Friday, January 02, 2009

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.

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