Researcher: LifeSite and OneNewsNow Misrepresent Our Review
September 24th, 2008
A British researcher has denounced two North American anti-gay web sites for distorting his research. University College London professor Michael King, in a statement to Box Turtle Bulletin, clarified the findings of his research on depression and suicide among LGB people, and emphasized the importance that “all sectors of society welcome them as equal and valuable citizens.”
Professor King spoke out in response to an article that appeared last Wednesday in LifeSite, an unofficial Catholic web site, which claimed that the “homosexual lifestyle [is] strongly linked to depression [and] suicide.” The same article by Kathleen Gilbert appeared again Saturday on the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow. It began:
A new study in the United Kingdom has revealed that homosexuals are about 50% more likely to suffer from depression and engage in substance abuse than the rest of the population, reports Health24.com.
After analyzing 25 earlier studies on sexual orientation and mental health, researchers, in a study published in the medical journal BMC Psychiatry, also found that the risk of suicide jumped over 200% if an individual had engaged in a homosexual lifestyle.
The LifeSite/OneNewsNow article claims that the study proves lesbians, gays and bisexuals experience this risk not because of stigma or discrimination, but because homosexuality itself is a mental disorder:
Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons, a psychiatrist and member of the Catholic Medical Association, says there is evidence that homosexuality is itself a manifestation of a psychological disorder accompanied by a host of mental health problems, including “major depression, suicidal ideation and attempts, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, conduct disorder, low self-esteem in males and sexual promiscuity with an inability to maintain committed relationships.”
The BMC Psychiatry article by professor Michael King and colleagues is available online for free. This means that you don’t have to take anyone’s word for anything; you can read it yourself. And as you do, you’ll notice that the study bears little resemblance to Gilbert’s description of it.
First, the authors make it clear that participating in a “homosexual lifestyle” — and by that I presume Gilbert means sexual activity — is not a necessary risk factor. The studies that the authors analyzed defined homosexuality and bisexuality by many different standards, including sexual attractions and identity apart from behavior.
The authors also make it clear that while lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people appear to be at greater risk than heterosexual people of mental disorders and suicidal behavior:
LGB people are subject to institutionalised prejudice, social stress, social exclusion (even within families) and anti-homosexual hatred and violence and often internalise a sense of shame about their sexuality.
Although our evidence does not specify the nature of such mechanisms, there is no evidence to suggest that homosexuality is itself a disorder that is thereby subject to a higher co-morbidity than is found in heterosexuals.
In fact, even if Gilbert hadn’t seen the study itself — even though it is available online — her “report” doesn’t even bear much resemblance to the Health24.com article that she claims to cite but doesn’t link.
We asked Professor King for his reaction to the LifeSite/OneNewsNow article. This was his reply:
LifeSite News and OneNewsNow have misinterpreted our review. Evidence from around the world identifies the main stressors leading to mental distress in gay and lesbian people as discrimination, prejudice, bullying in schools and colleges, and the consequent need for many LGB people to keep their homosexual identity secret, even from their families.
Our review did not examine links between mental disorder and homosexual “behaviour” or “lifestyle”. Our work reviewed studies of the mental health of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and sadly, those studies showed that it is people (not behaviour) that are discriminated against, and not least by religious groups and organisations.
Discrimination on the grounds of sexuality is even more devastating than other forms of discrimination such as racism, as it reaches right into families and leaves no refuge for its victims.
We suggest in our review that the availability of alcohol and drugs at gay social venues may be a factor in the greater risk of drug and alcohol misuse in LGB people. Reducing this problem is something for which LGB people must take greater responsibility. However, the fact that discrimination still exists in our societies means that many are forced to use such venues to meet each other rather than through more common ways available to heterosexuals, such as at work, during the pursuit of hobbies and past-times, or at church.
There is now abundant evidence that homosexuality is not itself a mental disorder and that it is compatible with a healthy lifestyle. We shall only begin to see a reduction in mental distress and deliberate self harm in LGB people when all sectors of society welcome them as equal and valuable citizens.
To throw more confusion into the mix, Gilbert tossed in a discredited 2007 study by Nazi-apologist Paul Cameron which supposedly demonstrated that “that the lifespan of a homosexual is on average 24 years shorter than that of a heterosexual.” She also used Cameron’s study to claim that discrimination hat nothing to do with it, saying that, “Homosexuals in the United States and Denmark – the latter of which is acknowledged to be highly tolerant of homosexuality – both die on average in their early 50’s, or in their 40’s if AIDS is the cause of death.”
We have already examined glaring flaws in Cameron’s study, as has Danish epidemiologist Morton Frisch who described his study as “humorous example of agenda-driven, pseudo-scientific gobbledygook.” Cameron’s false claims of presenting this “study” before the Eastern Psychological Association earned him an official condenmnation from EPA president Phile Hineline in April 2007.
Gilbert’s brief article in LifeSite and OneNewsNow combines the worst misrepresentations of legitimate science coupled with the worst example of phony pseudoscience — all in six short paragraphs. That’s quite a remarkable if dubious achievement. What Gilbert lacks in veracity, she certainly makes up for in ingenuity — and audacity. Maybe someday she’ll decide the truth ought to play a role as well. Somehow I doubt it.
[Thanks to regular reader Stefano A. for his help in gathering material for this post.]