Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Debate on Homosexuality/Gay Marriage: Statistics Part 1.

One of the studies brought up claimed that Canadian homosexuals had an average life span equal to people living in 1871 in the same area. I managed to actually find this a published copy of this study. 

First off this study's goal was to demonstrate that the effect AIDS was having on the gay community in that area. The first problem with this study is that it is rather old, it was published in 1997 and most of the figures were gathered in the early 90's. Not only was AIDS infecting more people at this time but medical treatments for it have improved greatly in the last 20 years. On top of that the published study states that there were certain factors they did not control for like the fact that suicide rates are higher in most homosexual populations. Given the limited nature of the study as well as the age it is difficult to make any definitive conclusion here.

He also brought up gay bowel syndrome. I must confess that I was actually unfamiliar with this term though perhaps I had heard in before and had just forgotten it. I looked this term up too and was unsurprised that this term is no longer used by anyone in the actual medial community. It was a term coined in 1976 that was an umbrella term for a large number of problems. Even as early as 1985 a journal of gastroenterology had this to say about the diagnosis:
The "gay bowel syndrome" was first used to describe not a syndrome, but a list of conditions. The term hides the problems facing the gastroenterologist. Firstly, the sexual orientation of a patient may not be easily ascertainable in the setting of a general outpatient clinic. Secondly, many infections of the gay bowel are asymptomatic and are missed without full microbiological screening. Thirdly, coinfection is common and the organism isolated may not be causing the symptoms and signs. Finally, the bowel has limited and non-specific clinical and histopathological responses to many infections.
There seem to be a myriad of reasons why the medical community do not view this as an actual medical condition, so the fact that it is brought up at all by Vocab begs a question about the quality of the research he is relying on.  It is also worth bring up the general problem I have in bringing up an argument like this seems to be built upon an assumption that sexuality, and indeed in particular anal sex is the only meaningful thing about the relationships of gay men.  I've met quite a few gay men who would disagree with that. (I.E. all of them)

Another host of statistics were also brought up talking about how promiscuous the average homosexual is, on the statistics he brings up I cannot really speak in great detail because; though I looked, I could not find any reputable sites that verify any of the figures Vocab gave. I found many sites published by religious believers and other anti-gay advocates repeating these figures but no links to any studies or abstracts that I could examine to see how reliable these figures are.

I did, however, two studies that offer different figures. The first study can be found here, "So you think gay men are promiscuous?". This one is based upon figures tabulated from OKCupid questions. It's fairly recent, but to be fair it's a self selected group so it may not be representative of the average gay person. However, it does at least show that there are some gay people who do not fit the stereotype.

Another study can be found here, The New England Journal of Medicine: Homosexuality. I found this study four pages deep in a Google search on the Wiki page about promiscuity. Though slightly older (1994) it has this to say:
Of heterosexually active adults in the general population, about 20 percent of men have had 1 sexual partner during their lives, 55 percent have had up to 20 partners, and about 25 percent have had 20 or more partners11. Some older studies conducted before the epidemic of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) indicated that homosexual men were more likely than heterosexual men to have had a very large number of sexual partners14. More recent population-based studies have found this to be relatively uncommon. For instance, Fay et al.10 found that of men who had homosexual contact after the age of 20, almost all had 20 or fewer homosexual partners in their lifetimes. Of 1450 men in the sample, only 2 were reported to have had 100 or more same-sex partners10. The inconsistency in the data on the number of sexual partners of homosexual men probably reflects flaws in the sampling techniques of the earlier studies (e.g., recruiting subjects in gay bars) and their completion before the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic.
So there we have it, according to The New England Journal of Medicine, the studies Vocab brought up are generally discredited because of poor sampling techniques just like the study by Paul Cameron I brought up early on in the debate.

I don't fault Vocab for not giving me the actual study names in the short discussion we had but perhaps if we continue this discussion at a later date he can provide links to the actual papers that make these claims. I won't hold my breath on this one though because similar figures have been repeated among Christian circles for more than two decades now and I have yet to find someone who can actually point to a viable peer reviewed study backing them up. These figures usually come from conservative Christian think tanks and upon close examination the studies don't hold up very well.

Tomorrow I'll be posting about some of the studies about gay marriage that were brought up.

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