Researcher: LifeSite and OneNewsNow Misrepresent Our Review

Jim Burroway

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.

And:

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.]

Stefano A

September 24th, 2008

Not that it would matter to Kathleen Gilbert, LifeSite or OneNewsNow if they did read the original study… But I’m of the opinion that, at least for Kathleen Gilbert, she had not or even attempted to do so. I’m of the opinion that Gilbert (and perhaps LifeSite/OneNewsNow) in general simply see something published and then use it as a starting point for their propaganda. For example, in this case, Gilbert refers to the article at Health24.com as if it were an authority, but that article itself she so deliberately distorted by her redactions from the original wire report was a republication of a wire release by Amy Norton, a Reuters Health Reporter, which in turn was not a critical annotation of the report but simply a news wire synopsis.

Evan

September 24th, 2008

No, Jim, she won’t bring the truth into her work, because these people believe that their interpretation of the Bible is the only truth, therefore anything that doesn’t immediately, and in a handy linear fashion, fit with their version of the truth is discarded.

I find it funny, though, from a scriptural perspective. Arguably the Ten Commandments are given much more weight in the Old Testament, yet these fake Christians see no dissonance in hurling “Do not bear false witness” out the window like a rock, in favor of a childish interpretation of a law in Leviticus.

Liars for Jesus, as usual.

Rob

September 24th, 2008

It wouldn’t be so bad if she was solely interpreting the bible. It’s easy to understand that it is a collection of stories and myths, however, willfully misrepresenting scientific research, and continually quoting a completely debunked researcher speaks to a conviction of absolute loathing. It would appear that the people on these sites have a strange need to be angry at something or feel superior to someone.

How sad, and really rather immature.

Jason D

September 24th, 2008

When fundies co-opt science for their own purposes they often do so clumsily and without regard for professionalism or clarity. Like cherry-picking the Bible, they cherry-pick phrases and data from scientific sources. They know faith and Bible alone won’t convince the masses. The sad part is the faithful will never read those studies, never have an honest conversation with a gay person. This article at BTB will simply be seen as gay-propaganda and or blasphemy.

For my own story, yes, I was clinically depressed for over a decade, and my sexuality was part of the issue. An unhealthy drinking problem only exacerbated the issue, coming out with unrealistic expectations of the gay community didn’t help either. Funny thing though, once I was in therapy — everything changed, for the better. I decided to
1 Stop drinking
2 Stop trying to be something I’m not: one-nighters and settling for “friends with benefits” simply weren’t enough for me.

And once I did all that, I found a way for me to be a very happy, very healthy gay man. Then I found a partner who loves and accepts me as I am.

Regan DuCasse

September 24th, 2008

This was not a ‘misinterpretation’ of the original study. This was a blatant MISREPRESENTATION of it.

And as the Bible is selectively used to rationalize the very negative issues within society gay folks have to face, this study was also used selectively and deliberately arranged to deepen the prejudice already inculcated regarding homosexuality.

Even if a parent, who has a talented and loving gay child, will throw their own life experience with that child out of the window to prove their loyalty more to who would socially isolate that child, hence the statement that there is little refuge even in the family.

And WHY would a parent not give their own flesh the benefit of the doubt, rather than an ideology loaded with it?
This is where religious ideology IS the reason for the morbidity, rather than homosexuality being the unhealthy factor.

Morbidity in blacks raised in the Jim Crow South, or Jews in Communist countries is similar to that in gay folks reported in this research.
Remember the Clark doll study? This report in the BMC is analogous to that. Very much so.

cowboy

September 24th, 2008

“…coming out with unrealistic expectations of the gay community didn’t help either.”

–Jason D

I think I know what you mean, Jason. Fortunately, I have some very “classy” gay friends that have helped…and I include BTB and XGW among them.

I’m going out on a limb right now. If anyone here reading this has never thought about depression and even suicide, I would say you are lying. Life is hard enough but when you factor in what it means to be a homosexual in our society it is not surprising there can be real depression involved. So, it isn’t hard to realize some namby-pamby pseudo scientist will try to exploit that fact. What we need to do is make our family/co-workers and the ignorant aware of the falsehoods these people at AFA are regurgitating.

Priya Lynn

September 24th, 2008

Lifesite and onenewsnow are acting like a schoolyard bully, beating up the victim and then when the victim gets depressed claiming it is because there’s something wrong with the victim.

Lucas

September 24th, 2008

I find it interesting, that no one seem to argue the child molesting Catholic priests and the cover-up is evidence of Catholic church’s promotion of an unhealthy “Catholic lifestyle” as well as the church’s encouragement of tolerance for child molestation. Yet, people are so eager to argue that gay folks are sick and disordered by distorting the facts of a study.

Buffy

September 24th, 2008

I did my own piece on their heinous misrepresentation of the study. It’s nothing more than a perpetuation of their typical pattern. Too bad more can’t be done to stop them their blatant deceptions.

Stefano A

September 25th, 2008

Jim:

In case you are not already aware of this, your post has made it across the pond and is being reported on by Pink News UK

precept golf balls

July 19th, 2012

It’s onerous to search out educated people on this subject, however you sound like you realize what you’re talking about!
Thanks

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