Friday, December 9, 2016

Glenn Stanton outdoes himself for misrepresenting research - with some help from a friend

Glenn Stanton
Glenn Stanton wants to deteriorate confidence in a 2014 study which demonstrates that sexual minorities living in prejudiced communities have shorter lifespans. Let's just say that Stanton, a spokesman for Focus on the Family, is a frequent vendor of LGBT bigotry which gives him a personal stake in this matter.

I hope that you, the reader, will bear with me.  This piece quotes some dry research. Even the email I received from a scientist (which is quoted) is a tad tedious. However, that is how it should be because true scientists have no vested interest in the outcome of research. They are not cheering it on with glorious adjectives. It is the research itself that is important to them.

Writing at The Federalist Stanton claims: “New Research Debunks The Claim That Your Beliefs Can Kill Gay People.” Stanton, who considers himself a scientist, has this annoying habit of begging the question, as he has done with his title. The beliefs of individuals do not affect gay people. It is bigotry that affects gay people. Those are two very different things. The subtitle of Stanton's polemic reads: “Reducing another’s life by 12 years by failing to agree with his or her sexual desires is no small charge. But is it legit? New research says no.”

Agree? These professional Christians, believing that the earth orbits around them, insist that we seek their approval. One can no more agree or disagree with another person's sexual orientation than they can agree or disagree with their eye color. Is Stanton's piece about scientific research or religious dogma? We now have a clue that it is the latter. He continues:
It was a spectacular assertion. A 2014 study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine by a Columbia University researcher asserted that “sexual minorities living in communities with high levels of anti-gay prejudice” have a “shorter life expectancy of approximately 12 years.”
According to the study:
This result translates into a shorter life expectancy of approximately 12 years (95% C.I.: 4-20 years) for sexual minorities living in high-prejudice communities. Analysis of specific causes of death revealed that suicide, homicide/violence, and cardiovascular diseases were substantially elevated among sexual minorities in high-prejudice communities. … These results highlight the importance of examining structural forms of stigma and prejudice as social determinants of health and longevity among minority populations.
It seems like simple common sense that a gay person residing in Alabama is going to have a more stressful life than a gay person living in the West Village. Thus he or she is more likely to be prone to — a victim of — suicide, homicide, violence and stress related pathologies like cardiovascular disease. The effect seems indisputable. The result of the effect might be subject to scientific debate but would it really matter that much if the result was six years rather than 12 years?
Reducing another’s life by 12 years by failing to agree with his or her sexual desires is no small charge. But is it legit?
Does Stanton not appreciate the fact that his religious beliefs and social repression based on those religious beliefs are two different things? Not all conservative Christians are anti-gay bigots (although most anti-gay bigots happen to be conservative Christians). No one gives a crap whether or not Stanton somehow “agrees” with anyone else's sexuality. We neither seek nor require Stanton's approval. One more time: We do not need Glenn Stanton's approval!
An analysis of the 2014 study released this month further damages the veracity of this dramatic 12-year-life-reduction conclusion. Published in the same journal, Social Science & Medicine, this highly sophisticated analysis sought to replicate the findings of the original 2014 study, and could not.
And that investigator is, wait for it … Mark Regnerus. Regnerus is the science prostitute who tried to convince the Supreme Court (and claimed to prove) that gays are terrible parents and, thus, should not be permitted to legally marry. The problem, one that colleagues immediately identified, was that Regnerus did not study children raised by gay couples. Rather, he studied the children of heterosexual parents where one parent cheated on the other with a gay paramour, something that the child subsequently became aware of. Shockingly, Regnerus demonstrated that the children of dysfunctional families have more problems later in life. Surprising I know.

It seems that Regnerus, a zealous Catholic convert, was willing to trade his reputation and integrity for his faith. In 2014 Federal District Court Judge Bernard Friedman (Michigan) put it this way:
The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration. The evidence adduced at trial demonstrated that his 2012 study was hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder … While Regnerus maintained that the funding source did not affect his impartiality as a researcher, the Court finds this testimony unbelievable. The funder clearly wanted a certain result, and Regnerus obliged.
Forgive me if I am similarly skeptical of anything that Mark Regnerus asserts. Now Regnerus claims: “No effect found of structural stigma on premature mortality of sexual minorities.” It is a preposterous finding. If Regnerus wants to recalculate the effect, measured in years, so be it. To assert that repression has no effect on life expectancy is ridiculous per se. That he is unable to replicate results though a literature review may only demonstrate is own bias or ineptitude. According to the original study:
Stigma operates at multiple levels, including intrapersonal appraisals (e.g., self-stigma), interpersonal events (e.g., hate crimes), and structural conditions (e.g., community norms, institutional policies). Although prior research has indicated that intrapersonal and interpersonal forms of stigma negatively affect the health of the stigmatized, few studies have addressed the health consequences of exposure to structural forms of stigma.
Again, is this more likely to occur in Alabama or the West Village? Come on. Getting back to Stanton:
It has become a well-worn and largely unchallenged truism in gay politics: If gay and lesbian people as a whole have poorer rates of mental and physical health and attempt suicide at dramatically higher rates than the general population, it’s because of anti-gay attitudes. Many of us working in this field are accused of this regularly.
Working in what “field” exactly? Anti-gay bigotry? Is that a field? This goes to Meyer's Minority Stress Model. This is nothing new. It dates back to 2003. As Dr. Michael P. Dentato explains (at the APA site):
One of the most prominent theoretical and explanatory frameworks of sexual minority health risk is the minority stress model. The concept of minority stress stems from several social and psychological theoretical orientations and can be described as a relationship between minority and dominant values and resultant conflict with the social environment experienced by minority group members (Meyer, 1995; Mirowsky & Ross, 1989; Pearlin, 1989). Minority stress theory proposes that sexual minority health disparities can be explained in large part by stressors induced by a hostile, homophobic culture, which often results in a lifetime of harassment, maltreatment, discrimination and victimization (Marshal et al., 2008; Meyer, 2003) and may ultimately impact access to care.

The Meyer (2003) minority stress model — minority stress processes in lesbian, gay and bisexual populations — is based on factors associated with various stressors and coping mechanisms and their positive or negative impact on mental health outcomes. Significantly, many of the concepts in the model overlap, representing their interdependency (Meyer, 2003; Pearlin, 1999). The model describes stress processes, including experiences of prejudice, expectations of rejection, hiding, concealing, internalized homophobia and ameliorative coping processes (Meyer, 2003). Stressors such as homophobia or sexual stigma that may arise from the environment require an individual to adapt but also cause significant stress, which ultimately affects physical and mental health outcomes (Dohrenwend et al., 1992).
Yet, according to Stanton:
It is the rare article on the imbalance of health measures between gays and straights, either in the popular or academic press, that does not give this “minority stress” factor as the cause. But there is no definitive research driving this conclusion. It’s only “true” because so many people of goodwill desire it to be true. This lack of research is noted in the “12 years” study itself with the authors admitting (on page 2) that “although researchers have long theorized that [social] stigma may exert deleterious consequences for health” upon sexual minorities “there has been scant empirical attention paid to this topic.”
Are you fucking kidding me. There is consistent research going back decades and there is a veritable mountain of published, peer-reviewed research.
Along this line, a 2016 study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology examined how the hard-fought social affirmation that legalizing gay marriage was promised to provide impacted the well-being of Swedish same-sex married couples. They have suicide rates nearly three times that of their opposite-sex married peers. The authors caution their numbers are likely an underestimation. A similar Danish study found that same-sex married women suffered a six-fold increase in suicide risk over their opposite-sex married peers, and same-sex partnered men an eight-fold increase risk.
Be careful what you cite. The author of Stanton's cite is Charlotte Bj√∂rkenstam PhD, Dept of Clinical Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. I just happen to have an email from Dr. Bj√∂rkenstam (presumably Stanton did not contact her):
Dear David,

Thank you for your e-mail and for showing interest in my research!

In the study you refer to we only studied men (and women) who had entered marriage (same- or different-sex) and we can hence, not say anything about the whole population gay men (or lesbians).

Our finding is consistent with results from two Danish register-based studies on suicide in sexual minorities. The first Danish study found no distinct difference for same-sex partnered women, but an eight-fold increased suicide risk among same-sex partnered men in Denmark between 1990 and 2001. The second nationwide Danish mortality study that used more recent data (2000-2011), found a highly elevated suicide risk in both same-sex married women (HR: 6.4) and same-sex married men (HR: 4.1), as opposed to their heterosexual peers.

Currently the most well-established theory that explains these differences is the “Minority Stress Model” (Meyer). Meyer’s model states that the experience of prejudice events, expectations of rejection, hiding and concealing of one’s sexual identity, internalized homophobia, and ameliorative coping processes are associated with the increased levels of mental ill health and suicidal behavior among sexual minorities.

It is well-established that sexual minority individuals are at higher risks for mental ill health including anxiety and depression, and depression is a main risk factor for suicide, so the association we found is not too surprising. However, it is still urgent with more research, and especially research that aims at finding solutions as how to best prevent suicides among LGBT people but also how to prevent mental ill health and discrimination.

I hope this response is helpful, please let me know if i can assist you further!

Best wishes,
Charlotte
An additional vein of investigation sheds further light. Of same-sex or bi-attracted youth in the United States, only 21 percent who attempted suicide said their action was “highly related” to their sexual orientation, and 43 percent said it was “not related” in any way. In addition, 66 percent of such youth first attempted suicide before coming out to their family and only 16 percent did so after coming out. Such findings led one scholar to note that suicide attempts among LGB youth
…most often followed same-sex awareness and preceded disclosure of sexual orientation to others. It is therefore very likely that sexual minority youth who complete suicide may do so never having disclosed their sexual orientation, identity or behaviors to others.
Stanton knows that his audience will probably not review the cites. According to the first one:
Results confirmed an association between sexual orientation and suicidality. Nearly half (42%) had sometimes or often thought of suicide; one third (33%) reported at least one suicide attempt. Many related suicidal ideation and suicide attempts to their sexual orientation. Most attempts followed awareness of same-sex feelings and preceded disclosure of sexual orientation to others. One quarter said a family member had made a suicide attempt, and nearly three quarters said a close friend had attempted suicide.
Stanton's intended inference is that gay kids kill themselves more often because they are doing evil by being gay. The Meyer Stress Model is the far more likely explanation. Indeed, in the second cite he is suggesting that these kids were not repressed because they had not disclosed their sexual orientation. Unsupported religious nonsense. “Same-sex attracted” is unknown in science (as opposed to gay, homosexual or LGBT). “Same-sex attracted” is religious rhetoric. Disclosed or not, gay kids feel guilt and shame for their sexual orientation. They feel that way because of idiots like Stanton.
What likely drove such tragic behaviors among these youth did not seem to be how people treated them due to their sexual identity. Their desperation happened before they revealed it to the world. Also, suicide risk doesn’t seem to remit, nor mental and physical health level out, as one grows older and more confident with his or her sexuality. Sadly, it doesn’t appear to get better even as gay acceptance improves by dramatic measures, as much as we would like to believe it does.
Aside from the fact that Stanton is at odds with the published research he is suggesting two things:
  1. Don't blame me or us and;
  2. If you think that your kid is more likely to suffer because he is gay then don't allow him or her to be gay.
He will likely deny item two but Stanton and his employer, Focus on the Family, are vigorous proponents of pseudo-scientific conversion therapy.

Stanton often refers to himself as a scientist but he has never (to the best of my knowledge) published a paper in a peer reviewed scholarly journal. Stanton has the pretentious habit of referencing his own articles as if they were scholarly cites, using the form “(Stanton, 2006).” While we were spared that contrivance in today's spew it is clear that Stanton is a religious ideologue which is the polar opposite of being a scientist. Scientists go where the evidence takes them. Stanton misrepresents research and engages in selective observation to prove a point. In that regard, he is a spectacular failure.

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