Ware Farms

Speaking truth to prejudice

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


X Chromosome Inactivation in the Mothers of Gay Sons

A study reported in Human Genetics finds a relationship between X chromosome inactivation in mothers and the likelihood that their sons will be gay.

As I have mentioned previously, men have the classic XY chromosome combination. The single X chromosome, by necessity, performs all of this chromosome's genetically necessary functions.

In women, who have the XX chromosome combination, one of these X chromosomes is inactivated. Otherwise, a superfluous duplication of gene expression could have negative effects as it does in Down syndrome, where an extra chromosome 21 is present in the genome.

One of these X chromosomes came from the female egg, the other from the male sperm. Researchers found that in general, which one of the pair is left on, which is turned off, in the various tissue cells they sampled from the mothers in their study, is a more or less random 50/50 event. In some women, though, the same member of the pair is inactivated in every sampled cell in her body, an effect referred to as "extreme skewing."

When examining mothers who had no, one, or more than one gay son, they found the incidence of this effect in 4%, 13% and 25% of these samples respectively. Clearly there is a relation between how a woman's cells go about X chromosome inactivation and the likelihood that she will have a son who is gay.


The study provides no insights as to the existence of a "gay gene." If anything, it attests to the complexity of the genetic factors which contribute to sexual orientation determination. In fact, nothing in the study is in conflict with my previously cited reference.

People who still argue that a person becomes gay due to environmental factors would find it hard to explain how a child's upbringing could retroactively go back and change the mother's X chromosome inactivation propensity.

If we take a man who is gay and compare him with another unrelated man, we find that the chances that this other man is gay are the same 4%-5% we would expect for any man randomly chosen from the population. If we look at a gay man's fraternal brother, the likelihood that he too will be gay goes up to 11%. If the brother is an identical twin, the likelihood that he is also gay jumps to 22%. Hmm, 4%, 11%, 22% vs. 4%, 13%, 25% is this study. I see more than just a coincidence in these figures.

While this study leaves many questioned regarding the genetic factors that influence sexual orientation unanswered, I'm pleased to see progress being made in this important area.

Monday, February 20, 2006


Positive Trends in Support for Gays

The Federal Marriage Amendment has less support this year than last, when it received only 49 votes in the Senate, 18 less than required for passage. I see that the latest Zogby pole has support for gay marriage at 36%, up from 32% in 2004. The majority approve of either marriage or civil unions for gays.

I see that the Republican leadership in states like Ohio, Penn and Kansas have quashed anti-gay legislative proposals by their more right wing colleagues. They fear a backlash against the party as a whole by their states more fair minded citizens. Business leaders appreciate that having a gay friendly state is good for the state economy as a whole and their businesses in particular. Conservative Republicans in the traditional "small government is better" sense see some of these anti-gay proposals as unwarranted government intrusion into areas which are none of the government's business.

I note that clergy groups against anti-gay proposals are gaining strength in states like Mass, New Jersey and Colorado, reminding us that anti-gay sentiment exists in some religious sects, but is not characteristic of Christians in general. I'm glad to see that gay affirming Christian blogs like Jim Johnson's Straight Not Narrow site are becoming more popular.

Last year Jerry Falwell came out in support of non-discrimination policies for gays in housing and employment. Now James Dobson supports including gays in this reciprocal benefits proposal. More people are coming to realize that treating the few unfairly adversely effects the rest of us as well. The position "We've always done it that way" is no longer seen as a valid excuse for discriminating against gay couples and their children.

I hope and pray that these gay positive trends will continue.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


Marriage has Health Benefits for Gays as Well

An article from the UK News-Telegraph reviews how marriage provides both physical and mental health benefits for the couples involved. They look at other countries who have had civil partnerships for gays for some years and expect that these benefits will accure for same sex couples in the UK as well.

We don't need to wait to see if civil unions benefit gay couples to appreciate the health improvements that result when gays are more accepted in society. We need only look at the marked improvements that have occurred over the last 12 years or so for our gay and lesbian youngsters as a result of the safe schools program and the inclusion of sexual orientation as a part of a school's anti-bullying programs. Gay-straight alliances have also been a great help.

Insisting that gay and lesbian students be treated with the same respect that all students deserve has gone a long way in reducing suicide rates and other self destructive behaviors among gay and lesbian teens. Fewer need counseling and problems are resolved more quickly when anti-gay attitudes in the community are reduced. I hope we continue to make progress in this area.

Similarly, as civil unions and gay marriage become more common and greater community acceptance results, this will have a positive effect, not only on the health of the couples involved, but also on the community as a whole. Carrying around hate in your heart for blacks, gay, or others leads to a chronic increase in stress levels which can lead to the cardio-vascular problems that Dr. King describes in the article.

As more of our citizens put aside the misinformation spewed out by anti-gay groups and come to the better understanding of gays that legitimate science provides, gays will become a more integral part of our communities and the healthier for everyone involved in the process.

So yes, these unions will result in these couples being healthier, and as we are more accepting of these gay and lesbian couples in our communities, the rest of us will be healthier as well.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


In Life, All Other Child Rearing Factors are Not Equal

Mrs. H said: "There is plenty of research to the contrary mythago. Children statistically fair better in married households than in any other situation."

Yes, if all other factors are made equal then that's what studies show. It's important to keep this "all other things equal" in the back of our minds, or we may make some glaring errors in judgement about how children are best raised.

Marriage may lead to higher family income, better educated parents, double the chance that the child may have health insurance, more likely the residence will be in a location that has better schools and other community resources and so on. A child in this situation is more likely to do well, but this is true because all the factors I listed are much more important than who constitutes the family, and they are more likely in a two person rather than a one person household.

Yet we must appreciate that it is these other, more important, coexisting factors that make the difference, not the two v one parent situation in and of itself. If we don't keep this in mind, then we might make these mistakes:

1. Criticizing a well educated, high income woman who has health insurance and owns a home in a good neighborhood, for being a single mother, when in fact, her child is likely to fair far better than average. If we are concerned about children being raised successfully, we should be saying "Brava! you go girl!" and encouraging other women like her to do likewise.

2. Criticizing gay partners for wanting children. Census figures for 2000 show that gay households, on average, have incomes about $5,000 higher than households in general, and income is the #1 factor in child rearing success. Gays also fair better at #2 which is education level of the parents. Most importantly, gays who want to settle down and have children do so intentional. They wait longer to do so and are in a better financial situation as a result. Don't we wish straight teenagers were more like these gays, instead of making babies in the back seat of the car willy-nilly. Because of these many advantages, children raised by the average gay parents are likely to be more successful than with the typical opposite sex parents.

For example, in combing through the 165,000 records in the national adolescent survey, researchers found 22 children being raised by lesbian couples. They carefully paired these with 22 children being raised by opposite sex parents. In order to make "all other things equal," so they could focus on just the one variable of interest, they ended up having to choose opposite sex parents who were above average in almost every way just so they would be "equal" to these lesbian couples.

So when we make general statements about child rearing, let's be mindful of when "all other things being equal" applies and when it doesn't. Children with a single parent of means and children of SS couples are likely to turn out better than average since, in these cases, all other things are not equal.

Also on Family Scholar's Blog

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Overcoming Homosexual Urges

At Marriage Debate, José made the quote below. In the next comment, Lynn indicated she didn't know what the quote meant, so I replied:

Lynn Gazis-Sax,

As you mentioned, José said: The APA, recognizes the right of the patient to self-determination in selecting therapy to overcome unwanted homosexual urges.

This is a great example of quote mining, taking a quote out of context to make it seem to mean exactly the opposite of what the author meant. The APA defines obsessive-compulsive disorders like excessive hand washing. This would also include a compulsion to have sex. This is found to effect gays and straights alike. The person becomes obsessed in thinking about these behaviors and feels compelled to engage in these activities excessively, even thought they may not want to or enjoy doing what they are doing.

Hidden, irrational fears drive these behaviors. Therapy brings these fears to the surface where they can be dealt with successfully. The desired outcome is to reduce thoughts of these behaviors and their incidence to a more typical level. We still need to wash our hands regularly, after all.

So we see that the quoted APA statement is true. Yet we see that it would apply to heterosexuals too, and in fact anyone who has the urge to do any behavior to an excessive degree. Notice too that it doesn't say "eliminate" these urges. Therapy is to bring the frequency into the normal range, not to eliminate these behaviors all together.

Does the APA allow therapists to help clients "overcome unwanted homosexual urges?" Yes it does.

Does the APA allow therapists to help clients change their innate sexual orientation? From the APA web page about sexual orientation:
Can Therapy Change Sexual Orientation?

No. Even though most homosexuals live successful, happy lives, some homosexual or bisexual people may seek to change their sexual orientation through therapy, sometimes pressured by the influence of family members or religious groups to try and do so. The reality is that homosexuality is not an illness. It does not require treatment and is not changeable.

That conversion therapy is both harmful to the patient and an unethical practice for the therapist is a fact about which we should all become more aware.

Monday, February 13, 2006


Counseling Parents with Gay Children


Good points. The position of the APA and the other groups who have provided guidelines for their members regarding sexual orientation is to allow youngsters to discover and grow into the person that they are.

There is no particular pressure encouraging children to become gay despite the hysterical ranting by some. Instead there is societal pressure to conform to the heterosexual norm, which is understandable. No parent wants their child to be different in a world where there are people who would use these differences to divide us.

Children are to be loved and accepted for who they are when it comes to sexual orientation. They cannot be asked to change or pretend they are something they are not simply because of their parents discomfort. VP Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynn, accept the fact that their daughter is gay and hope she finds happiness with her partner. Alan Keyes does not. Instead he kicks his daughter out of the house and refuses to pay for her college. Being a good neighbor begins by being a good parent.

Counseling a gay child often involves forming a buffer between the child and the social pressures which might otherwise try to change the child or force the child to pretend to be something he or she is not. In working with children, a therapist stops by the child's school to confer with the child's teachers and school administrators. If the family attends church regularly, visiting the child's pastor and Sunday school teacher may be appropriate if what they are saying relates to the child's problems. Most church leaders I've talked to are willing to tone down the anti-gay rhetoric when they learn how hurtful it is to both the child and the parents. Talking about the sins that all children should avoid, rather than singling out gays, is the solution we often come up with.

Saying that being gay is a choice or that one can change, implying orientation rather than just some outward behavioral manifestations, is the most insidious and hateful of all the anti-gay propaganda. Twelve years ago, the rate of teen suicide was three times higher among gays that among others. Does anyone with an IQ above room temperature think that these youngsters would choose to be gay and commit suicide if they could simply choose to be straight and live happily ever after? The gullibility of some who swallow this "choose to be gay" nonsense is amazing. This suicide rate has decreased markedly since then, as schools have initiated their gay affirming anti-bullying programs.

People who are not in counseling may not realize it, but when we have something like this from the Love Won Out web site that Sara linked to: "Focus on the Family is promoting the truth that homosexuality is preventable and treatable - ..." is how devastating this can be to the parents of a gay child. Look, mom and dad, you really screwed up your kids life by not preventing your child from becoming gay. He'll probably enter the "gay lifestyle" (whatever that supposedly is) and die a premature dead from some horrible disease, and it's all your fault, mom and dad, because you didn't raise your child to be a God fearin' heterosexual.

Much of the counseling that deals with the problems that gay children have involves discussing the best scientific information we have about homosexuality with their parents. Homosexuality is not a "disease" so it's not something that can be "cured." It appears in all populations in a near random fashion. No factors relating to a child's upbringing have ever been linked to the sexual orientation that a child manifests later. What a relief it is for parents to find out that their child's sexual orientation is not of their doing, that those who say otherwise are not being truthful.

Once parents understand that having a child who is gay is not their fault, it's a natural part of the world we live in, and schools do their part in preventing gay harassment, and churches provide loving acceptance for all of God's children, then we will have gone a long way in dealing with the problems that our gay children are facing.

Also on Family Scholar's Blog Ex-Gay Marriage thread (if it comes out of moderation).

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Realistic Options in Therapy


I promote reality based, client centered therapy. Presenting new options and new ways of thinking goes a long way towards allowing clients to choose behaviors which will lead to more successful outcomes in their lives. However, reality does not permit me to suggest that someone pretend to be something they are not. This prayer is a guide in many situations we encounter in life:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Sexual orientation is an innate quality which cannot be changed. Surely the excerpts from the Exodus marriage workshop make it clear that even they understand this basic fact. The change they brag about involves only behavior as they attempt to convince people that they should deny what is an integral part of themselves and pretend to be heterosexual.

Believe me, gays have a long history of pretending that they are not gay, and they learned this on their own without any help from Exodus or anyone else. The tragedies, large and small, that have been the result are beyond any human comprehension.

Therapy often involves providing others with knowledge that will help them meet their human needs in a responsible way. As Maslow pointed out, needs form a hierarchy. After food, clothing and shelter, we have an urge to have sex which can be satisfied in various ways. Above these, more importantly, are the ones which best define what it means to be human. Intimacy provides the means to have our highest needs met. To suggest that gays should abandon the same human needs we all share and "make do" with someone of the opposite sex is unconscionable.

You're right. Marriage is much more than just sex. Promoting lifelong, committed relationships where our highest human needs are fulfilled in a responsible way is a valid government goal. Gays should not only be allowed to marry but also be encouraged to do so for the same reasons that marriage is encouraged for the rest of us.

Also posted at Family Scholar's blog. See other comments there and my posts below.


Intimacy in Marriage

After my post to Family Scholar's Blog that I noted below, I added this note:
The fact remains that people do best when they marry someone of the same sexual orientation. When someone who is straight marries someone who is gay and the marriage falls apart, there is nothing even the best therapist can do to put humpty dumpty back together again.

George decided these posts merited a response:
Bill your comments are symptomatic of the problem with so many marriages — that sexual fulfillment is a primary goal, or the result of, or even a “significantly important part” of the relationship itself. This unrealistic expectation is not to the credit of same-sex relationships, it is to the detriment of all committed partnerships. Lifelong commitment to one’s spouse is only tangentially related to sexual attraction, much less sexual ability.
Even the best therapist would do well to remind a married couple of this fact.

That challenged me to make this reply:

Intimacy, not sexual fulfillment, is the primary affect of marriage. One could get sexual fulfillment from a blow up doll or, if you're Woody Allen, an “Orgasmatron.” Intimacy, in contrast, is something one can only experience with another human being. Intimacy is more than just a relationship based on physical attraction, it has emotional, intellectual and spiritual components as well.

The bonds which form through intimacy are the glue that hold a marriage together. It’s nearly impossible for this pair bonding to occur if one finds having sex with the other an unpleasant duty. Imagine having sex with your sister. Yuck! (I hope).

That’s what is so disturbing about the statement from the Exodus marriage workshop, “A wife needs to be prepared to offer extra help so that her husband can have an erection, [Anita] said.” Why so? So he can have sex with her as he would with a blow up doll. Do you not find something terribly wrong with this arrangement?

Accepting who we are, planning, and going ahead with our lives is the essence of psychological health. Pretending we are something we are not, is just the opposite. Those who encourage such pretence are engaging in unethical practices as the American Psychiatric Association has noted.

Is it just me, or do you too find something terribly wrong with what Exodus is doing with these mixed orientation couples?


Family Scholars Respond to Savage on "Brokeback"

The responses to Dan Savage's NYTimes article Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Ex-Gay Cowboys continue to appear. This one from our friends at Family Scholar's Blog is titled "Ex-Gay" Marriage?

After quoting some of the same paragraphs as in my first post on this topic, Tom Sylvester asks:

Do mainstream evangelicals really urge gay men to marry women? Here’s NY Blade coverage of an “ex-gay ministry” event that gives advice to ex-gays on how to build a successful marriage (for some reason, most of the tips centered on sexual issues)...

I just had to take some quotes from the NY Blade article for my first comment:
I find the Blade story about the Exodus convention to be pitiably sad. From the marriage workshop:
The Worthens said physical intimacy should proceed slowly, and it is best to wait until marriage to experiment with deep kissing.

There should be no commitment to sexual performance on the wedding night, they said, and some prudent couples wait a year after marriage before even attempting sexual intercourse.

A wife needs to be prepared to offer extra help so that her husband can have an erection, [Anita] said. Also, she added that some men do not enjoy the feel of a woman’s skin.

[ Frank] recommended that couples avoid oral sex, which could stimulate gay fantasies.

“What should be done if a man begins to have same-sex fantasies while making love to his wife?”

Good question. It’s clear that they have no expectation that a person can actually change hsr sexual orientation. Yet this is what they imply when they go around the country giving their talks. Instead, it has everything to do with pretending to be something you're not. This is a psychologically unsound practice to say the least. No wonder the APA condemns these “therapies” for the harm that they do. As the book and movie point out, these sham marriages are a recipe for disaster.

So a big Hoo Rah to Dan Savage. He certainly expressed what is wrong with the whole “ex-gay” fallacy in a way that is both humorous and easy to understand when he says, “Would you want your daughter to marry one?”

The answer is emphatically no.

If this Marriage Workshop is representative of the best that Exodus can do, then it certainly gives the word "change" an entirely new meaning. But then lots of words they use in referring to gays don't mean the same thing to them as they do to the rest of us who speak English, not psychobabble.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


Gallagher on Savage on "Brokeback"

Maggie Gallagher, in a post at the Marriage Debate blog remarks on Dan Savage's "Brokeback Mountain" article I mentioned below.
Its not clear the absence of trully wholehearted, fully heterosexual sex passion was the really big problem in Almah's life, or that this was the great attraction of that chubby nice grocer fella she later married. The question of how (if at all) eros is related to normal life, esp. under hard living conditions, is one of the unexplored themes of the movie and the book.

In the comments, several posters alluded to the selective inattention to the rest of the movie required to prompt such a sculpted response on her part.

A different comment got more of my attention. José Salano writes:
No need trying to refute point by point the clever and cute but baseless beliefs of Don Savage's non-film review. Dr. Robert Spitzer, the thousands of ex-gays themselves, and many others demonstrate how far off he is. Granted, overcoming homosexuality is difficult, but no more difficult than overcoming adultery, pedophilia, alcoholism, gambling addiction, etc. [...and so on...]

So I felt I had to respond:

Homosexuality is not something to be "overcome." It's simply the biological norm for a small portion of the population. Attempting to change one's sexual orientation is harmful as this can lead to depression, suicide and other self-destructive behaviors when the person discovers that such change is impossible. It is considered to be a violation of professional ethics by a wide range of health, mental health and educational organizations. These include:

* American Academy of Pediatrics
* American Counseling Association
* American Association of School Administrators
* American Federation of Teachers
* American Psychological Association
* American School Health Association
* National Association of School Psychologists
* National Association of Social Workers
* National Education Association
and others.

I would hope as a school board member, you would leave any 19th century view of homosexuality behind and support the school personnel in your district in following theses guidelines in regard to how they deal with their gay and lesbian students.

"Brokeback Mountain" is an example of what happens when people try to be something they are not. Please support your school personnel as they encourage their students to be who they are.

So far I haven't heard back from José.

BTW, Maggie's post includes nearly the entire Savage article, so if the one at the NYTimes disappears into archive purgatory, checkout her copy.

Update: José and I exchanged another pair of comments.

Friday, February 10, 2006


"Brokeback Mountain" - Dan Savage's Take

I have been following the "Brokeback Mountain" saga, of course: the awards, the appeal to a wide audience and so forth. Now I find a NY Times article by Dan Savage titled "Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Ex-Gay Cowboys" about the movie which deserves a large Hoo Rah!
These gay cowboys try, as best they can, to quit one another. They marry women, start families. But their wives are crushed when they realize their husbands don't, and can't, ever really love them. "Brokeback Mountain" makes clear that it would have been better for all concerned if Jack and Ennis had lived in a world where they could simply be together.

Sometimes I wonder if evangelicals really believe that gay men can go straight. If they don't think Chad Allen [in the movie "End of the Spear"] can play straight convincingly for 108 minutes, do they honestly imagine that gay men who aren't actors can play straight for a lifetime? And if anyone reading this believes that gay men can actually become ex-gay men, I have just one question for you: Would you want your daughter to marry one?

Evangelical Christians seem sincere in their desire to help build healthy, lasting marriages. Well, if that's their goal, encouraging gay men to enter into straight marriages is a peculiar strategy. Every straight marriage that includes a gay husband is one Web-browser-history check away from an ugly divorce.

If anything, supporters of traditional marriage should want gay men out of the heterosexual marriage market entirely. And the best way to do that is to see that we're safely married off — to each other, not to your daughters. Let gay actors like Chad Allen only play it straight in the movies.

"Would you want your daughter to marry one?" What a hoot. At times, it's not our opinion that matters as much as the questions we ask. This one is a classic. Read the whole piece.

Hat tip to Ex-gay watch for pointing to the Dan Savage article.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


Houses Designed for Two Families

On Family Scholar's Blog, Elizabeth Marquardt posted about an interesting article regarding how unmarried siblings are often living together to save on expenses and how this had advantages compared to having an unrelated roommate.

In a comment she remarked:
Come to think of it, recently in the NYT house and home section, I think, there was a story about two brothers and their wives buying an old place in Brooklyn, rehabbing it and living in it together. One wife was Italian, the other from somewhere in Asia (forgive me, I forget where) and their wives commented that this seemed like a very natural thing to do, given their experience of extended families. One of the couples had a toddler and I was thinking what a dream childhood that would be, growing up in a big old house with your mom, dad, aunt, and uncle — and probably some more siblings and cousins along the way.

I responded with a comment of my own:
Elizabeth Marquardt,

I'm glad you mentioned the two brothers and their wives sharing the same house. How nice for the children to have an aunt and uncle in addition to their parents in the house.

Since this came up in a different context a few months ago, I've been considering the marketability of new homes with two master bedroom suites. The common living, dining and kitchen areas would be in between and the children's bedrooms would be upstairs.

In working with couples, I find they are often in disagreement over how do to something and I'm able to work out a third option which will satisfy both.

So, we have same sex couples who want to express the normal human desire to have children and we have those who remind us of the advantages to the child in being raised by hsr biological father and mother.

What about having a house where the gay couple is in one master bedroom, the lesbian in the other, and the children would be the result of a donation from the former to the latter? The children would be raised by their biological father and mother who are married, just not to each other.

Concerning the two brothers and their wives, you said, "... I was thinking what a dream childhood that would be..." in reference to there being four adults at home. Would my suggested arrangement not have the same advantages you dream about?

So far, she has not provided an answer.