Saturday, November 17, 2007

Columnists Getting It Wrong ...

What is it with the Sun Media chain? They continue to provide a voice for some of the most astoundingly ignorant, bigoted and illogical columnists I have ever read.

This week's gem of the week comes to us from London Free Press in the form of Rory Leishman who is arguing that gays shouldn't raise children.

More or less, Leishman is arguing by parroting Dawn Stefanowicz, who blames the evils of her own childhood on the fact her father was gay:

Out From Under: The Impact of Homosexual Parenting. In this compelling book, she presents an open and honest account of her anguishing experiences as a child growing up in a dysfunctional home dominated by a homosexual father and a submissive mother.

I'm not going to trash Ms. Stefanowicz's experiences - I simply can't call them invalid any more than she can call my own life experiences invalid. However, it is folly to assume that because one person writes a book about growing up in what sounds like a deeply dysfunctional family (like I haven't seen a few of those among long-standing heterosexual families), that all people who share an attribute (sexual orientation) with a member of that family are "bad news". Yet, Leishman tries to do just that:

Nevins contended: "Despite stereotypical beliefs to the contrary, there is no evidence to support the suggestion that most gay men and lesbians have unstable or dysfunctional relationships."

That assertion is patently untrue. Sex in America, reputedly the most scientifically rigorous survey of the sexual habits of the people of the U.S., found that the average number of lifetime sexual partners is four for heterosexuals and 50 for homosexuals, while the percentage of monogamous couples who have been 100-per-cent faithful to their spouse or partner is 83 per cent for heterosexuals, but less than two per cent for homosexuals.

Screech! Hold it right there. Given the social proscriptions against "affairs", that study itself talks about people "admitting to having an affair". Leishman's derivation is suspect in that he fails to acknowledge that the Gay subculture may well not have the same inhibitions around "admission" to an affair. (By the way, it will be quite interesting to watch if the access to legal marriage impacts this over time)

Second, Leishman is essentially claiming that simply because a gay parent might have an affair, that somehow they are an unfit parent. This is patently not true - if that measure were applied to heterosexual couples, most would turn up as "suspect" to some degree or another - after all how many people date multiple partners who are unaware of each other?

Nonetheless, several studies purport to show homosexual couples are no less competent to nurture children than heterosexual couples. These claims are not credible. Given that few children raised by a homosexual couple have yet grown to adulthood, it's impossible to prove the competence of homosexuals as parents.

No, Rory, I'm sorry to say that you are very, very mistaken. Gay and Lesbian (and Transgender) people have been raising children since the dawn of time. In the past, how many single parents in the 20th century were gay? Nobody will ever know because the social conditions of the time made it very dangerous to be "out" as gay and also be an involved parent. (Which may well be a significant part of whatever dysfunction afflicted Stefanowicz's childhood) They made a choice to keep very, very quiet.

Further, you cannot simply dismiss the study based on "small population sizes". Small 'n' studies still remain valid, and enough of them showing consistent results provides sustainable conclusions. (and yes, I trust the APA to have done a lot more analysis of the topic than Mr. Leishman)

The most glaring error you can make is to take a single case and apply it to an entire population. One does not describe all - it never has and never will in humanity. I sympathize with Dawn Stefanowicz, just as I sympathize with anyone who grew up in a dysfunctional home. Her experience is unfortunate, but no more representative of the situation that GLBT-led families experience than situations like this can be called representative of heterosexual families.

The reality is that what children need, above all else, is a loving and stable environment, which can be provided by GLBT people. (Being different doesn't remove someone's ability to care about those around them!)

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