(The Carillon, June 3, 2010)
It’s all society’s fault?
(Homosexuality: Part 2 of 3)
There are a number of popular confusions surrounding the issues of homosexual sex and same-sex marriage. Last time I discussed homophobia, bigotry, and intolerance. Today I will set out another popular confusion and I will offer three clarifications.
(Please note: I will do my best to be respectful to all persons, whether those persons approve of same-sex sexual relations or not.)
Popular confusion: It is an established fact that the higher rates of health problems associated with homosexual sex are ultimately due to the oppressive attitudes (towards homosexuals) of the population at large.
Clarification 1. There is some truth to this claim: for example, in 1998 the young homosexual man Matthew Shepherd was brutally murdered [apparently simply] because he was gay. Surely, where homosexuals are in fact oppressed by others, the rights of homosexuals should be protected—just as the rights of heterosexuals are protected. “Gay-bashing” is wrong, period.
Clarification 2. As important as clarification 1 is, the claim that the higher rates of homosexual health problems are ultimately due to the larger population’s oppressive attitudes towards homosexuals has not been established as true in the required broader sense, i.e., in the sense that the larger society's (alleged) general oppression is causally connected to the various health problems associated with same-sex sexual behaviour.
Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, psychologist and past president of the U.S.-based National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), reports the following: “One research study was designed to measure whether distress [for homosexuals] would decrease in societies where homosexuals enjoyed a high level of tolerance. The researchers compared gay-friendly societies, such as Holland and Denmark, with societies more hostile to homosexuality. The study found a higher level of distress among homosexuals in every culture, not just those that disapprove of homosexuality."
Also, NARTH’s 2009 landmark study What Research Shows states the following: “The usual hypothesis is that societal discrimination against homosexuals is solely or primarily responsible for the development of this pathology [i.e., the pathology of higher rates of various health problems associated with homosexual sex]. However, specific attempts to confirm this societal discrimination hypothesis have been unsuccessful, and the alternative possibility—that these conditions may somehow be related to the psychological structure of a homosexual orientation or consequences of a homosexual lifestyle—has not been disconfirmed. Indeed, several cross-cultural studies suggest that this higher rate of psychological disturbance [which in turn is associated with unhealthy sexual behaviour] is in fact independent of a culture's tolerance of—or hostility toward—homosexual behavior.” (The NARTH report goes on to suggest, wisely, that further study is needed.)
Clarification 3. Finally, the following inconvenient truth needs to be stated: Some sexual practices that constitute a principal feature of same-sex relations, especially among men, are physically unhealthy, period, regardless of the attitudes of others in the larger population. (For verification, check, for starters, NARTH’s medical issues webpage plus the homosexuality webpage of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations [see especially the list of references under "Physical Health" in CMDA's Annotated References].)
Thus, the popular claim—that the higher rates of health problems associated with homosexual sex are ultimately due to the larger population’s oppressive attitudes towards homosexuals—is dubious.
I hasten to add: This does not mean that oppressive attitudes towards homosexuals are therefore justified—they aren’t. However, it does mean that, in the future, causal explanations concerning same-sex health problems should be more carefully considered.
In the meantime, it may be wise for parents and teachers to notice that in March 2010 the American College of Pediatricians (ACP) sent a letter to U.S. high schools, a letter in which ACP cautions teachers about affirming students’ same-sex attraction—not to oppress such students, but to promote their good health. To read the letter, look here.
P.S. Please keep in mind my comments on homophobia, bigotry, and intolerance, which I set out in the previous installment of this column: "Homophobia, bigotry, intolerance?"
(Hendrik van der Breggen, Ph.D., teaches philosophy at Providence College, Otterburne, Manitoba, Canada. The views in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.)