Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
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Posts for December, 2014

PFOX: these twins prove no one is born gay…. ooops

Timothy Kincaid

December 13th, 2014

PFOX Billboard

The Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays – a small coalition of ex-gays and parents who are angry that their children are out, proud, and happy – are not good people. While most ex-gays are busy trying to change about themselves what they don’t like, these are vengeful anti-gay activists who are furious that instead of being seen as heroes for their sacrifice, they generally as dismissed with pity or scorn.

In their efforts to punish their disobedient children – or, in the cases of the ex-gays, punish those gay people who did not follow their lead – PFOX supports every anti-gay legislative effort that comes along. They also try to get publicity so as to advance their (rapidly failing) positions, pushing their two basic mantras, ‘ex-gays are victims of discrimination’ and ‘no one is born gay’.

In an effort to argue the second point, PFOX has hired a billboard to declare to the world their evidence that “No one is born gay”. As proof they present “Identical twins, one gay, one not” and “we believe twin research studies show no one is born gay”.

PFOX’s argument is simple. They contend that in order for sexual orientation to have a biological basis, all identical twins would have to have the same orientation. And, if biology (“born gay”) were restricted to the sort of direct genetic determination that gives shape to your nose, they would have a point.

But, of course, biology is more than genetics. And even genetics is more than the more obvious physical similarities found in monozygotic twins.

What the twin studies actually show is that the more genetically similar two men are, the more likely that if one is gay the other will be as well.

Roughly 4% of the general male population could be categorized as gay or bisexual. In dizygotic (fraternal) twins if one is gay then there is an increased chance that the other is as well. In monozygotic (identical) twins, those odds go up to about twice as likely as fraternal twins. (The actual rates differ from study to study).

This suggests that genes play a role in at least some of the determination of sexual orientation. Other factors (either biological or non-biological) may also play a role, including genetic expression, intrauterine hormonal influences, and a host of other things way beyond my understanding. Ultimately, there may be different paths for different people, which really shouldn’t be surprising in something as complex as sexuality.

Nevertheless, witness and observation, by both gay people and those who raised them, has presented a fairly consistent story: sexual orientation is evidenced from the earliest stages of life and if it isn’t inborn, it’s so damn close as to be indistinguishable.

But PFOX knows that most people don’t understand genetics and that a nuanced approach is difficult to articulate. So they sought to capitalize on that complexity with a one-glance simplistic response.

So they present a “logical” argument: “look, here are two identical twins, one is gay and one is straight. And that proves that it isn’t biological.”

And those driving by may find that argument to be convincing.

But PFOX had a small problem; they didn’t have two identical twins with differing sexual orientation willing to be used as their point in evidence. So they just pulled stock images.

Oooops.

NBC12 – Richmond, VA News

Ya see, the problem with simplistic illustrations is that they can backfire on you. So now PFOX looks like liars and fools. Oh, drats!

Just more evidence in my long-held belief that God loves a good joke.

Another Genetic Link?

Jim Burroway

February 14th, 2014

That’s what a new study from Chicago suggests:

A region of the X chromosome called Xq28 had some impact on men’s sexual behaviour – though scientists have no idea which of the many genes in the region are involved, nor how many lie elsewhere in the genome.

Another stretch of DNA on chromosome 8 also played a role in male sexual orientation – though again the precise mechanism is unclear.

Researchers have speculated in the past that genes linked to homosexuality in men may have survived evolution because they happened to make women who carried them more fertile. This may be the case for genes in the Xq28 region, as the X chromosome is passed down to men exclusively from their mothers.

Michael Bailey, of Northwest University in Chicago, presented his findings at a meeting of the of the American Association for the Advancement of Science yesterday in Chicago. Bailey’s findings have yet to be published. Earlier research by Dean Hamer in 1993 also found that 33 out of 40 gay brothers had inherited similar genetic markers on the Xq28 region of the X chromosome.

The data however suggests that this may not explain homosexuality in all gay men. Some may inherit these markers, while others may be gay due to other factors, including potentially other biological factors such as pre-natal hormones. The data also suggests that even for those who do inherit these markers, genetics is likely not the sole influence on sexuality. For example, identical twins are not carbon copies of each other. For example, they still have unique fingerprints, irises, mole patterns, and many other differences.

Another genetics theory

Timothy Kincaid

December 11th, 2012

It seems that you have epi-marks on your genes. And those epi-marks control how your genes operate. And while they are not supposed to be passed on to your kids, sometimes they are.

And that’s why you’re gay. Or something. (USNews)

Long thought to have some sort of hereditary link, a group of scientists suggested Tuesday that homosexuality is linked to epi-marks — extra layers of information that control how certain genes are expressed. These epi-marks are usually, but not always, “erased” between generations. In homosexuals, these epi-marks aren’t erased — they’re passed from father-to-daughter or mother-to-son, explains William Rice, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California Santa Barbara and lead author of the study.

Rice and his team created a mathematical model that explains why homosexuality is passed through epi-marks, not genetics. Evolutionarily speaking, if homosexuality was solely a genetic trait, scientists would expect the trait to eventually disappear because homosexuals wouldn’t be expected to reproduce. But because these epi-marks provide an evolutionary advantage for the parents of homosexuals: They protect fathers of homosexuals from underexposure to testosterone and mothers of homosexuals from overexposure to testosterone while they are in gestation.

This is all a theoretical model which has yet to be tested by studies. But it undoubtedly will. And if it proves out, this could be the end of the “choice” debate – and also may prove to be an unhandy response to those who might be tempted to eugenically control for orientation.

Meanwhile, I’m sticking with my old standby theory: orientation is caused by Gerber’s Strained Peas. And as no one has yet proven me wrong, I’ll just sit here and smirk.

Chuck Colson v. Warren Throckmorton on preventing homosexuality

Timothy Kincaid

June 10th, 2011

In an ironic bit of timing, Watergate felon turned conservative Christian commentator Chuck Colson has recently been informing the readers of Crosswalk, a webzine for evangelical Christians, about how fathers cause their sons to be gay and what can be done to prevent it. He began his series with a now-familiar scenario:

A little boy I’ll call “Stevie” was a beautiful, healthy child. But by age five, his parents suspected something was wrong. Stevie loved Barbie dolls, the color pink, and dancing around like a ballerina.

His parents took Stevie to see Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, a psychologist who specializes in gender disorders. Nicolosi listened as they described their son’s fascination with feminine activities, which had begun when he was three. Nicolosi confirmed that Stevie was a “prehomosexual male.” Without intervention, Nicolosi said, Stevie had a 75-percent chance of growing up homosexual, bisexual, or transgender.

Colson’s articles provide a rather simple narrative about homosexuality. “Stevie” failed to adequately link with his father. Jessica had been molested by an uncle and “viewed her mother as weak.” Colson even assures us that liberals don’t really believe what they say “because deep down, most people recognize there is a moral order to the universe.”

And he knows all of this because Chuck Colson has read Dr. Joseph Nicolosi’s book, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.

And, yes, that would be the same Dr. Joseph Nicolosi who was on AC360 last night claiming he had no recollection whatsoever of former patient Ryan Kendall (a rather fascinating claim considering that Kendall testified in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial). And, yes, that would be the same A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality that refers to George Rekers over 20 times, and gives special emphasis to the “Kraig” case study.

Dr. Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor at Grove City College, an evangelical Christian university, has to a large extent assumed the burden of correcting much of the inaccurate information about homosexuality that is promoted within the Christian community. Although a defender of the conservative sexual ethic, Throckmorton does not believe that the debate is enhanced by foolishness, deceit, or baseless assertions.

On June 2, several days before we broke the truth behind George Rekers’ famous “Kraig” study, Throckmorton reminded the Crosswalk readers,

Fighting a political agenda is not a good reason to promote questionable theories. There is currently no scientific consensus about why sexual orientation takes the direction it does. Homosexuality is not strongly related to genetics but that does not mean that parenting is the only alternative non-genetic factor. Other prenatal factors, such hormonal variations during prenatal development, are being investigated and might be a part of the picture. The jury is out with much more research to be done, but what has been done on parenting does not inspire confidence in the claim that distant fathers and smothering mothers create gay men.

After the research by Box Turtle Bulletin and CNN was revealed, Dr. Throckmorton returned to Crosswalk to warn evangelical Christians that theories on preventing homosexuality are not strongly based and may even harm their children.

In their book, A Parent’s Guide, the Nicolosis refer to Kirk as an illustration of Rekers success story. The following description is from Rekers 1974 paper on Kirk’s treatment:

When we first saw him, the extent of his feminine identification was so profound (his mannerisms, gestures, fantasies, flirtations, etc., as shown in his “swishing” around the home and clinic, fully dressed as a woman with long dress, wig, nail polish, high screechy voice, slovenly seductive eyes) that it suggested irreversible neurological and biochemical determinants. At the 26-month follow-up he looked and acted like any other boy. People who view the videotaped recordings of him before and after treatment talk of him as “two different boys”. (p. 38)

Rekers built his career on cases like Kirk’s and others like Nicolosi have used these studies as evidence for the efficacy of their recommendations to parents. As the reports point out, what the doctors reported was at odds with what the family recalls, and may, in some cases, have adverse effects. At the least, parents should exercise caution and ask for additional evidence and get other opinions when considering how to respond to children who display gender non-conforming actions and preferences.

I think it might be fair to say that Colson may regret the timing of his series. And those readers here with a faith background could hardly be faulted for humming the 1771 hymn by William Cowper, “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.”

Born This Way

Jim Burroway

March 9th, 2011
YouTube Preview Image

CNN profiled an interesting blog called Born This Way. Paul V., who created the blog acknowledges, “Yes, I know – the awesome Lady Gaga is calling her new CD this as well. But that name and this idea has been brewing in my head for a long, long time, and I finally got off my ass to at least start the project here.” The photo/essay project invites readers to submit childhood photos and pictures reflecting their earliest memories of how they expressed themselves in unique and foretelling ways. “Nurture allows what nature endows,” he reiterates, and his blog is a great participatory project with the goal of showing kids that being different does not make them a freak. It makes them beautiful.

Mormon Reorientation group fraudulently misquotes Collins

Timothy Kincaid

February 25th, 2011

How very infuriating it must be to have anti-gay activists misquote you and claim that you agree with notions that you find abhorrent. But such has become the plight of Francis Collins, onetime director of the Human Genome Project.

In April 2007, A. Dean Byrd, a devout Mormon who was at that time the incoming president of NARTH, wrote an article titled Homosexuality Is Not Hardwired,” Concludes Dr. Francis S. Collins, Head Of The Human Genome Project. It claimed:

Estimates of heritability are based upon careful analyses of studies conducted with identical twins. Such studies are important and lead to the conclusion that heredity is important in many of these traits. It is important however, to note that even in such studies with identical twins, that heritability is not to be confused as inevitability.

As Dr. Collins would agree, environment can influence gene expression, and free will determines the response to whatever predispositions might be present.

But Dr. Collins did not agree. Nor was he pleased by the political advocacy of those who misquoted a statement from an appendix to his book and wrote to Ex-Gay Watch to say so:

It troubles me greatly to learn that anything I have written would cause anguish for you or others who are seeking answers to the basis of homosexuality. The words quoted by NARTH all come from the Appendix to my book “The Language of God” (pp. 260-263), but have been juxtaposed in a way that suggests a somewhat different conclusion that I intended. I would urge anyone who is concerned about the meaning to refer back to the original text.

The evidence we have at present strongly supports the proposition that there are hereditary factors in male homosexuality — the observation that an identical twin of a male homosexual has approximately a 20% likelihood of also being gay points to this conclusion, since that is 10 times the population incidence. But the fact that the answer is not 100% also suggests that other factors besides DNA must be involved. That certainly doesn’t imply, however, that those other undefined factors are inherently alterable.

Your note indicated that your real interest is in the truth. And this is about all that we really know. No one has yet identified an actual gene that contributes to the hereditary component (the reports about a gene on the X chromosome from the 1990s have not held up), but it is likely that such genes will be found in the next few years.

You would think that having been publicly refuted would be reason enough not to continue to distort the work of others. And, indeed, for people of integrity, it would be so.

But Dean Byrd and his associates have little integrity and no interest in honest portrayals of science. So here they are back again.

In today’s Salt Lake Tribune, members of the Foundation for Attraction Research (an organization founded by Byrd), are trotting out their distortions of Collins’ work to claim that his conclusions were that “homosexuality, like other traits, emerges from some combination of nature and nurture,” and to imply that Collins endorses their reorientation theories.

But they didn’t stop at defaming the character and scholarship of Collins, they also implied that Dr. Robert Spitzer endorsed their views.

Spitzer offers the following: “Like most psychiatrists, I thought that homosexual behavior could only be resisted, and that no one could change their [sic] sexual orientation. I now believe that to be false. Some people can and do change.”

It should also be observed that the type, degree, and potential for change vary with each individual, and many debates about change could be avoided by a more nuanced discussion about it.

Setting aside for the moment the methodology and the documented fraud involved with the effort to fool Dr. Spitzer, it is telling that Byrd’s associates chose to delete what Spitzer actually had to say about the “type, degree, and potential for change.” (NY Times)

But after enduring an avalanche of criticism from peers who said he had given too much credence to the accounts of his subjects, many of whom were leaders of ex-gay ministries, Dr. Spitzer now says many advocates of sexual reorientation have misrepresented his views.

“Although I suspect change occurs, I suspect it’s very rare,” he said. “Is it 1 percent, 2 percent? I don’t think it’s 10 percent.”

But you wouldn’t know that from this Mormon opinion piece.

Because Dennis V. Dahle, John P. Livingstone and M. Gawain Wells set out not to present scientific discovery or empirical evidence of their position, but rather to deceive the public. The observations of Collins and the opinions of Spitzer – had they been portrayed honestly – would have refuted the claims of the Foundation for Attraction Research. So instead Dahle, Livingsone, and Wells followed in the footsteps of Byrd and hijacked the reputations of honorable men to attach them to their dishonorable goals.

Ironically, the premise of their opinion statement was that “true religion and true science, when they are found, are never at odds.” And what an unfair disservice they have done to fellow Mormons.

For if true religion and true science go hand in hand, then it is only a logical conclusion that the religion of con-men Dahle, Livingsone, and Wells surely must be as fraudulent as their “science”.

“Mercury causes homosexuality in male ibises”

Timothy Kincaid

November 30th, 2010

Nature.com brings us this fascinating news:

American white ibises (Eudocimus albus) from south Florida that consumed methylmercury (MeHg), the most toxic and easily absorbed form of mercury found in the environment, were more likely to engage in same-sex pairings — a phenomenon unknown in wild populations of this species with no exposure to the pollutant.

Now if only we knew what causes homophobia in loons.

Guess who inspired Walter Schumm’s bogus “research”?

Timothy Kincaid

October 28th, 2010

MetroCatholic has written up an article about the controversy resulting from the AOL News story about Kansas State University professor Walter Schumm and his “study” finding that the “children of homosexuals are more likely to be homosexuals.”

In what is either a poorly contrived effort at preemptive damage control or a case of absurd irony, Schumm discusses the motivations for his study:

“Most scholars actually agree with the concept that gay people ought to be more likely to have gay children,” he told CNA in an Oct. 19 interview. “Even people on the liberal side of things actually pretty much agree with the idea that there are going to be social influences.”

He noted that prominent gay activist Jim Burroway has criticized proponents of the “parental influence” theory but has also said that such findings would not be surprising. In a column published on a gay and lesbian website in 2006, Burroway noted that virtually every theory about the origin of homosexuality would likely predict a higher incidence in children of gay parents.

Schumm wanted to test that prediction, and to improve on previous research he said was too limited and not sufficiently rigorous. He analyzed data obtained from 26 studies of gay parents and their children.

I was unable to identify – among the many many articles discussing the contributing factors that play into the development of sexual orientation – one that directly fits Schumm’s description. But I did find that in December 2006, Jim said this:

If we are ever able to tease out all of the possible factors that influence sexuality, we will probably learn that there are many different “types” of homosexuality. For some, it may be genetic. For others, maybe their later birth order after a string of brothers. For others still, it may be the same thing that made them left-handed. For others, their left-handedness may be a red herring and the real cause was their distant father. And for others, maybe their absent father had nothing to do with it; prenatal hormones made it inevitable. And for most — maybe all — it is more likely to be the unique combination of any and all of these factors (and others that we haven’t discovered yet) which forms the basis for who we are.

Ultimately, the issue is not whether the “parental influence” theory – or any of the other theories – will be found to be the most accurate. This issue is whether Schumm or his “study” has credibility to contribute to the conversation. And having reviewed his methods, we have determined that he has none.

New Zealand researcher reports correlation between sexual behavior and childhood abuse

Timothy Kincaid

July 22nd, 2010

The New Zealand Mental Health Survey was a project between 2002 and 2003 in which 13,000 New Zealand residents were given face to face interviews on a number of subjects involving mental health. Dr. Elisabeth Wells of the University of Otago reviewed the data collected and announced that there was a correlation between childhood trauma and homsexuality (Otago Daily Times)

Information extracted from 13,000 face-to-face interviews clearly showed those with same-sexual or bisexual orientation were more likely to have experienced negative events in childhood, Associate Prof Elisabeth Wells said yesterday.

People who had experienced sexual abuse as children were three times more likely to identity themselves as homosexual or bisexual than those who had not experienced abuse, she said. Also, the more adverse events someone experienced in childhood, the more likely they were to belong to one of the “non-exclusively heterosexual” groups.

We can expect anti-gay activists to immediately jump to Dr. Well’s conclusions and declare them evidence that sexual orientation is a product of environment (and therefore – by some strange logic – gay people are not worthy of civil equality).

I have not yet obtained Dr. Well’s study. But sight unseen there are glaring problems with this research.

First, we should consider the sample quality: (NZHerald)

The study questioned 13,000 people aged 16 and over on mental health issues. Ninety-eight per cent of the respondents identified themselves as heterosexual, compared to 0.8 per cent identifying themselves as homosexual, 0.6 per cent as bisexual and 0.3 per cent as “something else”.

Experiencing a same-sex encounter was more common than identifying as either homosexual or bisexual. Nearly 2 per cent reported they had been in a same-sex relationship, while another 3 per cent reported having experienced a same-sex encounter.

Either New Zealanders are unlike others samples of humanity or there is something wrong with the way in which the original study was conducted. By comparison, the US’ CDC report in 2005 found that 90.2% of US men identified as heterosexual, 2.3% as gay, 1.8% as bisexual, 3.9% as something else, and 1.8% didn’t answer the question.

Zero point eight percent is way outside the normal range of responses for sexual identity. This is such an outlier that it is difficult to give credibility to any conclusions drawn from this sample. Basically, of the 13,000 participants, only about 100 were homosexual and 75-80 we bisexual.

And even more oddly, it appears that more people have “been in a same-sex relationship” than the total combined homosexual and bisexual population. This seems peculiar and suggests that perhaps there is confusion either in the questions or in the way in which the survey was conducted.

Secondly, at least according to news reports Dr. Wells lumped anyone with any same-sex experience into one category regardless of identity or extent of sexual history.

The New Zealand Mental Health Survey by the University of Otago in Christchurch has found that people identifying themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or having had same-sex encounters are more likely to have experienced events such as sexual assault and violence in the home as children.

This seems to be a particularly poor way of identifying specific populations. Unless, of course, one is viewing any same-sex experience to be a troublesome act and you’re seeking to look for traits of sexual nonconformity.

Third, the study is based on face to face questioning. Researchers have long known that controversial or sensitive information is seldom accurately collected by this methodology. (Dominion Post)

Other researchers and gay rights advocates took issue with the study’s findings. Green MP Kevin Hague, who is gay and a former director of the Aids Foundation, said the research should be taken “with an enormous grain of salt”. “I think it’s pretty unlikely that there is any underlying real association.”

The more likely explanation was the way the study was done. “Respondents who are prepared to talk to interviewers about what may be the sensitive subject of their same-sex experience or attraction may also be the most likely to be prepared to talk to the interviewers about other sensitive subjects – in this case traumatic childhood experiences.”

Fourth, Dr. Well’s appears to have an understanding of sexual orientation that is non-conventional – one might even say that it closely mirrors that of another age, one which is seldom currently found outside of anti-gay activism.

“I suspect there might be some gay and lesbian people who will be indignant, but it is not my intention to anger them. You could say that if someone was sexually abused as a child, chooses to live as a homosexual and lives life well, then that is not a bad thing. But if they are living a homosexual life and regretting it, that is another matter.”

Dr. Wells may be speaking out of ignorance; she simply may not have read the literature on the subject before releasing her opinions. Or perhaps she is seeing her work as thwarting collected wisdom and research and instead justifying or advocating for reorientation therapy.

It’s hard to tell.

Finally, Dr. Wells appears to be taking leaps.

When a responsible researcher finds a correlation, they report a correlation. They may speculate as to the reasons, but they do not announce causation or linkage, association and they never conclude more than their study finds. Sadly not all researchers are responsible.

Again, we are going from news reports which may not be accurate:

She said there was no way of knowing from her study why there was a link between negative events in childhood and same-sex sexual orientation.

No. They was a correlation. Linkage assumes that the correlation is tied to causation, something that was not studied by Dr. Wells and about which she cannot speak.

People who either identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual, or have had a same-sex encounter or relationship, tend to come from more disturbed backgrounds,” Associate Professor Wells said.

That is simply not consistent with her findings. (stuff.nz)

Of those who reported sexual abuse or rape in childhood, about 15 per cent were non-heterosexual. Of those who had not had these experiences only five per cent were non-heterosexual.

Even if 15% of her sample came from a more disturbed background, the majority did not. It would not be truthful to say that gay/bi/encounter people “tend” to come from such a background when the majority did not.

Conclusion:

I do not know if there is any validity to this study. I’ve requested the study and either Jim or myself will look it over. We will gladly give Dr. Wells any benefit of the doubt and should any of my presumptions based on news reports turn out to be hasty, we’ll gladly correct the situation. However, there are so many red flags all over the place that it seems unlikely.

But Dr. Wells did say something with which I agree.

Dr Wells said: “I don’t quite see how our findings feed into gay-bashing, although maybe I underestimate the ability of people to twist certain things.”

Yes, Dr. Wells, you have vastly underestimated the ability of anti-gay people to twist research to support what they wish to believe. And that was unfortunate.