Irish president calls attention to bullying of gays

Relevant to our discussions of suicidality and same-sex attracted youth, the Irish president today called for an end to bullying, in particular that aimed at same-sex attracted youth. She spoke at the annual conference of the International Association of Suicide Prevention in Ireland.

Note that she believes more research is needed to understand the actual relationship but it seems pretty clear that any ostracism or antagonism directed at kids is not going to achieve positive ends. Sadly, kids that are perceived as different do not often fare well unless adults promote pro-social actions.

Iowa court rules that marriage licenses must be issued to same-sex couples

Ok, since several posts end up being about same-sex marriage, here is a way to do it on topic. I am not going to get into it much, but have at it (without name-calling or questioning motives).

By now, most folks know, an Iowa District Court judge ruled that marriage licenses must be issued to same-sex couples and of course we’re off to the Iowa Supreme Court. Eventually, we will all be before the U.S. Supreme Court so arguments aside, that is where the final say will occur.

The case was Varnum v. Brien. Click the link to read the opinion. on Sen. Larry Craig controversy

UPDATE: 8/30/07 – There is now audio of the police discussion with Senator Craig after the arrest in Minneapolis. Given the speculation here and elsewhere, I though it might be interesting to consider. It surprises me that he did not fight the charge given the tone of this interview.

Beth Frerking of the political magazine, Politico, interviewed me for a story out today regarding the political fallout of scandal on social conservatives. I hesitated to respond since I know nothing of Senator Craig’s life. However, I think it is clear in the article that I am replying in general terms. I am not going to speculate any further about the Senator’s situation but I suspect this will be an ongoing story with additional fallout. Feel free to add links to relevant aspects of the story in the comments.

Mother Jones (sort of) hearts NARTH

Me to my blog – “I wish I knew how to quit you!”

Can’t really leave this one alone. Mother Jones has a lengthy piece which discusses sexual identity, sexual orientation change, NARTH, and Lisa Diamond. Titled, “Gay By Choice? The Science of Sexual Identity” by Gary Greenberg, the article explores the politics of biological determinism and sexual identity. There are several gems throughout this piece but I have time for three.

I am not sure if the author is joining in this mistake or is simply pointing it out, but he notes that reparative therapists hope to take advantage of lack of consensus surrounding biological theories.

While scientists have found intriguing biological differences between gay and straight people, the evidence so far stops well short of proving that we are born with a sexual orientation that we will have for life. Even more important, some research shows that sexual orientation is more fluid than we have come to think, that people, especially women, can and do move across customary sexual orientation boundaries, that there are ex-straights as well as ex-gays. Much of this research has stayed below the radar of the culture warriors, but reparative therapists are hoping to use it to enter the scientific mainstream and advocate for what they call the right of self-determination in matters of sexual orientation. If they are successful, gay activists may soon find themselves scrambling to make sense of a new scientific and political landscape.

Implicit in this paragraph is a mistake I hear frequently – “If we can disprove biological determinism, then we prove reparative therapy is effective.” This is misguided. Finding flaws in a theory is not a way to prove a competing theory. The competing theory – in this case, reparative drive theory – must still be proven. And to my way of thinking, there are many empirical flaws with reparative drive theory.

Lisa Diamond points out this problem later in the article:

Why then can’t the experience of therapy and the relationship with the therapist also effect change?” Diamond calls this interpretation a “misuse” of her research—”the fluidity I’ve observed does not mean that reparative therapy works”—but what is really being misused, she says, is science. “We live in a culture where people disagree vehemently about whether or not sexual minorities deserve equal rights,” she told me. “People cling to this idea that science can provide the answers, and I don’t think it can. I think in some ways it’s dangerous for the lesbian and gay community to use biology as a proxy for that debate.”

Actually, she touches on a point central to this article. Biology alone is an inadequate foundation for arguing for social change. The author spends some ink discussing the historical efforts to link biology and acceptance (via Kertbeny and Ulrichs – well worth the read) and then ends up arguing that the gay rights movement needs to find other foundations beyond biological determinism. Curiously, the author has this to say about NARTH. It sounds a bit like a supportive statement but I suspect it may be a warning to his ideological compadres.

NARTH is perfectly positioned to exploit this confusion by arguing that sexual orientation can be influenced by environmental conditions, and that certain courses are less healthy than others. That’s how NARTHites justify their opposition to extending marriage and adoption rights to gay people: not because they abhor homosexuality, but because a gay-friendly world is one in which it is hard for gay people to recognize that they are suffering from a medical illness.

Based on NARTH’s significant missteps (Schoenewolf, Berger, etc.) over the last couple of years, I would argue that the association is anything but “perfectly positioned to exploit” anything. Furthermore, I do not think remedicalizing homosexuality has much of a future. Too many people know gay people who are not mentally ill or living disordered lives for this characterization to take hold. Besides, if homosexuality were ever to become a medical illness, wouldn’t the American with Disabilities Act remove any additional legal barriers to civil rights? In fairness to the members of NARTH, not all would want to re-pathologize homosexuality. And this may not even be the official policy of NARTH, but I am primarily pointing out my doubts that any significant movement in the professions toward seeing sexual orientation as a more flexible trait for some people will come from NARTH. It will come from people like Lisa Diamond and others who are doing research, synthesizing biological and environmental studies, publishing findings in peer-reviewed outlets and presenting work to peers, friendly and unfriendly.

In short, it appears to me that within the mental health professions, the rationale for client self-determination is respect for the dignity of individuals. While we may point out probabilities, we recognize the rights of self-direction with appropriate informed consent.

Blog changes

To those who read and comment:

I am making some changes for at least the month of September – well, one primary change. Most posts in September will not be formatted to allow comments. I recognize we have assembled quite an outstanding group of regular readers and comments. However, I moderated nearly 100 comments during the 24 hour period from Saturday to Sunday. That many comments alone takes much time to read and moderate, but in addition, many commenters would like to hear responses from me that are very nuanced and require more time than I have. I have several writing, research and speaking projects coming in September that will not get done properly if I continue the blog in the same manner I have since I started it. So sadly, I must limit my time in administration – at least for now.

I will, however, continue posting. There is much news coming up this month so I hope you will check in regularly. I will have reports from the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference, the Exodus Regional Conference and some research news as well. I also have a guest post from Michael Bailey coming soon where I will open the forum again. And existing threads will remain open, although I may not be able to participate extensively. But overall, as much as I value the discussion, I must take some steps and this is one of them.

Paradoxically, I will open this post for comments but I may not get to approve them until later tomorrow.