Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Guest Posting: Debunking UFI's Sexual Orientation Guide

suicide, homophobia, homosexual, ufi, tradition, traditional, gay, marriage, prop 8, asshat, apa style, sandfort
Today we have a post from [redacted], who has kindly offered to debunk UFI's Sexual Orientation Guide for us. Trust me, this is fun.


Okay, I'm only on the very first "point" in the UFI document, and I'm having major issues (gasp. shock.)

First of all, if you can't be bothered to properly spell the researcher's last name, I'm going to question the integrity of your research from GO. It's called "attention to detail" and IT FUCKING MATTERS. If you can't pay attention to small details, I'm going to deduce that you may not grasp more complex ones, asshat.

Okay, starting with number 1, which UFI cites as:

(Studyof 5,998 Dutch adults) Theo G.M. Sandforte et al., "Same-Sex Sexual Behavior and Psychiatric Disorders: Findings from the NetherlandsMental Health Survey and Incidence," Archives of General Psychiatry58, 10 (2001): 85-91.

Counterpoint 1 -- Sandfort. No e, asshats.

Counterpoint 2 -- Now, I'll give them the "et al" (even though there are only 3 other names, and it's not been cited previously in the paper [since we're on point one here] and also since there's not a compiled source of references at the end, which means this is NOT a proper APA style citation, but fine, whatever, benefit of doubt and not nitpicking, right?) Okay, so. The et al we're letting slide.

Next up....the volume number. Um, volume 10 of this journal in 2001 does not contain pages 85-91. Volume 1 does. So...typo, but again - attention to detail. I'm starting to wonder if they even want people to be able to find this study... I'm guessing NOT, since...

Counterpoint 3 -- Alvin and Pam at Pam's House Blend already wrote this up better than I could, so here. The gist of it is, this study doesn't say what these people want to say it says (shock. awe. gasp. NOT.) Honestly, people, it's bad enough you distorted the findings, but the researcher himself has said to STOP IT. Please...listen to Dr. Sandfort.

"There is a difference between the U.S. and the Netherlands in terms of acceptance of homosexuality. That does not mean that there is no homophobia (and homophobic damage) in the Netherlands. It is not clear how difference in climate affects the prevalence of mental disorders. We don't know the final answers, but in the U.S. as well as the Netherlands, homophobia is related to mental health problems.

He also said that Griggs and others who use the study to claim that homophobia does not have an effect on negative lgbt behavior are clearly distorting his work:"They use data to promote their moral convictions without truly understanding what the issues are. They are not interested in understanding how people's lives are affected by their social environment."

Okay, their second point. They cite two studies. Their 2A is

R. Herrell et al., "A Co-twin Control Study in Adult Men," Archives of General Psychiatry 56, 10 (1999): 867-874. **NOTE: The proper title of the study (really, do they not want people to be able to find these?) is:
Sexual orientation and suicidality: a co-twin control study in adult men

Also, can we just stop with naming only one author? If this is the only citation you're going to provide, and it's not in the context of a paragraph, you do NOT get to just say "Herrell et al." Proper APA citation requires you to list ALL of the researchers. Fuckwads. Oops, sorry.

Okay, so. They use this citation to support the following statement:

A co-twin study found that men with same-sexpartners were 6.5 times as likely as their cotwinto have attempted suicide. The higher rate was not explained by mental health or substance abuse disorders.

Well that sounds sort of bleak. Of course, it ignores the fact that just because gay marriage is legal in the Netherlands doesn't mean gay people don't face prejudice or discrimination or censure; it just means it's not legally permissible that the discrimination is institutionalized. Additionally, although it's technically correct, they conveniently left off the researchers' own results and conclusion, which according to the PubMed abstract , can be stated as

:RESULTS: Same-gender sexual orientation is significantly associated with each of the suicidality measures. Unadjusted matched-pair odds ratios follow: 2.4 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.2 - 4.6) for thoughts about death; 4.4 (95% CI, 1.7 - 11.6) for wanted to die; 4.1 (95% CI, 2.1 - 8.2) for suicidal ideation; 6.5 (95% CI, 1.5 - 28.8) for attempted suicide; and 5.1 (95% CI, 2.4 - 10.9) for any of the suicidal symptoms. After adjustment for substance abuse and depressive symptoms (other than suicidality), all of the suicidality measures remain significantly associated with same-gender sexual orientation except for wanting to die (odds ratio, 2.5 [95% CI, 0.7 - 8.81). CONCLUSIONS: The substantially increased lifetime risk of suicidal behaviors in homosexual men is unlikely to be due solely to substance abuse or other psychiatric comorbidity. While the underlying causes of the suicidal behaviors remain unclear, future research needs to address the inadequacies in the measurement of both sexual orientation and suicidality in population-based samples.

All right, that's a little confusing if you haven't taken stats or research design. Basically, they found strong association with gay men who, outside of those who were substance abusers and/or determined to be depressed, who measured higher than their twins in "suicidality measures." I'm still not sure why UFI thinks that people need to avoid being gay in order to avoid being suicidal. First, it ignores the fact that this study doesn't include any gay women. Second, it confuses correlation with causality. Straight men/boys commit suicide, too, and frankly, any number of suicides is too high (oddly, a not-insignificant number of them do it as murder-suicide and take other people with them. Including their children. Just to keep their ex-wives from thinking they can divorce them without "paying" for it.) (If that didn't make sense to you, please see: this article

So sure, being gay in the Netherlands is associated with higher risks of suicidal tendencies. Probably we want to address this risk. Perhaps we might want to see if anti-gay attitudes contributed to this? (Oh, no, wait, that wouldn't do AT ALL.) Regardless, I think another thing ignored by UFI here is the researchers' own conclusion where it says that "While the underlying causes of the suicidal behaviors remain unclear, future research needs to address the inadequacies in the measurement of both sexual orientation and suicidality in population-based samples." It's pretty clear here that: number one, correlation does not equal causation, and number two, the ways that sexual orientation and suicidality were measured in the study are problematic. I guess if this study saw correlations between happiness and orientation, UFI might ignore it as inconclusive. Le sigh.

All right, on to 2B. Which UFI cites as:

Ping Qin, Esben Agerbo, and Preben Bo Mortensen, "Suicide Risk inRelation to Socioeconomic, Demographic, Psychiatric, and FamilialFactors: A National Register-Based Study of All Suicides in Denmark,1981-1997." American Journal of Psychiatry 160 (2003): 765-772.

Well yeaaaa, we seem to have learned to include all of the researchers names! However, since all of the issues in 2003 are volume 160, an issue number of month would be really helpful here. Oh, look, I found it. APRIL 2003. Now, what point are they making here? Oh, yes: Researchers found "an elevated suicide risk for homosexuals" even in tolerant Denmark.

Okay, once again, I think we're confusing "tolerant Denmark" with "no one ever picks on gay people." But fine, whatever, let's see what the FULL STUDY has to say about sexual orientation, and if the researchers mention anything else about this that might have been left out (please. At this point, even though we're only on point 2B, I'd be stupid not to be skeptical of omissions on the part of UFI.)

Why, look. I seem to have found something interesting in the full text of just the ABSTRACT (I'll italicize it to make it stand out)

:RESULTS: Of the risk factors examined in the study, a history of hospitalization for psychiatric disorder was associated with the highest odds ratio and the highest attributable risk for suicide. Cohabiting or single marital status, unemployment, low income, retirement, disability, sickness-related absence from work, and a family history of suicide and/or psychiatric disorders were also significant risk factors for suicide. Moreover, these factors had different effects in male and female subjects. A psychiatric disorder was more likely to increase suicide risk in female than in male subjects. Being single was associated with higher suicide risk in male subjects, and having a young child with lower suicide risk in female subjects. Unemployment and low income had stronger effects on suicide in male subjects. Living in an urban area was associated with higher suicide risk in female subjects and a lower risk in male subjects. A family history of suicide raised suicide risk slightly more in female than in male subjects.

Hmmm. So it appears that in this review of all Danish suicides from 1981 - 1997, the biggest risk factor was history of hospitalization, not sexual orientation. As a matter of fact, since it was only in 1994 that Danish gay couples could cohabit as registered "couples" with marital benefits, any gay suicides before 1994 would have been counted as "single." After 1994, they count as "cohabiting." Let's see what the researchers have to say about this. Oh, look, I found the quote UFI mined for their point in 2B: Registered partners (i.e., homosexual couples living under the same legal status as a married couple) could be distinguished from single persons only from 1994 onward. Okay, so they might have skewed the "single" stats if they committed suicide before 1994, and would be under-represented in the "married" stats, since the researchers didn't cut off the findings at pre-and post-1994. I'm sure they address this. Let's see.

Oh, look, I found the quote that UFI mined for their point in 2B:

As for family structure, previous studies have reported that single people are more likely to commit suicide (2, 3), but our study further shows a significantly higher risk of suicide for cohabiting people even though cohabitation is almost equivalent to an officially certified marriage relationship in the eyes of most people in Denmark. Moreover, consistent with a few studies reporting that same-gender sexual orientation is associated with suicidality (30, 31), our results clearly show an elevated suicide risk for homosexuals, although this effect was likely to be underestimated because data were available only for those choosing to officially register as partners and only for the period after 1994. Taken together, our results suggest that a traditional family structure may be associated with lower suicide risk, although we cannot determine if the lower risk results from a protective effect of marriage, e.g., in the face of setbacks or difficulties, or from a marriage selection effect (32).

PF: Doesn’t that say that allowing gays to marry (not civil union, but real marriage) would lower their risk of suicide? And if we’re so concerned about suicide risks among gays, wouldn’t that be the only humane thing to do?

[redacted]: But we're not concerned about suicide rates of gays. We're concerned that our children might be gay and therefore at risk of suicide.

PF: But if you thought that your children might be gay, and at risk for suicide, wouldn't you want to protect them . . . oh, never mind.


And I'm right, it does seem that the risk is likely to be underestimated because it only includes gay couples who officially registered with the state. So wow, it might be even worse, yet UFI failed to point that out (and it would have strengthened their point!) They also failed to quote-mine the better quote here, which is that "a traditional family structure may be associated with lower suicide risk." Why wouldn't they want to point this out? Well, the researchers themselves say that it is indeterminable whether this is because of "a protective effect of marriage...or from a marriage selection effect."

Okay, let's check out this marriage selection effect in a second, but first I want to point out a couple of things:

1) Oddly, the APA's rejection of homosexuality as a disorder makes the APA "suspect" in most UFI/"traditional marriage" arguments. Yet they're quite happy to use THIS research OF THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE APA to make their point. Look, people - either they're a credible resource...or they're NOT. And you've stated many many times that, in your opinion, the APA declassified homosexuality as a disorder because they are "political" and not "scientific." Well, then, I say you can't use this study. Wait, let's be more generous than that. Let's go ahead, since our stance relies heavily on the APA, and accept this resource, and see, really, what can be said about it. Shall we?

2) Before we get to that, I want to point out again that just because Denmark is more "tolerant" of gays doesn't mean they don't experience any anti-gay bias that could contribute to suicidality. This "tolerance" is fairly recent, and it would be hard to say that the salutary effects of the legalization of gay marriage could have occurred significantly in the 3 years before the study ended. Okay, on to conclusions by the researchers. (Oddly, the UFI is quick to point out that "we just don't know yet what can happen when you legalize gay marriage" when the results show something GOOD happening; then they claim that "more studies, more long-term studies, larger samples" need to be occur before they will accept the research. [Yes, shock, awe, blah blah.])

Oh, look. That's it for "homosexuality" in the study. But there's THIS interesting tidbit at the end of the study that I find telling, seeing how the US is not Western European:

Research and Clinical Implications

The socioeconomic environment in Denmark is similar to that in other Scandinavian countries and would probably also be comparable to that in most Western European countries. However, it may be difficult to generalize the findings of this study to other countries with different social, economic, or cultural conditions.

So...the researchers basically say not to generalize this study to other countries with "different social, economic, or cultural conditions." I'm guessing that prohibition of gay marriage might count as a "different....cultural condition." Strange, this doesn't seem like a good study to support anti-gay attitudes in the U.S.

PF: so, we got through 2 points out of 20. This could take a while.


  1. I'm so glad [redacted] wrote this. I leafed through the document and found so many errors and faulty arguments. It's sickening how this UFI group produced this sloppy, asinine 50-page error-prone document that does nothing but vilify gay people.

  2. "Okay, let's check out this marriage selection effect in a second,"

    i... i missed what this meant...
    are you going to talk about it? i am curious as to what "marriage selection effect" is

  3. sorry, "marriage selection effect", as i understand it, may explain the health benefits of marriage by (a) being married makes one a member of the majority, and members of the majority tend to be healthier than minorities for a number of reasons, and/or (b) overall, people who get married are healthier to begin with than those who do not get married.

    we're trying to find research on it.

  4. fannie: yes, i greatly appreciate [redacted]'s efforts. that's not the sort of research i'm really capable of doing. i would have been stymied by the misspellings, wrong volume numbers and "mistaken" study names.

  5. Fannie,

    Thank you! What a compliment, especially coming from you. Just trying to do my part to keep the misinformation from going unchallenged.


    Sorry about that; I got frustrated and forgot I meant to go back and discuss selection effect. I'll cover it for part the second, but in short - the subjects being studied (married people) might skew toward the variable you're looking at (be healthier already), possibly because healthier people tend to get married. Does that help? Like I said, I'll cover it more thoroughly in the next installment.

  6. PF and Redacted:

    thanx. yes, that does clarify :) i thought it would be something along those lines, but...

    i can't wait for the next installment. this was VERY interesting reading. i can't say i enjoyed it (gay people being hurt and harrased makes me upset and angry) but it was definiately very good and worth the effort and time. thank you for writing it Rdacted, and thank you CookieGoddessPF for posting it!


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