APA brochure kerfuffle

The Southern Voice has an article regarding the recent breathless, echo-chamber enhanced series of articles from some conservative blogs and news services about changes in the American Psychological Association statement regarding sexual orientation.

As I noted here awhile back, the recent flurry was not new news. My first blog about it was when NARTH’s Dean Byrd produced an article for the NARTH website.

In the Sovo article, the APA’s Clinton Anderson seems bemused by the far right response to something they did over a year ago.

Clinton Anderson, director of the APA’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender concerns office, said the change was so subtle that “from our perspective, there really hasn’t been any change.”

But some conservative groups have hailed the wording change as apparent affirmation that sexual orientation is not genetically defined.

Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, said the reason “so many people in the pro-family movement are delighted by this is that it seems to confirm our doubts that there’s a gay gene, that homosexuality is inborn.”

“A lot of gay activists have used the idea of genetic homosexuality as a convenient argument to further their case,” he said. “This makes it harder for them to do that, because they can chastise the religious right, but it’s harder for them to chastise the APA.”

I still wait for NARTH to issue a similar position statement regarding the nature of homosexuality – multiple factors, multiple pathways, we don’t know how any of this works very well, etc.

Instead NARTH trumpets a paper saying that research leads to a conclusion that homosexuality is not innate – despite the absence of any evidence to support the “conclusion” in the paper.

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  • Jenn


    If you are waiting for NARTH to do anything remotely scientific or professional, you might be waiting for a while. This should, however, give credence in some ways to the APA for standing by science. We know that while we see homosexual behavior in hundreds of animals (some, like the dragonfly who function on a very instinctual level)…the truth is, we don’t know the exact origin of someone’s sexual inclinations.

    I, for one, continue to wonder why it matters so much to people “where” it comes from. The conservatives want to “prove” where it comes from to be able to “get rid” of it, and the liberals want to “prove” where it comes from to gain rights. To me, why does it matter?

    If we’re looking at marriage, we will soon see that this is an issue of “gender discrimination,” and not sexual orientation discrimination. The only reason one woman cannot marry another is because she “is a woman,” not because she is (or might be) gay.

    As for legislation giving GLBT people protections from discrimination, whether homosexuality is genetic or not shouldn’t matter either. After all, we protect people in their “religious expression,” and this is CLEARLY a choice.

    So…maybe I am too pragmatic, but it doesn’t matter what they find or what someone thinks. So, while we don’t know it’s exact origins (and I suspect we never will), what we do know is that attempting to change orientation has not been successful (well, if you consider changing someone’s attraction, and not just actions the goal).

    We all see gay and lesbian couples and individuals gaining far more rights, and will continue to see it progress. Not because they are “gay,” but because they are people who are not actively harming others, who want to live life as functionally or dysfunctionally as every other American. In the above examples of marriage and protection from discrimination, you can see it really has little to do with “origin” at all.

    It’s an irrelevant conversation, and a distraction from the real issues.

  • Ah, LaBarbera.

    Just as LaBarbera misunderstands almost everything to do with gay people, he misunderstands what a gay person means by, “I was just born that way”.

    Peter thinks that the gay community has gambled and placed all its chips on DNA as a cause for homosexuality.

    And it is true that a purely genetic basis for sexual orientation would no doubt influence public policy. But, as any African American can tell you, “it’s genetic” is no barrior to discrimination or much of an influence on attitudes.

    And the truth is that “genes” are not what most gay folk mean by “born gay” anyway. I think that what most gay folk mean is this:

    Orientation is for many many gay people determined at a very young age, long before they began to form their own sense of person. Many hear their parents say, “I knew when you were two” and others just have a recollection of always being attracted differently than their peers.

    They recall that their first “crushes” were same-sex. They recall that puberty introduced a whole new way of seeing the same sex but not so much about the opposite. They remember that Leif Garrett was dreamy but that Farrah, well, she had a lot of hair.

    So to them, “from birth” means “from the time that I became me”.

    If it eventually turns out that homosexuality is only partly genetic or partly hormonal, that won’t really change whether folks feel that their orientation is a matter which is innate to them.

  • David Blakeslee

    @ Timothy,

    So to them, “from birth” means “from the time that I became me”.

    If that is what they have meant…that is a lot clearer to everybody…and I don’t think many would argue with their clear and early experiences and perceptions.

    There was a time, that became heightened during the mapping of the human gene, where a lot of popular arguments for SSA sounded purely biologic or genetic.

    We now know it cannot be simply genes or pure biology…but like all human behavior it is quite complex.

    For environmentalists “from the time that I became me,” is a highly personal and subjective sense of self that may have been shaped, prior to conscious awareness, by parenting, by early peer relations and so on.

    If this “from birth” is as personal and subjective as you imply (rather than hardwired and genetic), you can see what it would create a sense of exploration and curiosity about environmental factors.

  • Lynn David

    I think it was about 2 or 3 years ago that Narth ceased being an organization of science-minded people and became a ministry.

  • PR wars. It never changes. Everybody’s got to get their volley in.

  • Michael Bussee

    If you are waiting for NARTH to do anything remotely scientific or professional, you might be waiting for a while.

    A long, long, long while…

    Still waiting……………

  • Michael Bussee

    I don’t know — and really don’t care — what “causes” gayness. As folks here know by now , I find the question offensive, because folks hardly ever ask what “causes” heterosexuality. Why bother? They see OSA as “normal” and/or “moral”, so they don’t really care.

    I admit that on a purely intellectual level, it’s a fascinating question, but I believe it will never be answered — at least not in any of our lifetimes. I believe it was meant to be a mystery… The more we learn, the more we realize we don’t really know…

    All I know is that it has been there from my earliest awareness of “me”. It has always been true of my experience. No matter what I call edmyself, or how I identified myself, it is still true. Even when I didn’t act on it. Even when I was married. Even after many years of trying not to be.

    Jenn commented:

    I, for one, continue to wonder why it matters so much to people “where” it comes from. The conservatives want to “prove” where it comes from to be able to “get rid” of it, and the liberals want to “prove” where it comes from to gain rights. To me, why does it matter?

    I feel the same way.

  • Mary

    Yeah, I knod of agree with you Michael. Overall, the development of sexuality is interesting – I just wish there was such a big deal about homosexuality.

  • Mary

    oops – wish there WAS NOT such a big deal made about homosexuality.