PFOX Misrepresents LGBT Suicide Research

Jim Burroway

July 22nd, 2008

It’s very difficult to imagine a more disgusting, callous and cynical act than exploiting the very real problem of LGBT youth suicides for political gain. But that is exactly what PFOX has done. And they did it by deliberately misrepresenting some of the important research studying the very real problem.

PFOX recently responded to a Washington Post article on Gay-Straight Alliances in schools last week:

The Washington Post recently ran a sympathetic article about a 15-year-old boy named Saro who described his homosexual feelings and how Gay Straight Alliance student clubs help such gay teens to deal with discrimination and bullying in high school and middle school.

“What the article failed to describe,” said PFOX Executive Director Regina Griggs, “is the danger of young sexually confused teens self-identifying as gays at an early age. Research has shown that the risk of suicide decreases by 20% each year that a person delays homosexual or bisexual self-labeling. Early self-identification is dangerous to kids.”

What Griggs failed to describe was exactly what the article she referenced actually said. That article was “Risk Factors for Attempted Suicide in Gay and Bisexual Youth” by Dr. Gary Remafedi and colleagues (Pediatrics 87 (June 1991): 869-875). This study only looked at a non-representative sample of 137 boys, which means that it is not the kind of study one can draw such specific conclusions. Among the many caveats of this study was that “The circumstances, prevalence, and severity of suicide attempts in this cohort may not reflect the general population of homosexually oriented boys.”

Wayne Besen contacted Dr. Remafedi, who supplied this response:

My work has been cited by PFOX in response to a Washington Post article on gay-straight alliances (GSA),” wrote Dr. Remafedi. “PFOX misuses one of my studies on suicide attempts in gay youth to argue that people should not identify their sexual orientation at young ages. Our findings do not support the contention that young people choose their identity or the timing of events in identity formation. Nor is there any evidence that the availability of GSAs influences those developmental processes.

a. mcewen

July 22nd, 2008

Also, One News Now, that “bastion of truth” claimed that the study was “recent.” How can a 17-year-old study be considered as “recent?”

Yuki Choe

July 23rd, 2008

“sympathetic article about a 15-year-old boy…”

“Research has shown that the risk of suicide decreases by 20% each year that a person delays homosexual or bisexual self-labeling….”

Is that not a ridiculous claim by itself? By that logic, taking a person 15 years of age as a marker; that means if a person comes out at age 10 there are risks that he or she will commit suicide immediately. Or, if the person turns 20 there would be no risk for the person to commit suicide at all.

Odd, is it not?


July 23rd, 2008

Yuki Choe,

The math may not quite work that way. If the risk of suicide for an LGBTQ(etc.) 15-year-old is, say, 10%, then increasing 20% each previous year puts them at 12% at 14, 14.4% at 13, 17.28% at 12, 20.736% at 11, and 24.8832% at 10. I’m intentionally going out to stupid precision in my decimals, because I agree with you that the premise is fallacious.

Of course, logic and truthfulness are rarely qualities I would associate with PFOX. I do find it interesting that their web site has gone to great pains to hide any religious motivation for their beliefs and practices.


July 23rd, 2008

Actually, now that I look at it, the math may not even work the way I described.

It only talks about a 20% decrease for each year into the future, and I calculated a 20% increase for each year into the past. If someone else wants to revise my numbers, please do.

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