Thursday, August 05, 2010

More From The Illogical File

If you haven't encountered Dale O'Leary before, you can be forgiven - one has to tread into the swamps of religiously driven pseudo-science to find his writings. (He was one of the authors of the horrendous paper on the "ethics" of gender reassignment surgery I dissected back here)

He's surfaced again - a year late, it seems, to respond to the APA's study on reparative therapy - and like other attempts at reason from this sector, he's busy cherry picking facts and in doing so gets it entirely wrong. (The actual APA report is here)

1) Same-sex sexual attractions, behavior, and orientations per se are normal and positive variants of human sexuality—in other words, they do not indicate either mental or developmental disorders.

The use the term "per se" confuses the issue. It is true that same-sex sexual attractions, behavior, and orientations are not in and of themselves (per se) indicative of anything. Given the variety of human behavior and attractions in different cultures, throughout history, and among the variety of mankind, nothing can be said about all persons with same-sex attraction, everyone who engages in same-sex behavior, or claims a particular sexual orientation. However, there is substantial evidence that same-sex attraction is a sequel of disturbed early childhood, in particular a failure to achieve a secure attachment to the mother1 and a failure to identify with the same sex parent and peers2. There is also evidence that persons with SSA are more likely to have been victims of childhood abuse,3 including sexual abuse,4 or other exposure to age inappropriate experiences. A number of well designed large sample studies have found that persons with SSA are more likely to suffer from psychological disorders, substance abuse problems,5 and suicidal ideation.6 Men who have sex with men are at high risk for contracting an STD, including HIV.7 While not every persons with SSA falls into these categories, a significant percentage do. There is on the other hand no replicated evidence that SSA is genetically or congenitally predetermined and therefore a natural and unchangeable variant.8 Therefore, it can be argued that there is evidence that SSA in some cases (or some might argue in most cases) is associated with a psychological or developmental disorder.

O'Leary makes several assertions here which, had he bothered to actually read the report in its entirety, he would find it addresses.

Assertion: Homosexuality is a result of childhood and/or family dysfunction.

From the APA Report:

Theories that certain patterns of family relationships cause same-sex sexual orientation have been discredited (Bell et al., 1981; Freund & Blanchard, 1983; R. R. Green, 1987; D. K. Peters & Cantrell, 1991).

Assertion: Homosexuality is associated with childhood sexual abuse

From the APA Report:

Some individuals who present with requests for SOCE may have clinical concerns that go beyond their sexual orientation conflicts. These may include mental health disorders, personality disorders, or trauma- related conditions that influence the presentation of sexual orientation conflicts and distress (cf. Brown, 2006; Drescher, 1998a; Glassgold, 2008; Haldeman, 2001; Iwasaki & Ristock, 2007; Lasser & Gottlieb, 2004; Mohr & Fassinger, 2003; S. L. Morrow, 2000; Pachankis et al., 2008; Schneider et al., 2002; Sherry, 2007; Szymanski & Kashubeck-West, 2008). Such conditions may require intervention separate from or in conjunction with the intervention directed at the sexual orientation distress. For instance, some clients who seek SOCE may have histories of trauma (Ponticelli, 1999), and in some individuals sexual abuse can cause sexual orientation identity confusion and other sexuality-related concerns (Gartner, 1999). Other individuals seeking SOCE may make homosexuality the explanation for all they feel is wrong with their lives (Beckstead & Morrow, 2004; Erzen, 2006; Ponticelli, 1999; Shidlo & Schroeder, 2002). This displacement of self-hatred onto homosexuality can be an attempt to resolve a sense of badness and shame (cf. Brandchaft, 2007; Drescher, 1998a), and clients may thus need effective interventions to deal with this self-hatred and shame (Brandchaft, 2007; Linehan, Dimeff, & Koerner, 2007; Zaslav, 1998).

Please note the language of the APA report. Unlike O'Leary, the APA is very careful to describe these conditions as coincidental with, not causally related to, the client's sexual identity. The APA is very cautious about drawing causal relationships between conditions for good reasons - when one looks at the broad spectrum of people who were (for example) victims of child abuse, it's not clear that even a significant fraction of those people turned out to be homosexual.

Assertion: Homosexuals are at a higher risk for other psychological conditions.

The APA Report addresses this concern in the quote I provide above.

Assertion: Men who have sex with men (MSM) are at higher risk for STIs

From a purely psychological perspective, this hardly seems relevant. Although it certainly is indicative of O'Leary's biases, since it is a common assertion made by the religious set to justify their "opposition" to homosexuality.

Assertion: While not every persons with SSA falls into these categories, a significant percentage do. There is on the other hand no replicated evidence that SSA is genetically or congenitally predetermined and therefore a natural and unchangeable variant.8 Therefore, it can be argued that there is evidence that SSA in some cases (or some might argue in most cases) is associated with a psychological or developmental disorder.

Ah ... the classic circularity which confuses correlation with causation. The APA is very careful not to make any assessment of causal factors related to homosexuality because what evidence exists is far from conclusive. Unfortunately for O'Leary, his fantasy that because there has been no "gay gene" found that the causes must lie in other correlations doesn't exactly hold up. (I discussed this in more detail here, here and here.

O'Leary doesn't let reason get in his way though, as he proceeds to try and disprove other basic tenets of the APA's report.

2) Homosexuality and bisexuality are stigmatized, and this stigma can have a variety of negative consequences (e.g., minority stress) throughout the life span.

Sexual acts between two persons of the same sex, along with adultery, fornication, and sexual paraphilias, are condemned by a number of religions as always contrary to God’s law. Since these religions are based on unchangeable revelation, these doctrines cannot be altered. Therefore, engaging in same-sex relations will always be considered by some as unacceptable. Love and compassion for those who struggle with temptation does not require acceptance of these behaviors. Freedom of religion protects the right of persons, who believe that homosexual acts are always wrong, to state their belief publicly and teach this conviction to their children without fear of discrimination. Such convictions are not bigoted, discriminatory, homophobic, or hate speech.

It is true that the realization that a significant portion of the community believes that a person’s behavior is not acceptable may make that person feel bad. Persons engaging in homosexual behavior may wish to silence those who disapprove. They may wish to have their behavior universally accepted; but so long as people have freedom of religion this situation will not change.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry over this self-serving bunch of tripe. Instead of addressing the very real issue of stigmatization, O'Leary provides us with a self-serving justification of why he thinks it's his right to demand that GLBT people be limited in their lives.

I would argue that his interpretation of "Freedom of Religion" is deeply flawed - at least with respect to the Canadian Charter of Rights. I've discussed the principles of how different rights intersect with each other elsewhere on my blog.

... and yes, when those anti-gay statements amount to propaganda, they are no better than what the Nazis spread about Jewish people in the 1930s. Make no mistake about it.

3) Same-sex sexual attractions and behavior occur in the context of a variety of sexual orientations and sexual orientation identities, and for some, sexual orientation identity (i.e., individual or group membership and affiliation, self-labeling) is fluid or has an indefinite outcome.

Gay activists would have us believe that SSA is a normal, and unchangeable variant, but numerous studies have found that SSA is fluid.9 If as the evidence shows it is possible for SSA and behavior to change spontaneously, then why can’t a person seek psychological therapy or spiritual counseling to affect a change in SSA or behavior?10

The APA report doesn't actually say this. What it does say is that the evidence supporting reparative therapy is deeply flawed (big shock there), and that reparative therapy doesn't produce the results claimed.

What the APA does advocate is a therapeutic environment that will help the client achieve a degree of self awareness and self acceptance that they did not have before - in a manner that respects the spiritual, social and sexual context that the client lives in.

4) Gay men, lesbians, and bisexual individuals form stable, committed relationships and families that are equivalent to heterosexual relationships and families in essential respects.

Same sex relationships differ in many essential aspects from a marriage between a man and a woman. Two persons of the same sex cannot consummate a marriage - the one and only act that joins a man and a woman as one flesh. They cannot conceive a child that is the fruit of their union and their joint biological offspring. Every child acquired by a same-sex couple has been separated from one or both biological parents. Such a separation is perceived by the child as a loss. Every child raised by a same-sex couple lacks a parent of one or the other sex. Two persons of the same sex lack the psychological and emotional complementarity that is part of a husband and wife union. Finally, it is interesting to note that exclusivity is not considered essential for male couples.11

The usual "but homosexuals can't procreate" argument. I've heard this a thousand times as an argument against gay couples. It's a crock. This argument is based on a myriad of assumptions about heterosexual relationships and how they differ from homosexual relationships ... and aren't based on a single scrap of evidence that I've ever seen.

As for exclusivity, as much as the religious set likes to get their panties in a twist every time they talk about gay promiscuity, they do so while turning a blind eye to the frequency of what they should rightly call adultery among heterosexuals. Extra-marital affairs (on both sides of the marital bed) are surprisingly common, and to criticize homosexual couples for being open about them is hypocritical at best, and a double standard at worst.

As for offspring, how many children are raised in single parent households? By step parents? ... by adoptive or foster parents?

5) Some individuals choose to live their lives in accordance with personal or religious values (e.g., telic congruence).

Some individuals not only choose to live their lives according to God’s revealed law, but also believe that since truths of revelation and the truths discovered by science come from the same source, when both are properly understood they will agree. The term "values" degrades this belief into mere personal opinion; one person "values" one thing, another "values" something else. Those who believe in the congruence of revelation and science, reject this kind of relativism. They hold that it is possible through revelation and science to approach truth and that certain opinions are simply wrong. However, they respect the right of those who oppose them to be wrong and to defend their beliefs. While gay activists demand universal acceptance and affirmation for themselves, they use every method within their grasp to silence and marginalize those who disagree with them.

More self-serving malarkey from O'Leary. He clearly hasn't bothered to read the entire report from the APA - or if he has, he failed to comprehend a sizable chunk of it. If he had bothered to read the APA's report thoroughly he would have realized that this forms a significant part of how the clinical environment should be managed.

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