Focus on the Family wants you to believe. First and foremost, they want you to believe in Dr. James Dobson, the head of their organization. Second to that, they want you to believe that his interpretation of the Bible is correct. Somewhere a good bit further down the list is a belief in God. After all, who really needs God, or a brain, when you’ve got Fuhrer Dobson giving marching orders? Life is a lot easier when you don’t have to think for yourself.
One of the main thrusts of Dobson and his holier-than-thou crusaders is their continuing campaign to demonize, marginalize and vilify the gay population. Why this has become such a central issue of the day, and not just for Dobson and his jack-booted thugs, I can’t understand. People who have probably never met a gay person and wouldn’t recognize one if they did are talking about homosexuals as though they’re everywhere, like communists during the Red Scare.
Focus on the Family has been kind enough to provide a detailed list of popular “myths” associated with homosexuality, along with “proof” of the error of these myths. I’d like to take a moment to deliver a verbal smack-down to Dr. Dobson and his soul-crushing conformity brigade by taking each of these points in turn.
First off, though, I’d like to take a special moment to point out one of the most horrific, inhuman aspects of Dr. Dobson’s fascist message: in several documents related to homosexuality, he and his make the claim that if school bullies call your son a fag or a queer, he most likely is! Yes, those bull-headed, pimple-faced morons on the playground have sussed out your kid’s real orientation based on the fact that he plays music and likes girls! That’s right. Boy’s who don’t wrestle with other boys, but would rather hang out with girls, those are the gay ones. Oh, and if you need any sort of psychological counseling, Jim-Bo, the bully, is scheduling appointments. Wedgies are free of charge.
Now, on to the rest.
The first myth on Dobson’s list is the claim that 10% of the population is gay. Focus on the Family says this number is probably closer to 2.8% of men and 1.4% of women. This is actually true as far as it goes. The original study being referred to here, by famous sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, used flawed methodology. But more recent studies show that as many as 20.8% of males and 17.8% of females have had some sort of homosexual experience.
Are these people gay? What’s our definition? The problem with all these studies is that they rely on the people they are studying to give accurate information regarding very personal aspects of their lives. The best current guess from studies listed at the Kinsey Institute for homosexual prevalence is around 5%, but that number varies. Not that Dr. Dobson would be so honest as to tell you that.
Myth two is that homosexuals are born gay. Dobson says not. He bases this claim solely on the work published by NARTH, the National Association of Research & Therapy of Homosexuality. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, NARTH is dedicated to “curing” homosexuals, a goal that the American Psychiatric Association condemns as “based on developmental theories whose scientific validity is questionable.” The APA also notes that there is no credible evidence that such “therapy” can succeed. More on this a bit later.
So, are gays and lesbians born that way? Science has yet to give us a definitive answer, and I don’t think it matters. I think it’s a mistake for gay activists to focus too much on the biological causes of homosexuality. There are plenty of minority groups to whom we extend equal rights based on affiliation, not biology. Ironically, many of these groups are religious. If homosexuality is a choice, I would still support equal rights for those who make that choice.
Third on the myth list: Homosexual relationships are no different from heterosexual ones. Well, I can think of one big difference, but maybe I’m being too literal. Why does this matter to Dobson? Because, he says, God doesn’t like any sex outside of marriage, gay or straight. Then, we get a slew of statistics to show how promiscuous gays are, citing a study from the 70s that showed gay men who had literally hundreds of partners.
Shocking, no? Well, maybe. More recent studies have been done (appearing both in Science and the journal Family Planning Perspectives) showing wildly different rates for multiple sexual partners among homosexuals, most of them comparable to similar behavior among straight men. Also worth noting, in a 1998 study of 1992 data concerning heterosexuals age 14-22, published in Vol. 30 of Family Planning Perspectives, rates of men with multiple recent sexual partners were as high as 61%, 48% for females.
I don’t want to condone promiscuity, not because the Bible (or Dobson’s interpretation thereof) rails against it, but because it can be very hazardous to your health. HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections and diseases affect both gay and straight, and having sex with multiple partners is ultimately less safe than monogamy, from a disease perspective.
Claiming some sort of high ground for heterosexual couples is simply false, however. I could easily point to another study in Family Planning Perspectives that found one in three heterosexual adolescents had been abused by their partners. Does this mean that heterosexual relationships are somehow lacking, even evil? No. Statistics can mislead, as Dr. Dobson has shown.
Myth four is that AIDS is just as much a risk for heterosexuals as for homosexuals. Dobson wants you to believe that you’re safe from the horrors of AIDS, so long as you don’t get it on with a man. It’s worth noting that he doesn’t address female HIV infection rates, which tend to be predominantly heterosexual. In America, HIV infection rates are growing most quickly among heterosexual women. However, it is true that infection rates remain highest among men who have sex with men (not always homosexuals) and intravenous drug users.
Dobson ignores Africa, of course, as do most of his ilk. In some parts of Africa, women are being disproportionally affected by HIV. In younger age groups, over 70% of those infected are women. Is this because of rampant lesbianism in Africa? Hardly. It’s because a lot of women are being raped and sexually assaulted in some parts of Africa. By men. In fact, if you look at the World Health Organization’s 2004 AIDS update, you’ll find that homosexuality plays hardly a role in transmission in African epidemics.
To sum up these last two points: high risk behavior is dangerous. It is not related to sexual orientation, however.
Myth five: Homosexuals are normal, healthy, everyday people. Dobson doesn’t want you to believe this myth, lest you think you might be able to live with homosexuals as your neighbors. He lists a slew of horrible consequences for gayness, including “major depression, anxiety disorder … and nicotine dependence.” Using Focus on the Family’s special brand of logic, you might consider wondering if your child’s new addiction to cigarettes indicates potential gay or lesbian tendencies!
Of course, the APA (American Psychiatric Association) says that “homosexuality per se implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social or vocational capabilities” (Homosexuality Position Statement, December 1992, APA Doc. Ref. No. 920016). But who needs messy facts and research when “Paul states in the book of Romans that homosexuality is ‘unnatural’”? Dobson only looks at facts when they are convenient to his cause. He ignores whatever does not fit into his carefully constructed worldview.
Whew! This is getting long. But don’t lose hope. We’ll wade through it all yet. Myth six is that the Bible doesn’t actually condemn homosexuality. Dobson comes down hard on this belief, directing us to Leviticus, Matthew and Romans for God’s own truth. I’d never had cause to read Leviticus before this point, but I sure am glad I did. Now I know how to align my sacrifices of sheep, bullocks, and turtledoves. I might have to ask some other good Christians how they handle the blood from their animal sacrifices, or if the screams of dying animals disturb the neighbors.
What’s that you say? Christians don’t make blood sacrifices? So, I can ignore all of Leviticus except the two sentences or so where it tells me not to have gay sex? Oh, OK. Just so we’re clear on that.
But wait! Matthew 19:4-6, also quoted by Dobson, forbids divorce! So, you, uh . . . can’t be gay! Yeah. Wait, why isn’t there a constitutional amendment supported by Dobson to stop the 50% of heterosexual couples who divorce? Well, at least they’re not gay. Still, all my arguments appear to fall flat in the face of Paul’s letter to the Romans: “And likewise also the men … burned in their lust one towards another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet” (Romans 1:27). Got me there. Luckily, if Christians can pick and choose which parts of the Bible they want to believe, that means I can too, so I’ll just ignore this passage.
Myth seven is that Lesbian relationships are healthier than gay ones. Dobson’s just covering his bases here, since so much of his HIV-related stuff is about man-on-man sex, as is his information on promiscuity. He goes on to point out that bisexual women suffer two times the number of sexual transmitted infections as lesbians. So, naturally, he points out that sex with men is dangerous, and women should probably stick with exclusive, lesbian relationships. No, he doesn’t say that. Instead, he says that lesbians are fat. Now we know.
Dobson also points out that lesbians may be at a higher risk of certain cancers because they never have children. From what I’ve read recently, this may be true. Of course, it’s got nothing to do with lesbianism, per se. There are lesbians who have children, thanks to artificial insemination. There are also plenty of heterosexual women who choose not to have children. Hardly conclusive evidence of the evils of lesbianism.
Finally, at myth eight, we get to the real goal of this whole exercise: Dobson disputes the “myth” that homosexuality cannot be cured. But we already know what the professionals think about that: therapies based on the idea that homosexuality can be cured are opposed or criticized not just by the APA, but by “the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, The American Counseling Association, and the National Association of Social Workers” (COPP Position Statement on Therapies Focused on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation (Reparative or Conversion Therapies), APA).
What authorities does Dobson have to offer? JimBo the schoolyard bully?
This Focus on the Family screed amounts to half-truths, misdirection and outright lies. Dobson and his ilk should at least have the courage to tell us that their campaign is based not on any sense of justice, nor a concern for the health of homosexuals, but rather solely on a strict interpretation of a handful of passages from the Bible. One of the great things about America is that the Bible is not the law of the land. I’m grateful that it’s not.