Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for March, 2010

New military survey on DADT

Timothy Kincaid

March 17th, 2010

In February, Lake Research Partners and American Viewpoint, on behalf of Vet Voice Foundation, conducted a telephone survey of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

The methodology appears to be fairly decent, though the margin of error is a bit large.

Lake Research Partners and American Viewpoint designed and administered this survey, which was conducted by phone using professional interviewers. The survey reached a total of 510 veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq) and/or Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan). The survey was conducted February 8-23, 2010. Telephone numbers for the sample were generated randomly from a military sample and a radius sample drawn from military bases in the United States. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 4.4 percentage points.

But I do have some concerns about the demographic breakdown. As best I can tell, it does not appear to be representative of the military as a whole. It appears to over-represent white, male, and more highly educated personnel than what I’ve been able to identify as reflective of those serving. Nevertheless, it adds to the conversation.

This sample was:

45% Republican (or leaning) v. 20% Democrat (or leaning)
19% High school education, with 44% college graduate or post graduate
79% married
36% evangelical Christian
69% white, 16% black
58% think there were gay people in their most recent unit

Of this sample,

  • 60% agree and 29% disagree with “Being gay or lesbian has little bearing on a service member’s ability to perform their duties.” This may be skewed by two lead up questions asking about race and gender having bearing.
  • 73% are comfortable (37% very) and 23% are uncomfortable (7% very) “in the presence of gays and lesbians?”
  • 34% favor (24% very); 36% oppose (29% very); and 30% aren’t sure about “allowing openly gay men and lesbian women to serve in the military”
  • When asked to “describe your personal opinion if gay and lesbian people were allowed to serve openly in the military”, 73% said it would be acceptable (though 31% wouldn’t like it) and 25% said it would be unacceptable.

They also measured by age and found that “younger veterans lean toward favoring allowing gay men and lesbian women to serve openly while older veterans lean toward opposing the change, but there is little intensity in either direction.”

While I am not sure that this accurately reflects the views of our military, it does add to the growing recognition that soldiers care a lot less about the sexual orientation of their fellows than do Senators or Pentagon officials.

Fact Checking the Family “Research” Council Straw Man Argument

Jason Cianciotto

March 13th, 2010

In response to a Washington Post article about the economic benefits of same-sex marriage in DC, the Family Research Council (FRC) provides a classic example of how right-wing organizations manipulate data and statistics to suit their anti-LGBT positions.

Here’s the quote:

When same-sex weddings kicked off in D.C. yesterday, the city wasn’t seeing anything but dollar signs. In an absurd article in today’s Washington Post, reporters tried to argue that counterfeit marriage could be the economic salvation of the city’s economy. In a region with 12% unemployment, local officials claim that redefining marriage “will create 700 jobs and contribute $52.2 million over three years to the local economy.”

Not so fast, says FRC. The last census counted 3,678 same-sex partner homes in D.C. Assuming that number has stayed roughly the same, then the 150 who applied for marriage licenses yesterday would amount to a whopping four percent of the local homosexual population–hardly the stuff of economic recovery. For the Post’s $52.2 million projection to come true, all 3,678 of those D.C. couples would have to get married and spend over $14,000 per wedding. (I don’t know about you, but my wife and I spent a LOT less!) These “marriages” (which have yet to meet financial expectations in other states) may make a fast buck in the short term, but they will do nothing but drain the economy down the road. Consider the massive health care expenses incurred by taxpayers every year to cope with the diseases spread by homosexual behavior. According to the Kaiser Foundation, federal funding grew to more than $18 billion in 2004 to deal with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Over half of all U.S. infections are in men having sex with men! That means taxpayers spend roughly $10 billion a year treating the diseases caused by a behavior celebrated in same-sex “marriage.” So much for economic development!

Not so fast FRC.

Yes, according to the Washington, DC Census Snapshot published by the Williams Institute, there are an estimated 3,678 same-sex couple households in the district, and the Associate Press did report that 150 same-sex couples applied for licenses on the first day same-sex marriage became legal there. This is about all that is factually correct in FRC’s statement.

FRC’s claim that the 150 couples represent “four percent of the local homosexual population” is a classic manipulation used by the religious right and discredited “researchers” like Paul Cameron. They take an estimate of one portion of a minority population and pretend that it is generalizeable to the population as a whole. In this case, the number of same-sex couple households willing to self-identify in the Census is not equivalent to the total population of lesbian, gay, or bisexual DC residents, which according to the Williams Institute is approximately 33,000.

Even more importantly, it is laughable for FRC to base its argument on the number of couples who applied for licenses on the first day. The Washington Post article references another Williams Institute report, which estimates that 2,000 same-sex couple in DC would marry over the next three years. In addition, another 12,500 couples are expected to come from out of state to get married. This is a more complete picture of the estimates used to create the projection of 700 new jobs and $52.2 million in revenue, but FRC simply ignores this information.

Where to begin with FRC’s last argument about same-sex marriage being a long-term drain on the economy because of “diseases spread by homosexual behavior?”

We could cite CDC data on transmission rates caused by “heterosexual behavior.” We could also estimate federal funding spent on prevention efforts that address the damage caused by social, and familial environments created by FRC. As they say, so much for economic development!

However, it would be a waste of time to feed into FRC’s “straw man” arguments.

They have no interest in examining real facts. Nor do they see the folly in their position against allowing same-sex couples access to an institution that fosters monogamy as well as mutual caring and support. As so many articles and special reports on Box Turtle Bulletin have illustrated, there is no place for scientifically supported facts in the anti-gay playbook.

The alarmist and misleading new headlines about HIV transmission

Timothy Kincaid

March 12th, 2010

The Centers for Disease Control has issued a “new look at disproportionate impact of HIV and syphilis among U.S. gay and bisexual men”. And this “new look” is quite alarming:

The data, presented at CDC’s 2010 National STD Prevention Conference, finds that the rate of new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men (MSM) is more than 44 times that of other men and more than 40 times that of women.

That certainly sounds frightening. And it lends itself easily to anti-gay activist who argue that gay men and women do not deserve equal rights under the law because gay men are crawling with disease. (Iowa Independent)

Homosexual activity is “more dangerous for individuals who engage in it than is smoking,” and because of this, state lawmakers need to pass a constitutional amendment overturning last year’s Iowa Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, according to Iowa Family Policy Center President Chuck Hurley.

Naturally, anti-gay activists like Hurley fail to distinguish between “individuals who engage in homosexual activity” and individuals who engage in unsafe sex. And, having only the vaguest of notions about those same-sex couples who marry, he leaps at a conclusion that is out of his reach.’

Unsafe sex significantly increases the odds of seroconverting. And considering that the CDC lumps all men who have sex with men (MSM) together regardless of their relationship status or sexual practices, single gay men who whoop it up sans condom with a stranger tonight have a FAR MORE than 44 times likelihood of becoming HIV positive than does a heterosexual dude that does the same. Which is one reason we should encourage relationships and responsible sex.

But setting aside the lunacy of opposing committed relationships so as to stop promiscuous behavior, let’s look at the numbers themselves. And let’s consider the responsibility of the CDC and those who use their statistics to report them in a way that is meaningful and useful rather than pointlessly frightening.

Yes, “44 times that of other men” is scary. But what does it mean?

For that we have to look at the following paragraphs.

The range was 522-989 cases of new HIV diagnoses per 100,000 MSM vs. 12 per 100,000 other men and 13 per 100,000 women.

The rate of primary and secondary syphilis among MSM is more than 46 times that of other men and more than 71 times that of women, the analysis says. The range was 91-173 cases per 100,000 MSM vs. 2 per 100,000 other men and 1 per 100,000 women.

Unpacking the medical language, this is what we find:

There were about 33,750 new cases of HIV infection in 2007. Assuming that gay/bi men make up about 4% of the population, this number is about three quarters of one percent (0.75%) of all gay/bi men.

For syphilis, the number is about 5,900 cases and an infection rate of about one tenth of one percent (0.13%).

Previous analysis suggests that about 12% of all gay/bi men are currently living with HIV. As syphilis is treatable, the total number of gay men living with syphilis is less easy to determine.

Further, if we wish to be credible, we have to recognize that the gay community is not homogeneous. HIV and syphilis infections impact certain demographics far more than others. Factors such as race, location, education, and self-worth can have almost as much a factor on one’s likelihood to contract HIV as sexual orientation.

Too often we can read alarming headlines and think, “why fight it, it’s inevitable.” This isn’t true. Most gay men don’t have HIV and never will. And while these frightening statistics can remind us to be careful, they should be taken in perspective.

When we hear “HIV diagnoses… 44 times that of other men” or “2000 times higher than repeat blood donors”, we have to remind ourselves to step back and take a better look at the numbers. We need to recall that the purpose of information of this sort is to fight the virus, not the people who are infected. And we need to understand that we each are individual and not a statistic.

CBS News agrees that how you phrase the question on DADT determines the answer

Timothy Kincaid

February 11th, 2010

Yesterday I took Peter Brown and the Quinnipiac poll to task for phrasing questions in a way that were likely to result in less-supportive positions on the open service of gay men and women in the military. Now CBS News has looked at polling and has concluded that simply using “homosexuals” instead of “gays and lesbians” can significantly impact the results.

cbs wording

I’m now going to grant Brown a little slack on what I believe was very poorly worded questioning and shoddy question order practices. At least he didn’t degrade his results by using “homosexuals”.

Baptist Press jumps on the “lack of gay monogamy” bandwagon

Timothy Kincaid

February 10th, 2010

As expected, the irresponsible coverage of SF State University’s gay couples study by the New York Times continues to be trumpeted on anti-gay media. Today the Baptist Press picked up the story and ran with

Study showing lack of gay monogamy could impact nation’s marriage debate

About half of all male homosexual couples have sex outside of the relationship with the approval of the partner, according to a new study out of San Francisco that some say should have a dramatic impact on the nation’s debate over “gay marriage.”

Anti-gay activists are ready and willing to extrapolate from “couples” to “gay marriage” without even blushing.

“The study demonstrates clearly what we’ve been arguing: That gays bring a different definition to marriage,” Glenn T. Stanton, a sociologist who is the director for family formation studies at Focus on the Family, told Baptist Press. “And it’s not just a different definition that male and female become optional, but that monogamy becomes optional as well. They are coming into marriage with a wholly different view of marriage than anybody has — left, right, conservative, liberal…. They come in with that understanding of openness. These are people who come into marriage with a wholly different and really radical definition of what marriage is about.”

You can bet Stanton will use this as his leading point in his debates from now on.

(The claims made about the study are false. It does not show that “half of all male homosexual couples have sex outside of the relationship with the approval of the partner”.)

Quinnipiac poll on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – ask a biased question, get a meaningless answer

Timothy Kincaid

February 10th, 2010

brown_peterIn the spring of 2002, Peter A. Brown assailed the mainstream media for being unfair. It was far too liberal and chuck full of bias.

So it is only fair, by Brown’s standards, to look and see if he has any bias in his writing and statements. For example, in 2007 when Brown warned that Democrats could be hurt by supporting gay rights or in 2009 when Brown claimed that reversing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell could have enormous political risks for President Obama was there possible bias in his position?

Vincent Rossmeier certainly seemed to think so when he reviewed two polls on same-sex marriage, one of which was a Brown led Quinnipiac poll. As Rossmeier noted, how you ask a question will effect the answer that you get.

And this may be particularly true with Quinnipiac’s latest poll on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Here is how Peter Brown is selling the results:

Although on the surface the idea of ending “don’t ask, don’t tell” is a lot more popular with the American people than it was in 1993, it remains controversial despite the polling numbers.

Even though Mr. Obama now has the Pentagon brass on his side, a fight over allowing gays to serve openly will pit the president against conservatives and other former military leaders. They will argue that Mr. Obama, who never served in the armed forces, is trying to impose his views on the guys and gals in the trenches.

When Americans are asked about some of the details that might be involved with ending the current policy, they are somewhat less supportive of accommodating open homosexuals into the armed forces.

And Brown is right in that the results of his poll can be viewed in such a way as to find “controversy” about “accommodating open homosexuals”. But to get that “controversy”, the Quinnipiac had to word questions in a way that are hard to view as anything other than advocacy and push polling.

The Pentagon, which backed the change in congressional hearings last week, is studying several matters dealing with how to accommodate gays should the change be made. And on those questions the numbers are different than on the basic question.

Opponents of changing the law have long said that support for allowing gays to serve openly would drop once the American public understood some of the changes that might accompany it.

For instance, there is solid public support, 54%-38%, for restrictions on gay service personnel from showing their sexual orientation while on the job. Among military families, that ratio is 59%-33%.

There is also plurality opposition, 50%-43% for the Pentagon providing for the domestic partners of gay soldiers and sailors as they do for the spouses of straight service people. And by a narrow 46%-45%, voters don’t think that heterosexual personnel should be required to share quarters with gays.

Really? I don’t think so.

First let’s look at how the poll is structured:

Questions 1 through 5 ask about demographics. OK so far.

Then questions 6 through 19 ask about opinions as to how President Obama is doing on foreign policy, in Afghanistan, whether we should be in Afghanistan, etc. The next four questions are about terrorism and whether foreign terrorists should be given civil rights, and the fears about the Christmas Day attacker.

Now that the respondent is warmed up on the fears and drama of our dangers and the uncertainties of military service, comes the questions about gays in the military. We are not provided with questions 24 through 31, but eventually along came

32. Federal law currently prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the military. Do you think this law should be repealed or not?

After that buildup, it wouldn’t be surprising to find that the answer was “No”. But even after reminding voters that they aren’t happy with Obama’s treatment of terrorists and bombers, 57% said the ban should be repealed (though 12% less than Gallup found eight months ago). Then 66% agreed that the currently policy is discrimination, 65% said that allowing gay troops would not not be divisive or hurt the ability of troops to fight effectively (despite the leading wording of the question), and virtually everyone agreed that the military should not aggressively pursue those revealed by a third party.

But then came Peter Brown’s “gotcha” questions:

36. Do you think gay military personnel should face any restrictions on exhibiting their sexual orientation on the job or not?

I don’t even know what that means. Any restrictions?

Sure. Maybe. I guess whatever restrictions that apply to other personnel.

A better question might be: 36. Do you think gay military personnel should face the same restrictions on sexual expression as are currently applied to other service personnel or should they face additional restrictions?

37. Do you think the Pentagon should be responsible to provide for the domestic partners of gay personnel or not?

The Pentagon should be responsible?

The bias in that question is blatant. Obvious. Glaring.

Why didn’t Quinnipiac ask, “37. Should the domestic partners of gay personnel receive the same benefits as the spouses of heterosexual personnel or not?” Wouldn’t that have been a less biased question, especially since he falsely claims that this is what the results said? It might have received a mostly “not” response, but it would not have the built-in bias that Brown’s wording favored.

And finally

38. Do you think heterosexual military personnel should be required to share quarters with gay personnel or not?

Oooh, required to share!!

I guess this one could have been worse. Brown could have asked if wholesome God-fearing heterosexuals should be force to shower naked with avowed homosexual sex addicts. He could have used the phrase “bunk with” or talked about submarines.

But he did avoid the much more neutral “same housing” or “current quarters”. Ironically, while the military households surveyed were less likely to support the change, they did not oppose being “required to share quarters” any more than the population at large. Perhaps that’s because they know the housing realities and were not scared by Brown’s phrasing.

This poll adds little of real value to the conversation. We know that Americans support the change in policy across almost every demographic and Peter Brown’s efforts to try and downplay that support is of little consequence.

In fact, if there is one thing that Brown’s poll did tell us, it’s that the military families don’t buy the dog and pony show that anti-gays are using to scare Americans on this issue. Nor are they all “conservative young men who share the family values of Republicans”.

When asked about lifting the ban, Republicans in this poll were only 40% supportive as opposed to 48% in military households. And 44% of Republicans thought the change would be divisive while only 38% of military families agreed. This trend continued consistently.

And it also showed that if you want to manufacture “controversy” about “accommodating open homosexuals”, you can always use the highly biased polling methods of Peter A. Brown and Quinnipiac University.

No, the SF study did NOT illustrate that half of gay marriages are “open”

Timothy Kincaid

February 10th, 2010

One of the primary purposes of Box Turtle Bulletin is analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric. And perhaps the largest component of that is to review “studies” that relay astonishing “facts” about gay people and to determine whether they have any basis in fact.

Sometimes these are efforts conducted by anti-gay activists seeking to support their presumptions, but more often it is misrepresentation of legitimate work. One such misrepresentation has been making the rounds purporting to show that gay couples reject monogamy.

For several years, Sean Beougher and Colleen Hoff of the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality at San Francisco State University have been looking sexual agreements among gay men. This interest was generated by incidences of HIV transmission within relationships and a desire to understand how sexual agreements relate to this phenomenon.

But analysis of investment of couples into agreements and how that correlates with adherence (which impacts transmission within relationships) doesn’t make sexy headlines. So when the New York Times’ Scott James reported on this study, he decided to talk about something else entirely:

Many Successful Gay Marriages Share an Open Secret

A study to be released next month is offering a rare glimpse inside gay relationships and reveals that monogamy is not a central feature for many. Some gay men and lesbians argue that, as a result, they have stronger, longer-lasting and more honest relationships. And while that may sound counterintuitive, some experts say boundary-challenging gay relationships represent an evolution in marriage — one that might point the way for the survival of the institution.

New research at San Francisco State University reveals just how common open relationships are among gay men and lesbians in the Bay Area. The Gay Couples Study has followed 556 male couples for three years — about 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners.

The sensational (but as I’ll illustrate, flatly untrue) statement that monogamy is not a central feature for many gay relationships is exciting and sure to elicit conversation. But it just wasn’t defamatory enough for those who wish to portray gay people as sex-crazed and incapable of commitment.

Conservative NewsMax reported:

Study: Gay Marriage Involves More Outside Relationships

A federally-funded study by San Francisco State University that followed 556 local male couples for three years found that half “have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners,” according to The New York Times.

On its website, the Center describes the importance in conducting the study as revolving around the fact that “gay and bisexual men in relationships engage in substantially higher rates of unprotected” homosexual activity than do “single men with their casual partners.”

A commentary on GetReligion.org took the opportunity to say

I’m not sure if the description of the study’s findings is written up as well as it could be. If 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their primary relationship with the knowledge and approval of their partners, that’s an utterly fascinating, and newsworthy statistic. Still, I’m curious about the remaining half. What percentage of those surveyed have sex outside of their primary relationship but don’t have the knowledge and/or the approval of their partners? It seems like a key piece of information.

Certainly there’s at least one person in the world who thinks that sex with multiple partners is not the key to a successful marriage, right? And I’m not just talking about advocates of traditional marriage vows, or advocates of spousal fidelity.

The bottom line, though, is that this study breaks news. Really interesting and important news.

And even gay sites got on board with this notion with Edge Magazine running the headline, Surprise! Lots of Gay Marriages Are ’Open’, and Dan Savage declaring Half of All Gay Couples Non-Monogamous (though Edge did note some caveats).

But those who delight in denouncing the hedonistic sex-driven homosexuals and their non-monogamous marriages share a problem with those gays who may champion the abandonment of the heteronormative demands of conformity and spearhead the evolution of marriage: this study tells us nothing whatsoever about gay marriage and little about monogamy within gay relationships as a whole.

In order for a study to report on the characteristics of a population, it must be representative of that population. If a study selects a convenience sample rather than a statistically valid sample, the non-representative demographics of the sample cannot be presented as a “finding”.

For example, if I went to Dodger Stadium, i might find a sample which was useful to tell me whether Dodger fans think Dodger Dogs taste better than garlic fries, but I could not claim that my sample proves that 80% of all baseball fans support the Dodgers. That is simply a non-representative demographic of my sample, not a finding of my study.

So to see if this study supported the claim that half of gay marriages are open (non-monogamous), I contacted the study authors and obtained previously published information that reveals the sample methodology. I do not have all of the data on which the final study is to be reported, but the sampling methodology was consistent.

Let’s look at how the sample for this study was constructed and how that differs from the population as a whole.

Definition of relationship:

To be eligible participants had to have been at least 18 years old, have been in a their current relationship for at least 3 months, have knowledge of their own and their partner’s HIV status, be fluent in English, and be residents of the San Francisco Bay Area.

All were men. Contrary to James’ breathless reporting (and the example with which he started his article) the researchers said nothing about lesbian relationships. They were excluded.

The study was conducted in several phases and the details of each is not available, but the sampling methods were consistent. The breakout for Study 2 found that only 13% of participants identified as being married (perhaps the 2004 San Francisco variety) and only a third had made any sort of public commitment.

It is ludicrous to suggest that a study which includes three month long relationships without any public commitment is informative about marriage. The average length of the relationships was 7 years (more or less) but the median length was about three years earlier (half of the relationships were less than 4 years in length), suggesting that there were a few very long relationships and many much shorter ones.

The way this study has been reported, it has been suggested that gay relationships are more likely to be open than straight relationships, but no comparison was made and I’m not aware of any study that looked at the level of fidelity in three-month-old heterosexual relationship and pretended that they were representative of straights as a whole.

As the research was not applied separately by relationship structure or length, this study says nothing about gay marriage or even domestic partnerships. And any use of the results which makes (or even implies) a comparison to straight relationships is bogus and irresponsible.

Location and social perspective of the population sampled:

It must be emphasized that gay men living in the San Francisco Bay Area are not representative of gay men as a whole. In fact, it would be difficult to identify a group of gay men less representative of the US gay population.

Significant factors in the consideration of monogamy surely must include attitudes about sexuality and whether one’s general approach is more conservative or liberal overall. Additionally, the perspectives of the community in which one lives most certainly effect the values that one adopts.

While I cannot point to a study and state with certainty that those who view themselves as “conservative” are more likely or less likely to value monogamy, I can state that selecting only participants from the SF area sharply skews the sample towards those who identify as “liberal” and significantly under-represents a sizable segment of the gay community.

The means of reaching participants:

Active and passive recruitment strategies were implemented in community settings. Field research staff reached potential participants either by handing out study postcards or placing flyers and postcards in gay-identified social venues such as bars, clubs, and cafes, as well as in community health and HIV and AIDS service organizations and by placing advertisements in gay-oriented publications, Web sites, and listserves.

Recruitment materials contained text describing the study as “one which examines important relationship dynamics associated with HIV.” Recruitment strategies were designed to produce a diverse sample in terms of race or ethnicity as well as serostatus.

Recruitment in bars and clubs and on listserves skews the sample towards those who are actively seeking sexual connections. While some gay people go to bars solely for social interaction, monogamous couples that do not regularly go to bars or look at Craigslist were far less likely to hear of this study.

Additionally, this study was more likely to attract those who were interested in how relationship dynamics impact HIV transmission. I think it is a reasonable assumption that, on average, couples committed to monogamy might not have the same interest level as those who have open relationships.

The demographics of the sample:

For two of the studies, 41% of the participants were HIV positive (Study 3 had 32%). While this may be advantageous to a study which seeks to look at sexual agreements, it is not representative of the population of San Francisco, and has almost no reflection of the gay male population at large. Only about 12% of gay men in the United States are infected with HIV.

While this is undoubtedly useful for looking at variances of agreement structure among sero-concordant and discordant couples, claiming a blended rate of monogamy as though it were reflective of the community would be bad science.

This study found that couples which were both HIV negative were far more likely to establish monogamy than those in which one or both parties were positive. So by significantly over-representing HIV positive participants, the percentage who embrace monogamy were skewed downward.

About half of the sample had a bachelors degree (more than 20% had a post-graduate degree). Yet only about 43% were employed full time, with another 10-12% employed part time and 9-12% self employed. I don’t know whether there is a correlation between employment and valuing monogamy, but I think that we can all agree that 35% unemployment is not reflective of gay men as a whole, especially in the mid 2000′s when the participants were questioned.

About half of the men made less than $30,000 per year, with only a quarter making over $60,000. The average salary for San Francisco Bay Area jobs is about $65,000 and it is absurd to assume that gay men make, on average, less than half of their heterosexual counterparts.

I do not have adequate research at hand to correlate gay male monogamy (or fidelity) with employment or economic position. However, I believe that social position can influence relationship structure so it is a reasonable assumption that a study which is skewed towards a lower economic status may not accurately reflect the extent to which gay male couples as a whole value monogamy.

Conclusion:

The Gay Couples Study does reveal valuable information about the formation of sexual agreements among gay couples. For example, it reveals that gay men are almost universally talk about monogamy and fidelity and define the rules of their relationship. This seems true regardless of the structure, length, or investment into the relationship. And research into breached agreements and how it impacts HIV transmission is essential to targeting prevention efforts.

But in my opinion, Scott James’ statement that “New research at San Francisco State University reveals just how common open relationships are among gay men and lesbians in the Bay Area” may be among the most irresponsible reporting I’ve ever seen. The study says nothing whatsoever about lesbians and it tells us little about “just how common open relationships are” among anyone. It’s pure sensationalism and shoddy journalism.

But the real culprits are those who saw this study and decided that it says something about, for example, gay couples marrying in Iowa or New Hampshire. This was either lazy response or a deliberate attempt to fraudulently demonize gay couples for political gain.

In short, those reporting on this study got it wrong. If there is any story here, it would be that a study of San Francisco bay area gay male couples, a sample which was highly skewed to include many participants who are less likely to value monogamy and which defined “couples” to include those who have been dating as little as three months, still found that half of them set monogamy as the agreement for their relationship.

Iowans couldn’t care less about gay marriage

Timothy Kincaid

February 8th, 2010

When the Iowa Supreme Court determined that denying state services based on sexual orientation was unconstitutional and that the State of Iowa must provide marriage equality, you could almost slice the glee of the Iowa Republican Party. Finally, there was an issue which they could use to perhaps increase their influence and maybe even win a few elections. So they because the “no gay marriage” party.

Last year they made several attempts at getting an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment up for a legislative vote and were unsuccessful. They chortled that Democrats would be sorry come election time.

But as it has turned out, running opposed to gay marriage has not proven to be a winning strategy. To their surprise, Iowans couldn’t care less about stopping gay folk from marrying. Literally.

The Des Moines Register conducted a poll of Iowans asking, “The state Legislature can address large and small issues during the course of the session. For the following issues, please tell me if you think the issue does or does not deserve the Legislature’s limited time.” Banning gay marriage did not make the cut; only 36% thought it was worth the time discussing.

Not only was it not deemed worthy of legislative time, of the six issues that Iowans were questioned about, addressing gay marriage concerned them the least. Iowans were more concerned about payday loans and puppy mills than they were about whether same-sex couples married.

This lack of interest appears to be reflected in a change in strategy in the campaigns of Republicans running for the party’s nomination for governor. Just a brief while ago they were all running to see who could be more extreme and reactionary.

Bob Vander Plaats pledged to halt such weddings with an executive order (an authority the governor does not wield) while Chris Rants declared that he’d veto every bill that reached his desk until the legislature voted on a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality. Most of them supported calling for a constitutional convention so they wouldn’t have to wait for two sessions and a popular vote.

Only former governor Terry Branstad, also an opponent of gay marriage, chose not to run as a raving loon. Branstad took a more nuanced approach and expressed recognition of the difficulties that gay couples face when denied certain rights.

But that has changed. The race now appears to be between Branstad and Vander Plaats, and the latter has now discovered a different campaign strategy. (Register)

I’ve talked to Vander Plaats from time to time, but hadn’t really seen him out on the stump since last fall. His speeches used to give prime attention to conservative issues and gay marriage. This time, he focused entirely on job creation, state spending and education. Nobody even asked about the social issues.

I mentioned to him afterward that was a significant change from last summer, when he told me in an interview that he thought the election would hinge on two issues: gay marriage and the state smoking ban.

“Did I say that?” he asked. Yes, I told him.

“Campaigns always evolve, no doubt about it,” he said. (He didn’t mention the smoking ban at all today.)

Yes, there is no doubt that campaigns evolve, especially when the voters care less about your pet issue than they do about monitoring dog breeders.

“Super Uncle” theory gets support from study

Timothy Kincaid

February 4th, 2010

Those who study the etiology of sexual orientation know that genetics is not fully responsible for whether or not a man is gay. Other factors which are hypothesized to play a roll including either biological conditions (e.g. in utero hormone levels), natural environmental influences (early childhood infections), psychological influences, and many others.

But the results of twin studies have long since indicated that for at least some gay men, part of the causation of their orientation is due to genetics.

However, evolutionary biologists have been uncertain as to why this would be. Knowing that men who are primarily same-sex attracted and not opposite-sex attracted are less likely to reproduce, what evolutionary advantage would these genes have and how would they have carried for millions of generations without dying out?

One theory is that the advantages of having a small number of men without children of their own would be adequate to advantage the shared genes of their siblings, “super uncles” as it were. Now it appears that at least one study provides some credibility to that idea. (Montreal Gazette)

Interestingly, the study was conducted by someone who set out to prove it wrong. Paul Vasey, associate professor in the University of Lethbridge’s department of psychology, went to Samoa to study the fa’afafine [men who were raised female] to provide the conclusive evidence that the “super uncle” theory could be discarded. He found the opposite.

Researchers conducting similar studies in the U.S. and England did not find any supporting evidence for the theory, said Vasey. “So I thought, ‘Well, I’ll do it in a non-Western culture and chances are I’m going to find exactly the same results and it’ll be the nail in the coffin for this hypothesis,’” he said.

Vasey found that the fa’afafine said they were significantly more willing to help kin, yet much less interested in helping children who aren’t family — providing the first evidence to support the “kin selection hypothesis.”

It would be ill advised to draw too many conclusions based on this one study. And directly equating of fa’afafine to gay men in the West is a rather large leap.

However, this does provide additional data to inform the ongoing question as to why some people find themselves attracted to the same sex and others do not.

The Advocate’s foolish and sad “Gayest City” ranking

This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect that of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Timothy Kincaid

January 22nd, 2010

I appreciate the Advocate for many reasons, not least of which is that they are a gay magazine that is still in business. But their recent effort to light-heartedly identify the “gayest cities” in the United States betrayed our community’s occasional inclination to still buy into the most negative stereotypes as though they define us.

“Intrepid amateur sociologist Mike Albo” wanted to make the point that gay folk have fled from big cities and now are now scattered to unlikely places (an unlikely assumption).

About 10 years ago everyone else moved back into these nicely gentrified metropolises, and the lavender diaspora began. Now a slew of secondary cities are becoming gay epicenters.

So to identify these secondary epicenters and find which is gayest, he came up with seven measurements, some of which are reasonable, some of which are perplexing, and some of which make me sad at heart.

First the reasonable: same-sex households per capita and gay elected officials. These both seem like good things to consider. A city is likely “gayer” if it has more gay couples and if it’s residents are more open to gay elected officials. gay bars per capita – while I might think that this is not the best criterion, gay bars are to some extent a measurement of gay social life, although I would compare them to the total number of bars, not the total number of people.

Now the perplexing: statewide marriage equality – I can see how this might make sense in a small homogenous state, but I find it odd that by this measure Fresno is gayer than Atlanta. gay films in Netflix favorites – I guess one might measure anti-gay hostility by who was willing to watch Milk, but this is in many ways based in a ghetto mindset. Those who feel “outside” or “other” may be more inclined to need the connection brought by gay specific cinema, while those who are in welcoming communities might be less inclined to watch films based solely on their gay content.

And now the self-loathing categories. First let me say that I’m not accusing Mr. Albo of being self-loathing; he may be the most happy and secure guy out there. And I do recognize that this was not intended to be anything other than a fun exercise. But caveats aside, the following two measurements are based on stereotypes that are tragic and reminiscent of the tales of woe from ex-gays and self-hating drama queens of the 70s. gay dating and hookup profiles for single male population – that is not a measure of gayness, that’s a measure of the extent to which that community discounts relationships or has limited alternatives to meeting someone. And the saddest is cruising spots per capita. First, cruising spots are frequently frequented by those who do not identify as gay and those who are married. And also, cruising spots are most frequent in places where there are no safe ways for gay people to meet. This is not a measure of gayness, this is a measure of the closet in a hostile environment.

A measure of gayness might include a wide variety of gay social groups, citywide laws about discrimination or benefits or couples registry, supportive churches and synagogues, estimations of the gay population, the presence of an active community center, programs for gay youth or elders, and a lack of hate crime incidences. Perhaps even some comparison of the way the city voted on gay marriage bans would be informative.

But not guys lurking furtively in the bushes. That’s not gay, that’s just sad.

New Yorkers disappointed by marriage vote

Timothy Kincaid

December 15th, 2009

The Siena Research Institute has released a survey that shows that a plurality of New Yorkers were displeased that the NY Senate voted for anti-gay discrimination.

* Forty-seven percent of voters were disappointed that the Senate rejected the bill to legalize same sex marriages in New York, compared to 41 percent who were pleased by the Senate’s vote. In August, 50 percent of voters told Siena that they supported the Senate passing the same sex marriage bill, with 44 percent then opposing Senate passage.

* Liberals, young voters, Democrats and Jewish voters were most disappointed. Conservatives, Republicans, older, and African American voters were most pleased with the Senate vote.

I find this a bit surprising. I figured for the most part the general public doesn’t really experience either much disappointment or much pleasure with legislation that primarily impacts our lives.

“Overall, 40 percent of voters – 42 percent of those who were disappointed in the Senate action and 47 percent of those who were pleased – said that their Senator’s vote on the issue would be a deciding factor in their vote for State Senator next years.”

While that may be of some advantage to Republicans in conservative districts, it cannot be good news to the eight Democratic “no” votes that at least some of their constituents will be looking for an alternative in the primary.

Unlike their Senators, New Yorkers want marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

December 3rd, 2009

NY Senators who voted against equality thinking that they were doing “the will of the people” may find themselves trying to make stuttering explanations in future debates. Cuz “the people” certainly didn’t ask for marriage to be denied to their gay neighbors.

A Marist Poll released yesterday:

Do you favor or oppose legalizing same-sex marriage in New York State?

Total:
Favor – 51%
Oppose – 42%

NYC:
Favor – 61%
Oppose – 33%

Suburbs:
Favor – 47%
Oppose – 47%

Upstate:
Favor – 48%
Oppose – 44%

Quinnipiac Poll: NJ Voters don’t want marriage equality this week

Timothy Kincaid

November 25th, 2009

Polls over marriage equality in New Jersey are hovering around even.

A Rutgers-Eagleton poll conducted between Nov. 6 and 10, found 46 percent of adult residents want to extend the right to gay couples while 42 percent oppose it. Still undecided were 12 percent of respondents.

A Quinnipaic poll taken November 17 through 22 found a plurality in opposition to equality:

By a slim 49 – 46 percent margin, New Jersey voters oppose a law that would allow same-sex couples to marry, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

In this latest poll, same-sex marriage wins 60 – 34 percent support among Democrats and a narrow 49 – 45 percent support among independent voters, while Republicans oppose the measure 69 – 25 percent.

Women support same-sex marriage 53 – 41 percent, while men oppose it 57 – 38 percent. White voters split 49 – 47 percent, while black voters oppose the measure 61 – 28 percent.

While these contradicting polling numbers don’t provide incontrovertible support for any decisions, I think we can count on the negative one to be used as justification for the leadership in New Jersey to renege on promises and to shove marriage equality at least four years into the future. I very much doubt that they will act to bring about marriage equality in this lame duck session.

I have a growing contempt for the leadership in New Jersey. But it pales in comparison to the contempt they show for the principle of equality.

Yet I can be dissuaded. Prove me wrong, guys.

Comparing Gay Couples to Straight Couples

Timothy Kincaid

November 4th, 2009

Comparing gay couples to straight couples can be complex. Often it is difficult to define terms such that comparable things are being compared. What is a “couple”, what is a “relationship”?

Those anti-gays who are dishonest (or, let’s charitably say, confused) will compare the gold standard of heterosexual relationships, marriage, to the least committed of casual dating arrangements for gay people and declare that gay relationships are inferior. But little effort is made to define the terms or what qualifies as entry into the category being compared.

In society, we see a distinction between dating and being married. We don’t hold a new boyfriend to the standard we expect from a husband. And even if a man and a woman have been together for three or four years, until they marry we continue to look at such relationships as potential or temporary.

Until vows are said, commitments are not assumed. Once that step – and a significant step it is – has been taken, then family, faith, the community, society, and the law step in to collectively define this relationship as a couple, as two becoming one.

But for our community, we have in most states been denied the opportunity to take the step of marriage. We could not “tie the knot” that binds two into one. We had no couples to present for comparison because we were denied the ability to create such couples.

But change is coming. There are now a handful of states (four, soon to be five) in which the family, faith, the community, society and the law can agree that two men or two women have become a single entity, married.

And although this may be denied by majorities of voters in most of the nation, there are also those same-sex couples that are finding ways to get some of these to come to agreement. Perhaps they will get family and community to recognize their union. Or perhaps their faith and a portion of society – even in our losses, such as Maine, we see that there is a significant portion of society that will recognize such unions. And in some places where the law will not see a union of souls, it will at least acknowledge an administrative equivalency.

And analysis of census data shows that there is now a growing collection of same-sex couples that have found ways of becoming in their hearts, and in the hearts of those most important to them, married. (A/P)

The data from the annual American Community Survey showed that nearly 150,000 same-sex couples in the U.S., or more than one in four, referred to one another as “husband” or “wife,” although UCLA researchers estimate that no more than 32,000 of the couples were legally married.

So we now have a pool of married gays (and “married” gays) to offer up in comparison to married straights. We no longer have to weigh the value of church endorsed, white gowned, pomp and circumstanced heterosexual married bliss against a two month old “open” relationship between two boys who met at a bar.

And how do we compare?

Analysis of commonalities and differences is only in its infancy. We’ve only had for but a few years a measure for comparison. And until very recently, the census taking apparatus which might provided some answers has been banned from even discussing the matter.

But some researchers, such as Gary Gates at UCLA, have been finding ways to tweak the data to yield limited findings. And with the Obama Administration’s willingness to allow access to the data, some information is now coming to light.

And, perhaps not surprisingly, married gays aren’t so very different from married straights.

The [same-sex] couples had an average age of 52 and household incomes of $91,558, while 31 percent were raising children. That compares with an average age of 50, household income of $95,075 and 43 percent raising children for married heterosexual couples.

“It’s intrinsically interesting that same-sex couples who use the term spouses look like opposite-sex married couples even with a characteristic like children,” said Gary Gates, the UCLA demographer who conducted the analysis. “Most proponents of traditional marriage will say that when you allow these couples to marry, you are going to change the fundamental nature of marriage by decoupling it from procreation. Clearly, in the minds of same-sex couples who are marrying or think of themselves as married, you are not decoupling child-rearing from marriage.”

These are but early and surface findings.

And as time goes on, the distinction between “dating” and “partners” and “married” will become less hazy as employers and family court judges and Aunt Matilda will find greater need to know just who is committed and who is not. Ultimately the social need for distinction will outweigh the religion-based objection to recognition and our families, employers, churches, communities, and society will not only allow but demand to know which same-sex couples are in it for the long haul.

And time may reveal that there are strong distinctions between heterosexual and homosexual couples. Indeed, how could there not be; each subculture in our society adds its unique perspective to the marital dynamic.

And yet, I suspect that when terms are more firmly defined and a better comparison is made, we will continue to find that we are amazingly similar to our brothers and sisters, our friends and neighbors, and even to those who are convinced that we are peculiar and perverse.

HPV Vaccine OKed for Males

Timothy Kincaid

October 27th, 2009

Hardly an anti-gay activist can keep the excitement from their voice when they breathlessly declare that Gay Men Die From Anal Cancer!! And, indeed, gay men do die from anal cancer. In fact, about 0.35% of gay men do get anal cancer (a higher rate than non-gay men) and, if not treated, some of them die.

The primary contributor to anal cancer is infection with the HPV virus, the same virus that contributes to cervical cancer in women, causes genital warts, and is linked to some rare oral cancers in straight men. HPV is very common and most sexually active adults will be infected at some point in their life.

But some day that may no longer be true.

As we told you in June, a vaccine for the virus – which the CDC has been urging to be provided to all girls – is also effective in preventing infection in boys. And now the FDA has approved the vaccine for such use. (NYTimes)

The vaccine was approved last week by the Food and Drug Administration for use in boys and men ages 9 to 26. Wednesday’s action, by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is intended to guide national policy on use of the vaccine; its recommendations are typically adopted by professional medical associations and set the standards of practice for physicians.

But it probably won’t lead to universal vaccination. After all, it would be mostly appropriate to boys who may some day engage in sex with someone of the same sex, and we aren’t so foolish as to assume that public health policy will be directed by what is beneficial to future gay citizens.

The new recommendation means, in effect, that doctors and clinics may now administer the vaccine at their discretion to boys and men ages 9 to 26, but they are not expected to offer it. Parents may consider the vaccine as an option for their sons, but some health insurers may choose not to cover the shots.

Yet this is good news. And it is important that we spread the news to gay-straight alliances and gay youth groups and to parents of kids that are a bit gender-nonconforming and even those parents who put their kids’ health above their dreams of a daughter-in-law. This simple step could possibly save a life.

And in the process remove one more bullet from the arsenal of those who attack our lives and freedoms.

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