A teacher at Arkansas Tech, Wayne Helmer, recently penned an editorial in Prism, the journal of the American Society for Engineering Education. In the piece Helmer insists that diversity should not include the LGBT. The kindest thing I can say about it is that it’s factually errant. Click here to see the excerpt I got a hold of.
I’ll keep the rebuttal short and sweet so you guys can get on to emailing the proper people. Helmer says being gay take 5 to 15 years off a person’s life expectancy. This is the result of a study promoted by Kirk Cameron that found that people over 60 are less likely to identify as LGBT. Cameron spun this as though this meant there were fewer alive to so identify. It’s been debunked at length. That Helmer was unable to detect this before writing his article says a great deal about his prowess as an academic. But I digress…
Helmer says homosexuality proliferates sexually transmitted diseases. Actually, lesbians contract STDs at a much lower rate that straight women. In fact…
To date, there are no confirmed cases of female-to-female sexual transmission of HIV in the United States database (K. McDavid, CDC, oral communication, March 2005).
So by Helmer’s logic, straight women are promoting the spread of STDs through their lifestyle. Because Helmer is trying to be consistent and not looking for secular excuses for religious bigotry, I await his article insisting that all straight women should become lesbians.
He says being an LGBT person promotes a sexually promiscuous lifestyle. First, it’s not true. Here’s what America’s most prestigious body of psychological experts, the American Psychological Association, has to say (tl:dr – Helmer is 180 degrees away from the truth):
Research indicates that many lesbians and gay men want and have committed relationships. For example, survey data indicate that between 40 percent and 60 percent of gay men and between 45 percent and 80 percent of lesbians are currently involved in a romantic relationship. Further, data from the 2000 U.S. Census indicate that of the 5.5 million couples who were living together but not married, about 1 in 9 (594,391) had partners of the same sex. Although the census data are almost certainly an underestimate of the actual number of cohabiting same-sex couples, they indicate that there are 301,026 male same-sex households and 293,365 female same-sex households in the United States.
Stereotypes about lesbian, gay and bisexual people have persisted, even though studies have found them to be misleading. For instance, one stereotype is that the relationships of lesbians and gay men are dysfunctional and unhappy. However, studies have found same-sex and heterosexual couples to be equivalent to each other on measures of relationship satisfaction and commitment.
A second stereotype is that the relationships of lesbians, gay men and bisexual people are unstable. However, despite social hostility toward same-sex relationships, research shows that many lesbians and gay men form durable relationships. For example, survey data indicate that between 18 percent and 28 percent of gay couples and between 8 percent and 21 percent of lesbian couples have lived together 10 or more years. It is also reasonable to suggest that the stability of same-sex couples might be enhanced if partners from same-sex couples enjoyed the same levels of support and recognition for their relationships as heterosexual couples do (i.e., legal rights and responsibilities associated with marriage).
A third common misconception is that the goals and values of lesbian and gay couples are different from those of heterosexual couples. In fact, research has found that the factors that influence relationship satisfaction, commitment and stability are remarkably similar for both same-sex cohabiting couples and heterosexual married couples.
Far less research is available on the relationship experiences of people who identify as bisexual. If these individuals are in a same-sex relationship, they are likely to face the same prejudice and discrimination that members of lesbian and gay couples face. If they are in a heterosexual relationship, their experiences may be quite similar to those of people who identify as heterosexual unless they choose to come out as bisexual; in that case, they will likely face some of the same prejudice and discrimination that lesbian and gay individuals encounter.
And even if being LGBT did promote a more promiscuous lifestyle, so fucking what? Some people like sex. All that assertion does is make me angry that being straight doesn’t promote a promiscuous lifestyle. God damn.
Helmer says LGBT interactions are addictive and abusive. Not according to every major psychological organization on earth. Again, from the APA:
Both heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality. Both have been documented in many different cultures and historical eras. Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience. Lesbian, gay and bisexual relationships are normal forms of human bonding.
So there goes that. For icing on the cake, Helmer writes:
We would do well to teach the truth about the homosexual/lesbian/bisexual/transgender lifestyle. These dear people are caught up in this destructive way of life need true help and true hope and not encouragement or approval of a detrimental, negative lifestyle. They deserve better than that. This is not God’s plan for their lives.
Beyond the physical, their emotional and spiritual needs are just like ours: Their need for abundant life (emotional) and forgiveness of sins (spiritual) is only what Jesus Christ can give them [John 10:10, 3:16]. Only he can truly change lives and give people the healing and forgiveness and self-worth and significance that they [and we] all desire and need.And that’s the truth all of us need to hear and proclaim and submit to.
So strange to hear people talk about Jesus being the only way to self-worth in the same breath they insist these same people need forgiveness. I wonder of Helmer would entertain a deal: psychologists won’t try to publish articles about mechanical engineering and Helmer can stop tripping over himself trying to override the opinions of the psychological experts. Anyway, everything Helmer had to say about LGBT people was both factually errant and pretty odious. Whether or not its a firing offense is up to the school. But what the school certainly should do is announce that Helmer’s views are absolutely not the views of the University. Here’s where the story gets really sad.
Dr. Robert C. Brown, the president of Arkansas Tech, has been approached by members of Surface, the student LGBT advocacy group. They asked him to disavow Helmer’s article and to insist that the university values its LGBT students as much as its heterosexual students. So far no statement has been issued.
University’s make statements about the controversial words of their employees for two reasons. First is to announce to all its LGBT students that what Helmer said does not represent how the school views them.
The other reason is to protect the school’s image should the story go live and make the university look dismissive of bigotry on its campus to the nation at large on account of their teacher’s words. Sometimes you luck out and the story doesn’t escape your little part of the state. But other times, like now, it goes all over. If you were a good administrator and disavowed your teacher’s statements ahead of time, then it’s all good. But if you didn’t…well, at least you get another chance when your inbox starts piling up. If standing up for an appreciable portion of your student body isn’t sufficient motivation, maybe national embarrassment will be. Let’s give them a little nudge from, well, the nation at large.
President Robert C. Brown can be emailed at email@example.com. Surface also met with VP of student affairs Dr. John Watson (no shit, that’s really his name). I’m told that he was extremely dismissive. Let’s see if we can change his tune by sending emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s my email to them:
Dr. Brown and Dr. Watson,
Greetings. I’m writing out of concern for what one of your professors, Wayne Helmer, said about an appreciable portion of your student body in a recent article he wrote for Prism. In it, your professor makes a number of factually inaccurate statements about LGBT people and insists the way all your LGBT students conduct themselves is both detrimental and negative. Surely this is a position not held by the university.
However, I’m told that some of your students approached both of you to ask you to disavow Helmer’s statements. I’ve tried to find where you’ve done this and have come up empty. It has been three weeks since I was first apprised of this and, as I’m told, the situation was going on long before that (and the piece is referenced in a counter article in the Journal of Higher Education from September, the same month in which Helmer’s article was published in Prism). It seems your response has been somewhat inert. This is inexplicable to me. Are you not ashamed of what your professor said about many of your students?
The presidents of Prism have apologized for publishing Helmer’s piece and disavowed it themselves. From their apology:
His specious mischaracterization of the LGBTQ communities is unsupported by any reputable literature. Prof. Helmer is entitled to his religious beliefs. However, Prism is not an appropriate place for him to air his judgment of others based on those beliefs.
We believe that we speak for the ASEE Board of Directors when we say that ASEE is committed to equal treatment and fairness for all. Please see the ASEE Diversity Statement at http://www.asee.org/about-us/policy/diversity. We reaffirm our commitment to this statement.
You will note that the above was signed off on by Prism’s president (Kenneth F. Galloway of Vanderbilt University), president-elect (Nicholas J. Altiero of Tulane University) and immediate past president (Walter J. Buchanan of Texas A&M University) all denouncing their own publication for including Helmer’s piece. It seems the only people who have said nothing, who have offered no apology to the people Helmer has hurt, are Wayne Helmer and you. I expect nothing from Wayne Helmer, but if there’s anybody who should be eager to assuage the damage he’s done to LGBT students at Arkansas Tech it should be the two of you. And yet, you have done nothing – even as you have been begged to do so by some of the students affected by your professor’s bigotry. This is, frankly, inexcusable. You should both be ashamed.
I urge you to publicly announce that Helmer’s views are not those of the university for the sake of all your LGBT students.
Feel free to leave yours in the comments for all to admire.