For those who perpetrate lies about gays and lesbians, old habits are apparently hard to break.
Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association’s loquacious director of issue analysis for government and public policy, responded on Nov. 26 to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s publication a few days earlier of “10 Myths,” a debunking of 10 of the most-often recited untruths that anti-gay activists use against LGBT people. (At the same time, the SPLC announced that it would be designating the AFA as a hate group.) Fischer’s essay declared the 10 lies to be “10 truths.”
In doing so, he mangled the very truth he claims to present.
Take, for example, Fischer’s rebuttal of SPLC’s myth No. 1, “Homosexuals molest children at far higher rates than heterosexuals.” Fischer writes, “Absolutely true. Homosexuals comprise perhaps two percent of the population, yet according to the Journal of Sex Research, homosexual pedophiles are responsible for 33% of all child sex offenses. Homosexuals molest children at at least 10 times the rate of heterosexuals.”
Fischer displays the sly predilection of anti-gay activists to cite legitimate research as supporting their claims when the researchers themselves explicitly reject them. Fischer is referring to a 1989 Journal of Sex Research article by the late researcher Kurt Freund, who concluded that homosexuals were not any more disposed to pedophilia than heterosexuals — a finding exactly opposite to what Fischer suggests.
Fischer constructs the 33% figure from Freund’s research by assuming that every case of men molesting boys is committed by a “homosexual” man — a conclusion rejected by virtually all legitimate sex researchers. As Freund said, since most pedophiles have no sexual interest in adults of either gender, terms like “homosexual” and “heterosexual” don’t apply at all. It is the child’s prepubescent nature, not his or her gender, that attracts this type of “fixated” pedophile, most of whom will prey on children of either gender. Freund and other researchers have found that those pedophiles who are capable of forming sexual relationships with other adults — so-called “regressive” pedophiles who only resort to pedophilia when under stress — overwhelmingly identify themselves as heterosexual.
Or consider SPLC’s myth No. 2, “Same-sex parents harm children.” Fischer wrote: “Research indicates that children raised by homosexuals experiment with sexually aberrant behaviors at a higher rate than children raised by heterosexuals and at earlier ages, and do worse, according to a 1996 study by an Austrian sociologist, in nine of 13 academic and social categories compared to children raised by heterosexual married couples. A 2001 article in American Sociological Review reported that children raised by lesbians are more likely to engage in homosexual behavior and are ‘more sexually adventurous.’”
Fischer identifies neither report by name — and for good reason.
In the first instance, he is referring to an obscure 1996 study by Sotirios Sarantakos, an Australian, not Austrian, researcher. Anti-gay groups frequently cite this article — yet the article, the journal that published it, and Sarantakos himself, are all but impossible to locate online.
Other social scientists have reviewed Sarantakos’ study. Richard Redding, associate dean for academic affairs at Chapman University School of Law, writing in the Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy, warned that its conclusions “must be viewed with caution, however, as they are based on a qualitative study involving the reports of teachers who were not blind as to whether children came from heterosexual or homosexual households.” In other words, accounts were gathered from the observations of teachers who knew in advance which students came from which households — and thus could have been influenced by that knowledge. Jenni Millbank, a professor at the University of Technology, Sydney, was more blunt. Testifying before an Australian parliamentary committee, Millbank described Sarantakos’ work as “a perfect example of almost everything that you can do wrong with methodology.”
The other study Fischer cites was conducted in 2001 by professors Timothy J. Biblarz of the University of Southern California and Judith Stacey of New York University (pdf). Fischer neglects to mention that Stacey became so annoyed by how anti-gay groups like Focus on the Family, then headed by James Dobson, were misrepresenting her research, that she publicly denounced them in a video posted online in 2007. Fischer also ignores that the authors updated their research in 2010 (pdf), concluding that “At this point no research supports the widely held conviction that the gender of parents matters for child well-being.”
In an E-mail to Hatewatch this week, Stacey blasted Fischer’s misuse of her research. “They are misrepresenting our 2001 article … by cherry-picking out of context one finding we mentioned that came from one very small British study,” she wrote. “Even so, their claim that children raised by lesbians are more sexually adventurous is also inaccurate. In the small study we mentioned … it was only the daughters who were sexually active a bit earlier than daughters of straight moms. Boys raised by lesbians were less sexually active than sons of straight moms! Our interpretation was that IF this tentative finding were to be replicated, it suggested that lesbians were transmitting a more egalitarian, single standard of sexual behavior to daughters and sons compared with the conventional double standard of sex being more permissible for boys. Moreover, it turns out that the … finding has NOT been replicated. In fact, a new study finds kids raised by lesbians from birth to be less sexually active!”
In response to SPLC’s myth No. 4, “Homosexuals don’t live nearly as long as heterosexuals,” Fischer wrote: “According to an extensive study of the homosexual community in Vancouver, B.C., [Canada] active participation in the homosexual lifestyle will rob an individual of a significant portion of his life span. Say the researchers, ‘[L]ife expectancy at age 20 years for gay and bisexual men is 8 to 20 years less than for all men.’ In fact, they observe that participation in the homosexual lifestyle knocks life expectancy for a Canadian male back to what it was in 1871.”
Again, Fischer ignores that the authors of that 1997 study updated it in 2001, pointing out that advances in treatment of HIV-AIDS even at that point had significantly improved the expected longevity of those infected, which would inevitably narrow any gap between gay and straight life spans caused by the disease. Moreover, the authors explicitly rejected the attempts of anti-gay organizations to construe the 1997 observations to justify denigration of gays.
“These homophobic groups appear more interested in restricting the human rights of gay and bisexuals rather than promoting their health and well being,” the authors wrote in their 2001 update. “It is essential to note that the life expectancy of any population is a descriptive and not a prescriptive measure. Death is a product of the way a person lives and what physical and environmental hazards he or she faces everyday. It cannot be attributed solely to their sexual orientation or any other ethnic or social factor.”
“I am aghast that the misrepresentation of these data continues,” Steffanie Strathdee, associate dean of global health sciences at the University of California, San Diego, and one of the authors of the two reports, told Hatewatch in an E-mail this week.
Fischer claims SPLC’s myth No. 10, “Gay people can choose to leave homosexuality,” is disproven by many so-called ex-gays, and adds: “Even Dr. Robert Sptizer [sic], who led the effort to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973, now admits as much.” Well, that’s not true, either. Spitzer, a highly regarded researcher at Columbia University, concluded that while it may be possible for certain highly motivated homosexuals to switch sexual orientation, cases of actual conversion from gay to straight were “probably extremely rare.” Spitzer, too, recorded an online appeal asking anti-gay organizations to stop misrepresenting the results of his research.
Fischer must know that the very material he cites to support his claims, doesn’t. He also has to know how scholarly researchers have denounced the misrepresentation of their work. So why does he continue to assert otherwise?
Evidently, for a man who has also argued that gays should be subject to legal sanctions, that Muslims should be prohibited from serving in the U.S. armed forces, and that repealing the U.S. military’s ban on openly gay service members would promote goose-stepping gay Nazis in America, “truth” is little more than Play-Doh to be molded and stretched to fit one’s preferred ideology.