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Posts for December, 2011

What Coloradans support couple rights?

Timothy Kincaid

December 13th, 2011

Quick answer: almost all of them.

The Public Policy Polling firm has released its latest polling of Colorado residents. Granted they are a Democratic polling firm, but the questions seem to be presented without obvious bias or leading so this poll is probably is a pretty fair reflection of actual views and can’t be dismissed as partisan push-polling.

And the best way to describe the views would be to say that the residents of Colorado are fairly evenly divided about whether “same-sex marriage should be legal or illegal”, but they very much believe that gay couples should either be allowed to legally marry or form civil unions.

So, which Coloradans support marriage equality? Not much surprise there.

Asking the “should be legal” yes or no question:

80% of very liberal
78% of liberal
55% of moderate
49% of women (as oppose to 41% illegal)
46% of men (as oppose to 45% illegal)
70% of Democrats
51% of Independents
48% of Hispanics (as oppose to 43% illegal)
47% of Whites (as oppose to 43% illegal)
60% of 18-29 years old
52% of 30-45
49% of 46-65 (as oppose to 41% illegal)

But that doesn’t necessarily say that those outside these groups were all for banning rights. Actually, healthy minorities support full equality:

24% of Conservatives (but only 8% of “very conservative”)
20% of Republicans
44% of “Other” (not White or Hispanic)
32% of older than 65 (with an additional 12% not sure)

All of which is very good news. But when you ask the three part question (marriage, civil unions, or nothing) the support for couple recognition is much stronger. The “marriage” response is slightly lower than in the legal v. illegal response, but a good many of those who did not support legal marriage do support civil unions.

So who supports some form of couple recognition? Three quarters of them. Every single category other than “very conservative”: 68% of Conservatives and 60% of Republicans and 59% of racial “other” and 65% of the older folk. Even 46% of “very conservative” Coloradans agree.

Last year the legislature played a political game to kill the Civil Unions bill in a committee. Let’s hope this poll gives them a bit more courage to do their actual job this year and vote in this very popular option.

Bisexuals Exist!!

Timothy Kincaid

August 23rd, 2011

Shocking, simply shocking! A new study has determined that some men are attracted to both male and female persons. Or, at least, sexually stimulated by watching them have sex.

This new finding contradicts and earlier one which denied evidence of existence of bisexuals, but was flawed in its population selection. (NY Times)

In both studies, men watched videos of male and female same-sex intimacy while genital sensors monitored their erectile responses. While the first study reported that the bisexuals generally resembled homosexuals in their responses, the new one finds that bisexual men responded to both the male and female videos, while gay and straight men in the study did not.

Both studies also found that bisexuals reported subjective arousal to both sexes, notwithstanding their genital responses. “Someone who is bisexual might say, ‘Well, duh!’” said Allen Rosenthal, the lead author of the new Northwestern study and a doctoral student in psychology at the university. “But this will be validating to a lot of bisexual men who had heard about the earlier work and felt that scientists weren’t getting them.”

Ah, but we can’t really be certain, can we? After all, heterosexual attraction in men is determined by response to lesbian porn (hetero porn is inconclusive, as gay men may find the presence of men stimulating).

But what if these are just guys who are attracted only to lesbians and not women in general? Huh? Then what? Maybe bisexuals are really transgender lesbians! What about that?

Okay, enough silliness. But it does strike me as odd that we have to have studies to figure out if the person sitting there in the room with you exists.

Fascinating gay penis facts

Timothy Kincaid

July 18th, 2011

It appears that the National Institutes for Health helped fund the analysis of a survey about how penis size effects gay men. And this has the Traditional Values Coalition nearly sputtering with indignation.

Crazy Lou sent out a press release claiming that

At least $9.4 million for a 10-year study that included a survey of gay men to determine average penis sizes, “…to better understand the real individual-level consequences of living in a penis-centered society.”

Of course that wasn’t true. The funds were apparently but one tiny part of a larger grant and the purpose wasn’t to determine average penis size. Actually the findings included much more, such as: (Fox News)

The study reported, among its findings, that gay men with “below average penises” were more likely to assume a “bottom” sexual position, while those with “above average penises” were more likely to assume a “top” sexual position. Those with average penises identified themselves as “versatile” in the bedroom.

While previous studies have found that for heterosexual men, penis size was significantly related to comfort in a swimsuit, not much study of the penis was focused on gay men. And the researchers figured if anyone knew about penises, it was gay men.

And there was lots of fabulous info: the bigger the penis, the less likely to lie about it; smaller guys wish they were bigger, but no one wishes they were smaller. I have no idea how I missed this study when it ran in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

But, seriously, there were some findings that are important. Those few (7%) who believed that their penis was “below average” fared significantly worse than other men on three measures of psychosocial adjustment. Also, men with above average penises were significantly more likely than men with average size penises to report having ever been infected with gonorrhea/Chlamydia/urinary tract infection.

All in all, what a great way to start the week. Penis fun facts and pissing off Crazy Lou.

And no. It’s none of your business.

ADF’s new “survey” is ignored

Timothy Kincaid

June 17th, 2011

A survey with +/- 0% margin of error has found that the best ice-cream is rocky-road. Yeah, probably Haagen-Dazs.

That’s all fine and good, but its useless unless you know that the survey consisted of asking myself what ice-cream I would like at the moment.

Although… maybe strawberry… hmmmm

Well back to my point.

The Alliance Defense Fund has released a new Surprising and Shocking Survey that pretends to report that Americans really-o truly-o don’t want Teh Gheys to marry:

Contrary to recently released studies that suggest increasing support for homosexual “marriage,” an extensive national survey reveals just the opposite.

Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) commissioned the study through Public Opinion Strategies. It reveals that 62 percent of Americans believe “marriage should be defined only as a union between one man and one woman.” Fifty-three percent of Americans participating in the study “strongly” agreed.

Well, gosh, that should shake things up. Right?

Except, of course, that the reputation of Alliance Defense Fund is so abysmal that everyone assumes that they are just lying. That’s what liars do, after all.

So no media has even blinked. None.

Well, the Christian Post, Charisma News, and the ever-wacky Dakota Voice all trotted it out as though it were legit (when will Christian media tire of being patsies of political operatives pretending to be religious?). And several alternative media sources have reported the story about ADF’s bogus polling and how it is nothing more than propaganda. And the Sacramento Bee ran the press release in their “unedited press release” section.

But no mainstream press, not even very conservative mainstream press, ran with this story. It simply isn’t credible. As the Colorado Independent noted:

The group says 53 percent of Americans strongly agreed with the statement and only 35 percent disagreed.

But CitizenLink provides little other data on methodology. There is no list of questions asked, no tabs breaking down how various constituencies were chosen or how they answered and in what percentages.

The poll was reportedly commissioned last month by the conservative Alliance Defense Fund. The firm that conducted the survey, Polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, is tied to Republican Party causes and has been linked to unethical election campaign strategies in the past. According to Raw Story, the firm was charged with violating Virginia polling disclosure laws and was accused of using push polls to influence elections in favor of Republican candidates.

You know, it must be embarrassing to realize that everyone knows that you are lying. Everyone.

An important indicator of future equality

Timothy Kincaid

May 25th, 2011

Anti-gay activists have many catch phrases and arguments, but ultimately they all boil down to one thing: they believe homosexuality to be morally wrong. And, until recently, America has agreed and voted accordingly.

Which makes the following graphic very very interesting:

Majority support

Timothy Kincaid

May 22nd, 2011

Sunday afternoon musings – those who are not fond of my pontificating may want to pass this one by.

There is something magical about the name Gallup Poll. Gallup may not be the most accurate of all polling agencies, but their duration and history lend an air of credibility, especially when confirming what other polls are finding. So when on Friday the Gallup Poll announced that Americans now support marriage equality by 53% to 45%, it gave an emotional confirmation to what we have already seen from major polling all spring.

Yes, a majority of all Americans now believe that same-sex couples should have the legal rights to marriage.

But what does that mean?

Let’s start with what it does not mean. This does not mean that a majority of Americans personally approve of same-sex marriage. Legal acceptance and approval do not necessarily go hand in hand. Nor does it mean that we will from henceforth win all of our battles in either the legislature or in the ballot box. Anti-gay campaigns have proven successful at appealing to fear and – for at least a while – changing public attitude.

But it does mean that we will win. It means that the tipping point, that distinct moment at which change ceases to move at its previous trajectory and suddenly accelerates, has been reached.

And if we look at Nate Silver’s graphic of public opinion on marriage, I think that we can see something interesting.

If we look at the way in which public opinion has been going, we see – other than a bump leading into the 2004 elections – a fairly consistent rate of change. But around the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009, something happened. Something changed the scale such that the rate of increase in support and rate of decrease in opposition sped up dramatically.

Why did this happen?

I think I know why. I don’t have evidence for this conjecture, and history may prove me wrong, but I believe that a single international moment occurred which changed the way in which marriage equality was viewed both within and without the gay community: Proposition 8.

When Californians voted to ban marriage in our state, it caught the world by surprise. And, unlike marriage bans in Arkansas or Texas, this seemed personal. It seemed a deliberate insult.

Also unlike Arkansas or Texas bans, it pissed us off enough to protest. Publicly in the streets. In San Francisco and San Diego and Los Angeles. But also in Chicago and Detroit and New York and Omaha and Salt Lake City and Wichita and Marquette and Sault Ste Marie. Even in London and Paris and Amsterdam.

This was an unexpected response. Those who oppose marriage didn’t expect it, the voters didn’t expect it.

And we didn’t expect it. But something about the moment of this vote and this time in this state caught our collective discontent and channeled it around a singular event. Losing proposition 8 changed us as a community, for the first time we truly began to believe – all of us, not just the activists but club kids and conservative couples and militant queers and feminist lesbians – that marriage was a right to which we are entitled and which is worth fighting for.

And, just as importantly, it showed those around us that we truly care. It ceased being a matter over which we could politely disagree and became a position which defined friendship and family and faith.

And as a consequence, those around us changed. Reluctant and hesitant and fearful people decided that if they had to choose between tradition and those they love (and, yes, now they have to choose), they would give up tradition.

So where does it go from here?

I think that from now on – for a while, at least – we are going to see ever-increasing support until only the die-hards will still oppose civil marriage. Those who currently say “no” to pollsters will increasingly feel reluctant to be out of the mainstream and will respond the way that “everyone agrees”. The Aunt Thelma’s of the world will not only find that they do think that it’s time to let Sue’s kid (he’s such a fine young man) and his partner marry, but that they are rather proud of how modern and current they are.

And this will be followed – at a few years distance – by legislative change. Politicians are followers, not leaders, so they will not be ahead of the people on this issue.

But when the Minnesota Marriage Ban Amendment fails in 2012, as I predict that it will, this will be the end of calls by anti-gay activists to “let the people vote”. And if the Supreme Court has not invalidated such bans by then, we will see initiative efforts to reverse the anti-gay bans in states like Oregon, California, and Nevada.

None of which means that we can rest on our laurels or quit the fight. As they lose, anti-gays will mount ever shriller campaigns and they may get rather painful and the South will cross the line to full equality only after dragging its feet, kicking and screaming. But while there are still battles to go, we have won the war.

Gary Gates defends his LGBT estimates

Timothy Kincaid

April 9th, 2011

Gary Gates of UCLA’s Williams Institute has written an op-ed in the Washington Post defending his decision to estimate the LGBT population. Gates does not speak to the criticism about his methods, which is unfortunate.

He does, however, address a greater concern, one which I share:

These facts matter because legislatures, courts and voters across the country are debating how LGBT people should live their lives. All parties deserve to be informed by fresh research, not a six-decade-old study. We should be able to search the standard places where scholars and policy advocates go for information about the health and well-being of Americans — all Americans. Places such as the Census Bureau’s decennial count and American Community Survey, the premier sources of demographic data in this country. Or the National Health Interview Survey, a primary source of information about Americans’ health. Or the Current Population Survey, the preeminent source of information about the nation’s economic well-being. Or the National Crime Victimization Survey, where we get most of our data about experiences of crime.

But searching these sources for information about LGBT people would be largely futile. None ask questions about sexual orientation or gender identity.

How many LGBT folk are there?

Timothy Kincaid

April 8th, 2011

Some time ago I set out to discover to just what extent are gay and bisexual people infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). But to do that, I had to figure out just how many people are gay or bisexual. But, as I noted at the time, this is not an easy demographic to define:

To know how many gay people there are, one has to explain what one means by “gay person”. And there are several ways to approach this.

Just a few decades ago, self identification would be a useless parameter. Two men could have lived together for decades and been known to friends and family as a devoted couple without either being willing to be publicly identified as “gay” or “homosexual”. Even today, epidemiologists are careful to use terms such as “men who have sex with men (MSM)” so as to include for health purposes those who do not use LGBT identifications.

But sexual behavior is also not a good indicator. Some gay or bisexual persons may identify publicly as gay and yet for personal reasons choose not to be sexually active. A self-identified gay Christian, for example, may elect celibacy or may defer sexual activity until united in the bonds of a committed relationship but they are no less “gay” than the man with a life partner or the woman living for her next sexual conquest.

Perhaps the best definition would be those who are exclusively or primarily attracted to the same sex. But this definition might also include ex-gays and others who would object to being so identified. And for purposes of discussions of “gay community”, it’s hardly fair to include those who have no communion with other gay persons.

Others, thinking in terms of community, might include as “queer” all persons who do not identify at heterosexual. But to my way of thinking this is far too broad for our purposes, including asexual persons, anti-sexual persons, and those who choose to avoid labels, regardless of sexual attractions.

But, relying on what was, at that time, the best info available: an abstract of the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth put out by the Centers for Disease Control, I came up with an answer. And as the Survey allowed me to look at more than one possible definition – and as I got to the same result either way – I could state with a measure of confidence the following:


I think it fair to state that at least 2.3% of men are gay and at least 4.1% are “gay or bisexual”.

I think it fair to state that at least 1.4% of women are gay and at least 4.1% are “gay or bisexual”.

and

Although this is based on assumptions, by applying the above percentages it is reasonable to state that there are at least 5.3 million gay or bisexual men and at least 5.5 million gay or bisexual women above the age of 15 living in the United States, for a total GLB Community of at least 10.8 million people.

I have generally stuck with my limited analysis waiting for additional or better information. But now Gary Gate of UCLA’s Williams Institute has undertaken the task of assessing the available data and coming up with an answer to that elusive question.

Gates is perhaps the foremost demographer studying the LGBT community. The information that has now become recognized about where gay families are (virtually everywhere) and what census data could tell us about them came primarily from Gates and the Williams Institute. When his Gay and Lesbian Atlas came out in 2004, it tossed over the apple cart of presumptions about same-sex families existing only in the cities.

So Gates’ findings have been given a level of credibility that has not been questioned. He is a specialist talking about his specialty. And, to my initial smug pleasure, Gates arrived at estimations that are not far from my own.

  • An estimated 3.5% of adults in the United States identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual and an estimated 0.3% of adults are transgender.
  • This implies that there are approximately 9 million LGBT Americans, a figure roughly equivalent to the population of New Jersey.
  • Among adults who identify as LGB, bisexuals comprise a slight majority (1.8% compared to 1.7% who identify as lesbian or gay).

But while I am impressed by his scholarly contributions and defer to his understanding of demographics, I am shocked at some of his premises, methodologies and conclusions. I think that as he further continues his work that he should challenge some presumptions both in analysis and in presentation.

Averaging averages

Perhaps the weakest possible method for reconciling variances between study results would be to average them. Not all studies have equal likelihood of accuracy, equal methodology, equal statistical significance, or equal credibility. Outliers ought not have the same input, and a survey of ten people does not carry the same weight as a survey of ten thousand.

Additionally, the purpose of a survey weighs both on questions asked and the conclusions drawn. And let’s not pretend that a survey of Californians says much about Americans as a whole. Which leads me to question the inclusion of both the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions and the California Health Interview Survey.

So I am troubled by a methodology described as:

However, combining information from the population-based surveys considered in this brief offers a mechanism to produce credible estimates for the size of the LGBT community. Specifically, estimates for sexual orientation identity will be derived by averaging results from the five US surveys identified in Figure 1.

I cannot tell from Gate’s description of his methodology whether he gave weight based on sample size or took other steps to smooth the results. Nor is it clear what sort of margin of error can be relied upon in Gate’s calculations.

But considering that we are talking about small numbers to begin with, I am concerned that “averaging results” can lead to results that are statistically meaningless.

Adopting the lowest possible estimate

I recognize and appreciate the value of estimating conservatively. This is the hallmark of a good demographer and demonstrates professionalism over advocacy. However, when dealing with a population which you know for certain is underestimated, it is not accurate to set the lowest estimate as though it were the the truest estimate.

And even if one is estimating those gay and lesbian people who so identify (as opposed to other measures), it is a given that public surveys under-count your population. There are virtually no people who will identify on a survey as being gay when they are not. But there are a not-insignificant number who do identify as gay – to themselves, their friends, their family – but who will not disclose their orientation in a survey.

So language that says “are” rather than “at least” falsely implies that the lowest number is accurate.

Male and Female Sexuality

Gates does note that the gay/bi breakout is not mirrored between gay men and lesbians. But I don’t think that he adequately emphasizes, or perhaps even recognizes, the extent and complexity of this difference.

Based on my experiences writing here, reviewing the literature, and discussing the issue with others who approach sexuality from different perspectives, I’ve come to conclude that male and female sexuality is very different. Men and women, and especially gay men and women, experience attraction differently, respond to it differently, and have differing incidences of fluidity in sexual desire.

So it is not only a simplistic presentation to ‘average’ the results of male and female sexual identity, but it presents a false picture of both. So while “Women are substantially more likely than men to identify as bisexual” is informative, the following is a useless statistic:

Among adults who identify as LGB, bisexuals comprise a slight majority (1.8% compared to 1.7% who identify as lesbian or gay).

A better set of bullet points – less likely to be distorted by dishonest or lazy media – would be to report what the demographics tell us about each group (to the extent that they do). For example, Gates would have been both more informative and more accurate to say:

  • At least 3.5% of adults in the United States, around 9 million people, identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

  • Of men, at least 2.2% identify as gay and an additional 1.4% as bisexual. Of women, at least 1.1% identify as lesbian and an additional 2.2% as bisexual.

And even that is not fully informative. Those of us in the community are well aware that identifying as bisexual rather than gay is often as much a matter of caution as it is a reflection of internal perception.

International skewing

For some reason Gates found it necessary to discuss difference between the sexual identity, sexual behavior, and sexual attraction of Americans by looking to surveys in Canada, the UK, and Australia. I think it fairly obvious that distinctions between attraction and identity are driven to a large part by culture. And it is also fairly obvious that Australian attitudes do not well explain the identity of Americans.

Transgender estimates

While his estimates of gay men and gay women were sloppy, his estimates of transgender Americans are, at best, fanciful.

Gates achieves his estimate by averaging two surveys, one of which was at 0.1% and one of which was at 0.5%. This is nonsense. Frankly there isn’t enough data to make any credible estimate, and Gates should know better.

When you are averaging two numbers, one of which is five times the other, and both of which are pretty much in your margin of error, anything you come up with is little more than a guess.

Gates should simply have noted that there is an additional demographic, likely less than one half of one percent of the population, of persons who identify as being transgender and left it at that. Even “likely less than one half of one percent” is aggressive, considering the scarcity of raw data.

To put a numerical value (0.3%, or 700,000) is to distort reality and misapply his profession. This does a service to no one.

Conclusion

I was initially pleased by Gates’ efforts. Finally someone credible was attempting to answer that oft-guessed-at but seldom analyzed question as to just how big the LGBT community might be. And I also felt validated that his answers so closely mirrored the conclusions of my limited efforts. Points for me!

But upon closer inspection, this report is notable as much by its limitations and failings as it is by its effort to provide an answer.

I don’t disagree with Gates’ conclusions, necessarily. They are in the ballpark of reasonable, however shoddily he got there. And they serve a purpose in that they can – I hope finally – put an end to Kinsey’s 10% figures.

But this report should be treated as nothing more than a stepping stone. An interim effort on which future work can build. And it is on this that Gary Gates and I agree:

Understanding the size of the LGBT population is a critical first step to informing a host of public policy and research topics. The surveys highlighted in this report demonstrate the viability of sexual orientation and gender identity questions on large national population-based surveys. Adding these questions to more national, state, and local data sources is critical to developing research that enables a better understanding of the understudied LGBT community.

Dishonesty about the ‘how many LGBTs’ study

Timothy Kincaid

April 8th, 2011

Gary Gates of UCLA’s Williams Institute has made a tentative calculation of the LGBT population. I’ll have an analysis up soon about his calculation. But, in the meanwhile, please be careful in what you read. A number of unscrupulous reporters are nearly giddy in their misrepresentation of Gates’ work.

Take, for example, the way in which SanDiego6 distorts the story:

A California demographer has released a best guess of how many gay men and lesbians there are in the U.S.

Gary Gates puts the figure at 4 million adults, representing 1.7 percent of the 18-and-over population.

That’s much lower than the 3 to 5 percent that has been the conventional wisdom in the last two decades, based on other isolated studies.

This is so dishonest that it is difficult to attribute the inaccuracy to ignorance or carelessness. Gates did not “put the figure at 4 million adults.” Here is what Gates actually said (PDF):

  • An estimated 3.5% of adults in the United States identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual and an estimated 0.3% of adults are transgender.
  • This implies that there are approximately 9 million LGBT Americans, a figure roughly equivalent to the population of New Jersey.
  • Among adults who identify as LGB, bisexuals comprise a slight majority (1.8% compared to 1.7% who identify as lesbian or gay).

San Diego 6 doesn’t even mention bisexuals, choosing instead to go the lower number and pretending that it is reflective of the study.

Not surprisingly, this is the same spin that American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer put on the report. Perhaps they share the same motivation.

Marylanders support marriage

Timothy Kincaid

January 25th, 2011

First a little venting. If you are a research and polling company and you put out a press release about your latest poll, put the friggin thing on your website so people can read it!

Gonzales Research conducts a recurring poll about issues of importance in Maryland. And their results provide additional support for the quest to achieve marriage equality in that state (I’ll provide a link when I find it). (WaPo)

In the poll, 51 percent of voters say they would favor a law in Maryland allowing same-sex couples to marry, while 44 percent opposed such a law and 5 percent gave no response.

The poll has a 3.5% margin of error.

Another ill-contrived circumcision study

Timothy Kincaid

December 8th, 2010

Should there be any researchers reading, let me give you a bit of advice: gay sex and straight sex are not identical. While most heterosexual men do not have penises inserted into their anuses with regularity, this is not an uncommon part of the sexual practices of many gay men.

And further, the easiest way that a gay guy can become infected with HIV is through anally receptive unprotected sex. That isn’t new, surprising, or even contested.

Yep, HIV transmission among gay men in the US is primarily due to taking it bare up the butt. And any research which seeks to understand factors contributing to HIV transmission which does not consider that simple fact is a complete waste of money and time.

And today we get word of yet another Wasted Money Study on whether circumcision impacts HIV transmission between gay men. Reuters:

In a study of more than 1,800 men from the U.S. and Peru, researchers found that overall, the risk of contracting HIV over 18 months did not significantly differ between circumcised and uncircumcised men.

Over the study period, 5 percent of the 1,365 uncircumcised men became HIV-positive, as did 4 percent of the 457 circumcised men, according to findings published in the journal AIDS.

Well, gee, that information would be useful to know… if the study wasn’t conducted in a mind-numbingly stupid way.

Because, you see, that study doesn’t take into consideration whether the men were engaging in receptive or penetrative anal sex. I just assumes that gay men pass HIV to other gay men in some unknown and mysterious manner. Maybe by osmosis.

Well guess what? It really doesn’t matter one iota whether a bottom’s penis is circumcised, pierced, tattooed, or wearing a funny hat if he has semen up his butt. And any study that focuses only on whether a penis is circumcised – but not what you’re doing with it – is going to provide useless information.

I will give this study partial credit for even wondering, as a side note, whether circumcision impacts the transmission of guys who are using their penises in penetrative anal sex. And while they couldn’t bother to craft a study that looked at that issue, they did at least ask. Kinda.

And guess what?

The researchers did find some hints that circumcision could be protective among men who primarily had insertive sex with other men. Among men who said they’d had insertive sex with their last three male partners at least 60 percent of the time, circumcision was linked to a 69 percent lower HIV risk.

That difference, however, was not statistically significant, which means the finding could be due to chance.

But the truly stupid aspects of this Wasted Money Study isn’t limited to having no concept whatsoever about how HIV is transmitted. It also made these glaring errors:

Male circumcision is far more common in the U.S. than in most other countries, and 82 percent of the 462 American men in the study were circumcised, compared with just 6 percent of the 1,360 Peruvian men.

D’ya think that this may be a material difference in populations? That perhaps there are differences between the cultures, practices, or even extent of HIV exposure between the two countries?

All of the men in the study reported having sex with other men and were considered to be at increased risk of HIV infection because they were already infected with the genital herpes virus (herpes simplex type 2), which can make people more susceptible to HIV.

So we’re talking about men who potentially have open sores… which are known to be ways in which HIV enters the body… but all that can be ignored to discuss the results of circumcision.

None of which discouraged declarations based on the results of the “study”

Taken together, the results “indicate no overall protective benefit from male circumcision” when it comes to male-to-male HIV transmission, write the researchers, led by Dr. Jorge Sanchez of the research organization Impacta Peru, in Lima.

No, Dr. Sanchez, taken together the results indicate an incredibly stupid study which tells us absolutely nothing whatsoever about circumcision and HIV transmission and was a complete waste of time and money. I really hope that my tax dollars did not fund your folly.

We don’t really need studies that inform us that anally receptive men don’t reduce their HIV risk by becoming circumcised. They also aren’t benefited by having flocked wall-paper or a charming haircut.

But I, for one, would be interested in a study that looked at whether HIV transmission could be reduced by means of circumcision among anally penetrative men. That question has not been answered (this Wasted Money Study, notwithstanding) and it would be beneficial to know whether circumcision is a risk mitigator among this subset of gay men, and to what extent.

And, I guess they did add that recommendation to their nonsensical reporting of their results.

They add that studies should continue to look at whether circumcision affects HIV risk from insertive sex and do so in larger, more diverse study groups.

Yeah. Ya think?

An obvious but necessary report about depression

Timothy Kincaid

December 6th, 2010

One of the tools used by those who deeply desire to make your life more stressful and difficult are statistics about depression. Because, yes, gay people suffer higher levels of depression.

And while it’s pretty obvious that being treated with contempt by the government, many families, more than a few churches, about half the politicians, and a whole lot of society would certainly seem like a cause for depression and a threat to mental health, anti-gays would like society to believe that homosexuality is inherently a cause of mental illness, if not a mental illness itself. They argue that somehow homosexual behavior (because “no one is really gay”) is so obviously against “natural law” that the depression we feel is really guilt and shame over our deviance.

Now a new study provides evidence of the correlation between family support and mental health. (Time)

Now a study reveals for the first time the impact that a supportive family can have on the physical and mental health of gay, lesbian and bisexual children. Researchers led by Caitlin Ryan, director of the Family Acceptance Project, a research, education and policy initiative designed to better understand the role that sexual orientation has on family dynamics, found that teens from families who supported their sexual orientation were less likely to abuse drugs, experience depression or attempt suicide than those in less accepting families. The teens in the more supportive environments also self-reported higher levels of self-esteem and self-worth.

Oh, and as for “helping” your kids by trying to make them heterosexual… well, Exodus isn’t going to like this study much.

Ryan points out, for example, that parents who tried to show support by attempting to change their children’s sexual preferences — in order to help their children become more accepted in school and society — were instead perceived as rejecting their child’s individuality and sexual expression. “What we showed was that by trying to prevent a child from learning about their sexual identity or from being part of support groups, or by telling them they are ashamed of them or not talking about their sexual identity, these kinds of reactions are rejecting behaviors that are all linked to negative health and mental health outcomes in children when they become adults,” says Ryan.

Now those who believe that Teh Gheys are a threat to all that is good and dear will just ignore this study. They aren’t that much invested in reality to begin with, and they are quite suspicious of things that challenge the “Truth” that the have chosen to believe.

But this study will be quite useful to decent folk who aren’t really sure what to do. It lists specific responses – dos and don’ts – for how to keep your kid feeling supported and healthy.

Pew: strong support for DADT repeal

Timothy Kincaid

November 29th, 2010

The Pew Forum released a poll today which continues to document the public’s support for repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

As the Pentagon prepares to release its highly anticipated survey of military personnel about the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, most Americans (58%) say they favor allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the armed forces. Fewer than half that number (27%) oppose allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly.

That is a fairly static statistic, with little change over the past five years. And, as has been the case for years, support for repeal is broad with strong Democrat support and nearly as many Republicans favoring repeal as opposing it.

It is sad to see politicians pandering to a subset of a demographic to continue discrimination that is not wanted by the American people.

DADT Survey leak: most troops don’t care

Timothy Kincaid

October 29th, 2010

The survey of troops and their families about their attitudes on repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been completed and the results have been compiled. And while the analysis of the results continues and the report will not be available until December 1, some information has been leaked to the media. (WaPo)

A majority of active-duty and reserve service members surveyed by the Defense Department would not object to serving and living alongside openly gay troops, according to multiple people familiar with the findings.

The survey’s results are expected to be included in a Pentagon report, due to President Obama on Dec. 1, regarding how the military would end enforcement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that bans openly gay men and lesbians from serving in uniform.

Some troops surveyed – but not a majority – objected strongly to the idea of serving with gays and said they would quit the military if the policy changed, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly share details of the survey.

Terms such as “a majority” and “some troops” are probably useless at this point for anything other than political positioning, but considering that it had been feared that only those most motivated by anti-gay animus would answer the survey, I am encouraged by this leak and am hopeful that the end result will not be a document that will allow Senator McCain much ammunition in his war against openly gay soldiers.

Pew Research: for first time, majority of Americans do not oppose same-sex marraige

Timothy Kincaid

October 6th, 2010

The Pew Research Center has released its annual report on public opinions on same-sex marriage. And while Pew does show support levels for marriage equality that have been observed in other polls, they are reporting the same sort of uptick in support that others have shown. According to Pew, marriage is now supported by 42% and opposed by 48%, the first time that they have observed less than half opposing equality.

Polls this year have found that more Americans favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally than did so just last year. In two polls conducted over the past few months, based on interviews with more than 6,000 adults, 42% favor same-sex marriage while 48% are opposed. In polls conducted in 2009, 37% favored allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally and 54% were opposed. For the first time in 15 years of Pew Research Center polling, fewer than half oppose same-sex marriage.

Pew provides a great deal of breakdown on exactly who is supportive and who is opposed. And while the results are predictable (supporters are younger, educated, Democratic, liberal, and female), there are sizable portions of non-traditional supporters who now favor equality:

38% – men
35% – Southerners
34% – high-school or less
30% – African Americans
28% – age 65 or older
24% – Republicans
16% – “conservative” Republicans
14% – white Evangelicals who attend church weekly

While some of these numbers are small, they are the one which give me the most hope. If a quarter of all Republicans (and 1 in 7 conservative Republicans) support equality, then it can no longer be assumed that the party will hold together much longer in ideological opposition to decency.

These smaller percentages still influence the conversation at the senior center or the church potluck and challenge presumptions that might otherwise yield near unanimity of opposition to our rights among some demographics. And all of these categories show increases in support over the last year.

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