GetUp was planning to run some satirical ads opposing the Australian government's proposed mandatory Internet filtering scheme on Qantas fights in Canberra. Qantas has now refused to run them, citing a long-term ban on running "political advertising". While Qantas and GetUp tussle over the exact definition of the term "political advertising", the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has put out a press release entitled "ACL Welcomes Qantas move to ditch misleading GetUp ad".

The supposedly "misleading" ad is not misleading at all. It is ACL who is being misleading in their press release. The ad itself briefly makes mention of Iran and the alleged cover-up of a rigged election there, prompting the response from the ACL:
We have been concerned that people might be responding to GetUp's plea for money to screen its ad because of the misleading claim that the Rudd Government's clean feed for kids election promise might lead to Iranian-style political repression,

Yet again, proponents of Internet censorship misleadingly try to dodge the real problem with Conroy's filter: that under his scheme, Internet censorship will be mandatory for adults. It is the ACL, not GetUp, who is misleading the public by trying to suggest otherwise.

I thought "Christians" weren't supposed to bear false witness?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Another case of coerced involvement in an ex-gay group

The story of Bryce Faulkner, a gay pre-med student in Arkansas, has started making the rounds on the net. Short version: a young man was unexpectedly outed to his parents through their discovery of electronic communications between Bryce and his boyfriend Travis. Bryce was given the option of ex-gay treatment or losing all financial parental support (for a college student in America, a very grave threat indeed). Bryce has not been heard from at all in 25 days since the time I write this.

Waymon Hudson of the Bilerico Project has been in contact with Travis' parents to verify the story (Per Waymon, Bryce's parents refuse to communicate anything at all). For that reason I believe that this comment, originally posted at Bilerico, is genuinely from Travis' mother. I'm reposting part of it here because I find it so disturbing:
Hello everyone. First and foremost, I want to thank Waymon for putting this out here for everyone. I am "the BF's mom". That being said, this is not a hoax, scam or anything blown out of porportion. Bryce is a fine young man and had a bright future ahead of him, until he decided to come out to his mom and dad. He actually didn't even have the option of coming out. He was "found out" by despicable means. Everything he had was in their name, the cell phone, the car, internet, he worked at a clinic his mom owned. She would call the cell company and tell them she forgot the voicemail password, which they would then reset for her in order to get access to his voicemails. His dad is a technician for the local cable company (inet) and installed a "tap" on the internet in order to get access to passwords for email accounts. They even got the password to an account that they didn't know that he had. Any mail that came to the house addressed to him was opened and scanned. He did rely on his parents for everything.

I suppose nothing about what Christianist parents will do to their children to try and keep them in line should surprise me, but this claim that Bryce's parents covertly monitored every communication that he had was still disconcerting to me. I hope that little factoid gets publicised in the wake of the parents' inevitable attempt to paint themselves as the victims of the so-called "homosexual agenda" in response to the negative publicity that, with any luck, is now coming their way.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Gay people's anger getting misinterpreted as usual

The US Department of Justice recently filed a brief in response to a challenge to America' Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the US law that ensures US state don't have to recognise same-sex marriages in other states, and prohibits the federal government from recognising same-sex marriages in any way, including same-sex marriages in states where same-sex marriage is now legally recognised at the state level.

Gay rights advocates have been upset by the brief, although you'd be very hard pressed to find out the main reason why from the news reporting and DOJ PR about the issue. The problem is not so much the fact that a brief was filed in support of DOMA but the language and arguments used in the brief. As David Link put it:
It is gratuitously insulting to lesbians and gay men, referring (unnecessarily) to same-sex marriage as a “form” of marriage, approving of congressional comparisons between same-sex marriages and loving relationships between siblings, or grandparents and grandchildren, and arguing (with a straight face, I can only assume) that discrimination against same-sex couples is rational because it saves the federal government money. There are some respectable arguments in this motion, and this kind of disrespect is offensive.

Yet the DOJ statement in response to the public outrage pretends otherwise, defending their actions as if it was the decision to file a brief alone that was making gay people upset:
As it generally does with existing statutes, the Justice Department is defending the law on the books in court. The president has said he wants to see a legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act because it prevents LGBT couples from being granted equal rights and benefits. However, until Congress passes legislation repealing the law, the administration will continue to defend the statute when it is challenged in the justice system.

Nor is the anger over how the DOJ supported DOMA in their brief appearing in mainstream media reports: CBS simply states "Gay rights groups are upset that Obama appears to be going back on his word [to repeal DOMA]. But the Justice Department says it's following the standard practice of defending existing law", with no indication of the main problem identified by prominent gay rights advocates such as Andrew Sullivan that "the question is not why the DOJ should defend existing law; it is why they chose to lard it up with such egregious anti-gay rhetoric and religious right arguments"

It is very hard to put forward your case about why something is hurtful to you when the very reason that it is so hurtful is not being made known. No wonder you get people claiming that gay people get "hysterical" over things. If I was seeing someone getting really mad and upset just because a brief was filed in a court case, I'd probably think they were hysterical too. But that's not the root cause of the anger here: it's the actual callous language in the brief that's at the heart of the matter. And yet, I fear, most people will be completely unaware of that, thanks in no small part to the PR actions of the DOJ itself.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Justifying torture as a way to demonstrate that torture is evil

Right-wing Fox News pundit Sean Hannity half-jokingly offers to undergo water-boarding as a test to see just how bad it really is, Huffington Post writer Jason Linkins says go for it.

My first reaction to this would be: shame on Linkins and those of his commentors who support Hannity getting the torture he asked for. Torture is evil. It is always wrong. Period. It is not something which should be done to anyone for any reason, ever, and it is interesting to see just how easy it is, even for the people on the side of the angels in the argument over whether or not to prosecute Bush era officials for their design and use of "enhanced interrogation techniques", to decide that a little bit of torture is okay if it's done for a just cause on a person naive enough to ask for it to be done on them. This is why torture must be ferociously opposed, no matter whether it works, no matter why it is done, no matter who does it, no matter who it is done to. Its evil is too seductive even for good people.

On the other hand: there is an argument made by the anti-torture side that waterboarding that can be stopped at any time by the person undergoing it isn't actually torture, and that the complete and total helplessness of the person undergoing a torture "treatment" to make it stop when they've had enough is an essential component of defining something as torture rather than a lesser moral evil like "unwarranted infliction of violence". That conceivably opens up space for Hannity to undergo water-boarding under carefully controlled conditions: if he's able to stop it at any time while undergoing it, then it doesn't cross the moral evil threshold of being torture. But it also defeats the purpose of the entire exercise: if the idea is to show that the techniques used by the Bush Administration are too horrible to use on anyone, then what's the point of putting on a demonstration that's missing a key component of what made those techniques qualify as "torture"? It would at best just show how painful and frightening water-boarding really is, but it wouldn't demonstrate just what it is about torture that makes it truly evil.

To do that without actually torturing someone seems impossible. Keeping in mind the possibility that I myself am getting seduced by the evil of torture by even suggesting that taking Hannity up on this offer to subject him to some type of water-boarding is anything other than irredeemably evil, I'm inclined to explore the idea that it might be possible.

The problem: for the experience of waterboarding to truly demonstrate to Hannity some measure of the personal experience of being tortured, it would have to be done in a way that he can't stop. But if he has no say in when it stops, then we're torturing him. A partial reproduction of the treatment may be ethically justifiable, but the mere physical experience of water-boarding, able to be stopped by Hannity at any time, is an insufficent example of what it actually is that makes torture irredeemably evil.

But, what if Sean Hannity was allowed to decide how long he would be water-boarded for, but he had to make that decision before the waterboarding started? Then, once the process starts, he cannot change that decision for any reason and must undergo waterboarding for the time he himself earlier chose. That would give an idea of what its like to be helpless to stop waterboarding while still granting him a limited control over the whole process.

In suggesting that Sean Hannity be offered a chance to undergo waterboarding under the conditions I just described, have or have I not myself just justified torturing someone as a legitimate way to demonstrate to them why torture is evil? I suspect that the only reason Hannity would accept the terms I presented would be because he's too naive about torture to understand what it is he would be signing up for. That says "yes, it's torture" to me. So yes, it is impossible to give a person a personal understanding of why torture is so evil without torturing them, and it would be better for all to stop contemplating the highly seductive, evil idea of even trying.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Seen on the Internet: a parable about torture

Top members of Mossad, MI-5, and the CIA compete in the International Intelligence Service Olympics. They are told to enter a nearby forest and return with a fox.

The Mossad agents return an hour later with a fox. Two hours later, MI-5 also returns with a fox. The two groups congratulate each other on their respective gold and silver prizes.

Hours pass. The judges begin to get restless.

Finally, the CIA agents emerge from the forest with a deer, who is battered and bleeding, with shackles on its legs, opaque goggles over its eyes, and muffled earphones on its ears. As it passes the judges’ stand they hear it saying over and over:

“I am a fox. I am a fox. I am a fox . . .”

Sunday, February 22, 2009

21 Reasons Why Gender Matters: Plagiarism?

This is odd. Section 15 of the pamphlet 21 Reasons Why Gender Matters is the section of the leaflet primarily concerned with homosexuality (or "gender identity disorder", as they pseudoscientifically call it). It starts out like this:
Consider first the issue of pathology. The whole notion of gender
disorientation has been highly politicised in the past few decades.
Objective scientific debate has been overwhelmed by advocacy
groups driving specific agendas. For example, in 1952, the first edition
of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the official catalogue of mental
disorders used by mental health professionals, listed homosexuality
as a sociopath personality disturbance. In 1968, the revised DSM II
reclassified homosexuality as a sexual deviancy. But in the midst of the
sexual revolution, homosexual protestors began picketing the APA’s
annual conventions, demanding that homosexuality not be identified
as a pathology. In 1973, under enormous pressure from homosexual
activists, the APA removed homosexuality from its DSM III edition to
the dismay of about 40 percent of psychiatrists - particularly those who
specialized in treating homosexuals.

Now look at the section "Understanding: Gender-Disorientation Pathology" in this paper from the far-right website the Patriot Post:
n order to understand how to respond to the homosexual agenda in the Church and society, it is helpful to understand the underlying pathology.

In 1952, the first edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the official catalogue of mental disorders used by mental health professionals, listed homosexuality as a sociopath personality disturbance. In 1968, the revised DSM II reclassified homosexuality as a sexual deviancy. But in the midst of the sexual revolution, homosexual protestors began picketing the APA's annual conventions, demanding that homosexuality not be identified as pathology. In 1973, under enormous pressure from homosexual activists, the APA removed homosexuality from its the DSM III edition to the dismay of about 40 percent of psychiatrists -- particularly those who specialized in treating homosexuals.

The second paragraphs of each section are likewise almost identical. Gender Matters pamphlet:
Dr. Ronald Bayer, author of the book, Homosexuality and American
Psychiatry, writes: “The entire process, from the first confrontation
organized by homosexual demonstrators, to the referendum demanded
by orthodox psychiatrists, seemed to violate the most basic expectations
about how questions of science should be resolved. Instead of being
engaged in sober discussion of data, psychiatrists were swept up in
a political controversy. The result was not a conclusion based on an
approximation of the scientific truth as dictated by reason, but was
instead an action demanded by the ideological temper of the times.”106
It is hoped that the APA will reverse its position.

From the Patriot Post article:
Dr. Ronald Bayer, author of the book, Homosexuality and American Psychiatry writes: "The entire process, from the first confrontation organized by gay demonstrators to the referendum demanded by orthodox psychiatrists, seemed to violate the most basic expectations about how questions of science should be resolved. Instead of being engaged in sober discussion of data, psychiatrists were swept up in a political controversy. The result was not a conclusion based on an approximation of the scientific truth as dictated by reason, but was instead an action demanded by the ideological temper of the times."

But the APA is not likely to reverse their position.

It continues. Gender Matters pamphlet:
Some homosexuals report that they over-identified with their opposite
sex parent and peers - thus a boy becomes increasingly feminized
while a girl becomes more masculine.107 In both cases - lack of identity
and over identity - there is a common denominator, which is emotional
deprivation. In their formative years, all children need emotional and
physical closeness with their parents - particularly with their samesex
parent, and they need to develop a healthy sense of their gender
identity as male or female.

Skip a little in the Patriot Post article until:
Many homosexuals report that as children, they had a dysfunctional relationship with their same-sex parent, such relationships being their primary means of gender identification and affirmation. For some children, particularly those whose parents are separated or divorced, the dissociation from their same-sex parent can cause an unconscious but directive drive for gender identification and affirmation among same-sex peers, which, after puberty, can manifest as sexual behavior. The search for closure to a dysfunctional relationship with a parent can lead to a lifetime of misery.

Some homosexuals report that they over-identified with their opposite sex parent and peers -- thus a boy becomes increasingly feminized while a girl becomes more masculine.

In both cases -- lack of identity and over identity -- there is a common denominator, which is emotional deprivation. In their formative years, all children need emotional and physical closeness with their parents -- particularly with their same sex parent, and they need to develop a healthy sense of their gender identity as masculine or feminine.

The number "107" you can see up there sandwiched in the quotes from the Gender Matters pamphlet refers to this footnote:
107 Mark Alexander, “The Homosexual Agenda”, http://www.patriotpost.us/papers/03-32.asp 6/6/2006, although the URL didn't work for me when I tried it. The link to the Patriot Post piece above references the URL by IP address, not domain name.

In any case, it is remotely conceivable that reference 107 is an attempt to reference all this apparently plagiarised text. If so, it was done so badly that it makes it look like the text presented here was actually original work by the Gender Matters people. I don't suppose Mark Alexander (author of the Patriot Post piece) would mind being plagiarised overmuch so long as his writing is being used to further an anti-gay agenda somehow, but I wonder how such plagiarism would reflect on the people doing the plagiarising?

The only other possibilityI can see here is that Mark Alexander himself was involved in the production of this pamphlet somehow. I've found no evidence of that as yet.

21 Reasons Why Gender Matters: Paul Cameron references

I go back to university soon, so I won't have much time to write here. I didn't get through nearly as many of the references of the local anti-gay pamphlet "21 Reasons Why Gender Matters" as I would have wanted over the holidays, but realistically I suppose it's too tough a job for one person. There are still a few things I have found, though. The most significant would probably be the use of not one, but two, direct references from Paul Cameron, an "expert on homosexuality" so discredited that there are even anti-gay groups who consider his work too shoddy and unreliable to use (and that's saying something).

The first is using his recent distortions about the average lifespan of gay and lesbian partnered people in Europe:
Scandinavian research has shown that married homosexuals’ and
lesbians’ life spans are 24 years shorter than heterosexual couples.
In Denmark over the 12 years after 1990, the average age of death
of hetero men was 74, whereas the 561 partnered homosexual men
who died in the same period did so at an average age of 51. Married
women died at an average age of 78, whereas the nine lesbian women
who died, did so at an average age of 56. In Norway the figures were
similar – married heterosexual men died at an average age of 77, the
31 homosexuals at 52; heterosexual women died at 81, while the 6
lesbians who died, did so at mean 56.151

With footnote 151 being none other than

151 Paul Cameron,. “Federal Distortion of The Homosexual Footprint.”:

which has already been debunked in detail by Box Turtle Bulletin.

The second is the usual conflation of homosexuality and child molestation
A recent review of the child molestation literature as it appears in
medical and psychological journals concluded that between 25 and 40
per cent of all recorded child molestation was homosexual.169

With footnote 161 being

169 Reported in Paul Cameron, Exposing the AIDS Scandal. Lafayette, Louisiana: Huntington House Publishers, 1988, p39.

Child molestation is child molestation of course, and it's only anti-gay activists who falsely treat molesters of boys and girls as subsets of the larger heterosexual and homosexual population. But I am somewhat amused by the description by the Gender Matters pamphlet of a Cameronite writing from 1988 as a "recent review of the child molestation literature". Getting desperate for relevance, these anti-gay types are.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Origin of the homosexual recruitment myth?

It's probably one of the most powerful lies in the anti-gay lobby's rhetoric: that homosexuals recruit. I'm curious about where it first appeared.

The usual "deduction" to justify it is that homosexuals can't procreate, therefore they must need to recruit. There are a whole load of problematic assumptions in this "deduction" that, I think, would not be so conveniently skipped over if there wasn't such a long history of the belief of homosexual recruitment in Western culture. It's the social entrenchment of the belief rather than any internal logic to the idea that is the problem I think.

Believing the recruitment myth is not a requirement of believing that homosexuality is wrong. It is a requirement of believing that homosexuality is a "social disease" which needs to be "contained". Is there any other society that viewed homosexuality as socially contagious before Western culture introduced the idea to the world? I honestly don't know. I suspect not.

What few writings I've examined about the recruitment myth so far merely try to refute it or, in the case of anti-gay tracts, support it. I've found almost nothing about the origin or spread of the belief. Has anyone actually ever bothered to research it?

There is just one reference I've found, in a newsletter from 1993 put out by Paul Cameron's Family Research Institute. He points out a single passage in an early writing by the Christian founders. The Didache contains the single line "you shall not corrupt children", which Cameron portrays as a prohibition on attempts at homosexual recruitment. Another work called the Apostolic Constitutions, chapter 7 of which is apparently an expansion of the Didache, suggests that the "corruption" referred to is indeed male homosexuality: "Thou shall not corrupt boys: (5) for this wickedness is contrary to nature, and arose from Sodom, which was therefore entirely consumed with fire sent from God."

That's the only reference to an origin of the recruitment myth I can find, and it's still vague (does "corruption" specifically refer to the idea of recruitment here? I'm not 100% convinced that it must do so). I'd be very interested in further exploring the origin and trajectory of the idea if at all possible.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Al-Qaeda´s opinion about the closure of Guantanamo Bay

Al-Qaeda has apparently been releasing a lot of anti-Obama propaganda in the wake of his election victory. While the linked article concerns itself with what it means for al-Qaeda that Bush is no longer President and Obama is, I was struck by a minor point on Page 2:
Friday, a new al-Qaeda salvo attempted to embarrass Obama, a day after the new president announced his plans for closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Appearing on the videotaped message were two men who enlisted in al-Qaeda after being freed from that detention center.
"By Allah, imprisonment only increased our persistence in our principles for which we went out, did jihad for and were imprisoned for," said Abu Sufyan al-Azdi al-Shahri, who described himself as a deputy commander for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

It does not escape my notice that al-Qaeda is trying to scare people into believing that releasing prisoners - even prisoners who were not originally jihadists when they were originally imprisoned - from Guantanamo Bay will greatly increase the risk of terrorist attack. This is the same argument made by domestic opponents of the closure: that the people imprisoned there are too dangerous to release, even into the regular American prison system.

I conclude from this unity of arguments that al-Qaeda doesn´t want Guantanamo Bay to close. Why would they? The propaganda value that its continued existence has for them is immense. I conclude also that they are intentionally trying to feed the fear that local opponents are instilling about the possible release of Guantanamo Bay detainees in an intentional effort to prevent the facility´s closure. Local opponents of the closure of Guantanamo Bay might want to think about that.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Homosexuality and shame: how shame turns us against ourselves

Some basic research that I did at university has led me to believe that one of the most important things in defining gay people on both an individual and social level is the emotion of shame.

Shame is what so many of us carry as a silent burden when we are closeted. Heck, it's the very reason for the existence of the closet. It's a common refrain from our opponents when we appear in public in, say, Pride marches: "Shame on you!" "You should be ashamed of yourself!". The very existence of gay Pride was once described to me as "a natural reaction to undeserved shame".

Shame is intimately bound up with social activity. A social theorist named Barbalet(1998, p104) whose writings I encountered in my studies described the social mechanism of shame as the "supposition of another's regard for self, of taking the view of another". It is a means of social control, more subtle and more effective than brute force or even peer pressure: make a person feel that others will judge them negatively for the "shameful" thing and also make them believe that this judgement is correct. The person, through their own feeling of shame, punishes themself more effectively than through any further external means that could be applied.

The struggle against undeserved shame is the struggle to believe that the judgements of others is wrong. Even after you may have spent a very long time believing that they were right.

Our society has long treated homosexuality as a shameful thing on the basis that homosexuality was seen as something that could be prevented or altered: making it shameful would therefore prevent people from engaging in it and encourage those who had engaged in it to stop. The emotional coercion of shame was preferred over attempts at rational persuasion perhaps because of the view of homosexuality as "depravity", "mental illness", and many other labels, all signifying the belief that a homosexual must have taken leave of their senses and could not be reasoned with.

It is my suspicion that true liberation from the corrosive personal and social effects of this shame has not yet been achieved among the GLBT community.

I suspect that one of the understandable but unfortunate results of individuals' efforts to throw off this shame is overcompensation and oversensitivity. Having struggled so hard and for so long, often from the very start of adolescence, against external attempts to, through the pressure to feel shame, over-ride feelings and emotions as fundamental to our being as those concerning sexual orientation, it makes sense to me that many such individuals would be very sensitive to even so much as the possibility of other people attempting to pressure them emotionally. Oversensitive, even. To the point that a gay person will absolutely not let other people's opinions and desires affect their behaviour in any way. Do gay people tend to be more selfish and egotistical than straight people? On average, perhaps, yes. If so, our battle against the shame we have been taught to feel is the reason why.

In some cases this overcompensating defense against the imposition of shame may cause a gay person to start attacking first in self-defense, so to speak. The sense of threat, so pressing for so long, leads to a sort of bunker mentality. Every social engagement with another is seen as a potential danger. The sense of threat from others is exaggerated, and the person counterattacks even before they know for sure whether or not an attack is coming. And the usual form of attack? The one they are most familiar with: an attempt to shame a person. Hence the reputation of gay people as "bitchy".

Occasionally a gay person notes that gay people are quite good at oppressing ourselves without any outside help, which I think isn't quite true: we do oppress ourselves, but we do it as a result of our struggles with the shame which we have been taught to feel about ourselves.

There is hope. The younger generation are growing up in a society where the social pressures of shaming have been weakened, or even in some cases have vanished completely. It's somewhat gratifying to occasionally read one of the younger generation say that they don't understand the point of gay pride. And for them, having never been taught to be ashamed of being gay, there is nothing to be gained from a conscious display of pride. It's for those who have still been taught that homosexuality is a shameful thing. It's a way of dealing with that shame. I don't know if it's the best way to deal with it - my Buddhist tendencies lead me to see the opposite of shame as not pride but as, well, the absence of shame - but it's one way of dealing with it.

I believe that our failure to deal with our shame effectively makes us often far too quick to take offense, even (or perhaps especially) to take offense at each other, and far too quick to give it, even (or perhaps especially) to each other. That is corrosive to us, and it is corrosive to our community. While there have been many positive steps to prevent the future generations from experiencing that shame, I think we need to become more aware of how our battle with our existing feelings of shame impacts us and the people around us, so that we can better ameliorate its effects.

Barbalet, J.M., 1998. Emotion, social theory, and social structure: a macrosociological approach, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge NY,

Friday, January 02, 2009

21 Reasons Why Gender Matters: Footnote 67, promiscuity and fidelity

From page 10 of the anti-gay pamphlet "21 Reasons Why Gender Matters":

Indeed, high rates of multiple partnering in the homosexual community continues to be the norm. As one recent report notes, “The majority of the 2006 respondents had engaged in sex with between one and 10 partners in the six months prior to the survey [over 63 per cent], while almost 20% of the men reported having had sex with more than 10 partners.”67

I do wish the Fatherhood Foundation would be more accurate in their referencing. Footnote 67 lists the quoted text as coming from the "Gay Community Periodic Survey. Sydney: National Centre in HIV Social Research, 2007, pp. 14-15", by Iryna Zablotska, et. al. Close, but not quite: the NCHSR conducts multiple surveys in multiple cities around Australia, and they all specify the city in the title. There is no single "Gay Community Periodic Survey".

There is, among others, a "Gay Community Periodic Survey: Canberra 2006". This marks the second time that the pamphlet garbled the title of the work they referenced, and the error is more severe this time. It took me quite a while to locate the one they were talking about. I suppose I should be thankful they gave me page numbers, and that they were the right ones: many of the references in anti-gay literature in general and in this pamphlet in particular fail to go that far.

Despite the inaccurate referencing of the title, the text of the quote is accurate. Whether it supports the conclusion that the authors are trying to suggest - that homosexual relationships are all fundamentally unfaithful and unstable - is less clear. The pamphlet's authors could have mentioned that this survey was not limited to gay men in regular relationships: on page 6 the survey notes that "about 60% of the men in the sample were in a regular sexual relationship with a man at the time of completing the survey". So 40% of the men were, how shall we say, "swinging singles", "footloose and fancy free"? Gee, you think that should be taken into account when reporting the findings about number of sex partners? Or is it more convenient for the pamphlet's authors to just let readers leap to the wrong conclusion that this says something about "infidelity" in gay relationships?

Perhaps more suited to the pamphlet authors' purposes are the figures on men who are both in a "regular sexual relationship" and have "regular casual sexual relations" as well. They comprised 29.1% of the 2006 respondents according to the Table on page 6 of the survey, which sounds like a lot. Yet it is still less than the number of respondents who reported having sex only with a regular partner: 31.6%. Furthermore, despite the stereotype of all gay men being horribly oversexed, 14.5% of the 2006 survey respondents reported having no sexual contact over the 6 month period at all.

I feel strangely sorry for that 14.5%. Here everyone is saying how much sex gay men have and this lot isn't getting any. Or then again, maybe they prefer it that way. It's impossible to tell just by looking at the numbers.

Of course, the survey was only asking about behaviour during a six month period, so it's entirely possible that the "monagamous" and "no sexual partners" entries for that particular period were in part due to circumstance rather than choice. Some clarification is available on page 21. Figure 28 provides a breakdown of "Agreements with regular male partners about sex outside the relationship". The figure is about split 3 different ways: 30.4% "Anal intercourse is permitted only with a condom", 33.3% "no sexual contact with casual partners is permitted", 26.7% "no spoken agreement about sex" (remaining percentages are 5.2% "no anal intercourse with casual partners is permitted" and 4.4% "anal intercourse without a condom is permitted"). I would say that the figures for monogamous and non-monogamous relationship arrangements seem about equal, but that large chunk who report no agreement makes such estimates impossible. It is not possible to say which is more common. It is possible to say that (a) monogamous male-male relationships exist, and (b) the number is far from miniscule, if we view the results of this survey as representative of relationships.

And that is the final problem with the way the pamphlet uses the survey, what is it really measuring? Seems to me that it's a measure of sexual behaviour of a specific subsegment of GLBT individuals, not an overall examination of the quality of our emotional partnerships.

"Regular sexual partner" as used in the survey could include everything from "man of my dreams" to "fuckbuddy", the survey doesn't care about such distinctions. The recruiting strategy of the survey described on pages 1-2 also seems biased in favour of gay men who identify strongly with the existing gay community, under-representing those gay men who might not identify with mainstream gay culture and its urban liberal sexual morality.

And of course, as in each and every one of these anti-gay statistics, we only ever hear the scary stories about the alleged sexual proclivities of gay men. Where are women in all this? I begin to understand why some lesbians view the lesbian experience and more problematic than that of gay men: their very existence is totally disregarded in so many fundamental ways.

21 Reasons Why Gender Matters: Footnote 66 is another mistake

The pamphlet "21 reasons why gender matters" can be found online here.

Footnote 66 is the alleged source of these statistics on the length of male same-sex relationships:
a study of the Melbourne homosexual community showed that 40 per cent of men had changed partners in the past 6 months; 9.8 per cent had been in a relationship for only six months to a year; 18.8 per cent for 1-2 years; 15.3 per cent had lasted for 3-5 years; and only 15.7 per cent were in a relationship of more than five years – meaning 84 per cent had broken down after five years.

They supposedly come from the "Melbourne Gay Community Periodic Survey, 2000" by Clive Aspin et al, published by the National Centre in HIV Social Research.

The survey results are available online. It is simply impossible for the statistics attributed to it to have come from there. The Periodic Survey only measures whether the regular relationships of those surveyed have lasted for "less than 1 year" or for "at least one year" (see Table 9 on page 12 of the Periodic Survey). Even the most statistically illiterate person around would have trouble getting the Fatherhood Foundation's alleged statistics from the data actually in the Periodic Survey: in 2000, 31.8% of those in a regular relationship had been in it for less than a year, while 68.1% had been in it for a year or more.

The website of the Australian Christianist group the Saltshakers includes a statistics page on relationships which quotes the same numbers but gives a different source, although it's easy to get confused (which the Fatherhood Foundation apparently did. Again). Their source for the numbers is "Men and Sexual Health", by the National Centre in HIV Social Research, 1997. There doesn't appear to be any kind of study with this name. Are they referring to the longitudinal cohort study called "Sydney Men and Sexual Health" (SMASH)? It's hard to say, as the main report that I can find on that study is a book called "Methods and sample in a study of homosexually active men in Sydney, Australia" that was, er, published in 1995. The book is accessible to me, once university libraries end their holiday closing period next week.

So the Fatherhood Foundation has, for the third time that I've now found, supplied a reference in their pamphlet "21 Reasons Why Gender Matters" that is verifiably wrong. I hope people keep that in mind when anti-gay activists rabbit on about how "well-referenced" this little smear pamphlet supposedly is. And the only alternative source given for the quote - from another anti-gay organisation - does not appear to be correct either. Maybe I'll be lucky enough to find the true source next week, but we'll see.

By the by, the reason that anti-gay groups continue to get away with telling these lies is because nobody effectively challenges them. That's one of the reasons I continue to hunt these misquotes down despite the obstacles and frustrations that their inaccurate referencing throw up. I hope it proves useful to somebody someday.

Statistical skullduggery from the Fatherhood Foundation: "proving" gay relationships shorter

On page 10 of the anti-gay pamphlet "21 reasons why gender matters" there is a piece of statistical deception that is very popular among anti-gay circles. It is one that needs no examination of references to spot.

The text is as follows:
Heterosexual married couples have a far lower rate of relationship breakdown than homosexual couples. As an Australian Government report stated, “According to a 1995 study, ten per cent of marriages failed within six years, 20 per cent within ten years, 30 per cent by twenty years, and 40 per cent by thirty years.”65 In comparison, a study of the Melbourne homosexual community showed that 40 per cent of men had changed partners in the past 6 months; 9.8 per cent had been in a relationship for only six months to a year; 18.8 per cent for 1-2 years; 15.3 per cent had lasted for 3-5 years; and only 15.7 per cent were in a relationship of more than five years – meaning 84 per cent had broken down after five years.

The lie is glaringly obvious to anyone within even a slight understanding of statistics: the Fatherhood Foundation is comparing every single homosexual relationship to only those heterosexual relationships that are called "marriage". They've deliberately and dishonestly weighted the heterosexual side of the comparison by excluding all unmarried opposite-sex couples, and then used that false data to try and paint homosexual couples as inherently inferior across the board. Unmarried opposite-sex couples, and not married opposite-sex couples, would be the real equivalent of unmarried same-sex male couples such as those allegedly studied in Melbourne. But making a comparison that's actually valid wouldn't give the Fatherhood Foundation the opportunity to smear the gay community with their misinformation now, would it?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Homosexuality and Tolerance in the Netherlands: The Real Story

Significantly, the study sampled residents of the Netherlands, where social acceptance of same-sex behavior is high. This would call into question the assumption that the high rate of psychiatric problems is primarily due to social or internalized homophobia.

This is what the "pro-treatment of homosexuality" group NARTH recently said about the study "Same-Sex Sexual Behavior and Psychiatric Disorders: Findings from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS)" published in Archives of General Psychiatry 2001, vol 58(1), pp 85-91. While NARTH may chauvinistically choose to view the entirety of a Western European country like the Netherlands as some sort of gay mecca where no anti-gay sentiment ever exists in any form at all, the truth is that anti-gay sentiment does exist there, and it causes serious problems for gay people. Perhaps NARTH should engage in an honest assessment of the Dutch attitudes towards homosexuality instead of misleadingly trying to handwave past it.

The Dutch study itself actually references three works that assess attitudes towards homosexuality in the Netherlands. I have traced one of them: a study called "Attitudes towards nonmarital sex in 24 countries" by E D WIlmer, J Treas, and R Newcomb, published in Journal of Sex Research 1998, vol 35, pp349-358. Its measurement of sexual attitudes in the 24 countries included a question on whether respondents believed that homosexual sex was wrong. With 65% of Dutch respondents saying that it was "not wrong at all", it is true that tolerance in the Netherlands for homosexual sex is relatively high, especially compared to the USA where fully 70%said it was "always wrong". But the fact remains that 19% of Dutch respondents believed that homosexual sex was "always wrong". Intolerance for homosexuality still exists in the Netherlands, and it is reasonable to believe that this will be reflected in an increased toll on the mental health of people who engage in homosexual behaviour. (To round out the percentages, 4% of Dutch respondents believed that homosexual sex was wrong "almost always", while a further 12% believed it was wrong "only sometimes". I will not speculate at this time on why those people answered the question like that.)

And the attitudes of people who do find fault with homosexuality would seem to be especially virulent. A study on anti-gay violence by the University of Amsterdam called "As long as they keep away from me" (an English translation of the summary is available at the bottom of the page) noted that "gays fall victim to violence in Amsterdam on a regular basis. In 2007, 201 cases were recorded, of which 67 were of physical violence", 17 of robbery and 38 of serious threat". Yet anti-gay groups like NARTH would have you believe that gay people in the Netherlands experience no kind of discrimination that would tax their mental health whatsoever.

Further, and disturbingly, a person who might claim homosexual sex is not wrong can still be a gaybasher. As the Dutch study on anti-gay violence discovered, the "tolerance" expressed towards homosexuality among some Dutch youth can be highly conditional:
The major cause of the aversion to homosexuality felt by perpetrators of anti-gay violence lies in their views and emotions regarding masculinity and sexuality. Four aspects of homosexuality that particularly appear to arouse annoyance, disapproval and loathing are anal sex, feminine behaviour, the visibility of homosexuality, and the fear of being hit on by a gay.
It is remarkable that the perpetrators do not reject homosexuality on all fronts. Indeed, in many cases the perpetrators declare not to hate gays at all and realise that homosexuality is a part of Dutch society. They reject homosexuality, however, on express conditions: gays should not openly show the four aspects of the behaviour mentioned above. The perpetrators tend to copy the prevailing gay-tolerant rhetoric of Dutch society, but do not refrain from all sorts of violence as soon as homosexuality comes close to them or if gay men do not fulfil their supposed obligations[emphasis added].

It may be premature for me to accuse NARTH on capitalising on the anti-European bigotry prevalent among their usual audience of Christianist fanatics, who tend to inaccurately view Amsterdam as a modern-day Sodom where homosexuality is not just tolerated, but glorified. But I would hope that this examination of the actual evidence will help to correct the misinformation propagated by anti-gay activists that increased mental health problems among homosexual men and women in the Netherlands cannot be the result of discrimination against gay people. Overt anti-gay bigotry does exist in the Netherlands, and even some Dutch youth who might call themselves "tolerant" of homosexuality can show an especially violent side if the conditions put on providing that "tolerance" aren't perceived as being met.