In a March 2008 article for Focus on the Family’s male youth magazine Breakaway, Focus operative and Exodus former chairman Mike Haley invents three myths, attributes them to “homosexual activists” in order to alarm the readership, and then proceeds to refute his own myths. Haley confuses his audience by claiming that he is “clearing up the confusion” about sexual orientation and then offering falsehoods instead. Here are Haley’s myths, followed by the facts he chose to withhold:
1. Strawman argument of the ten percent. Haley claims that “homosexual advocates for years have quoted [Kinsey's] book from the 1940s” as evidence that 10 percent of the population is “homosexual.” Haley cites no advocates — perhaps because they’ve been few in number for the past decade. Instead of citing the past 15 years of research about the proportion of gay people within the general population, Haley cites a 15-year-old antigay op-ed in the Wall Street Journal as his authoritative source. Haley then goes two steps further — insinuating that a low proportion of gay people means they’re not “normal” and comparing gay people to alcoholics.
Haley had easy access to the widely varying research results but withheld them from his readers. For example, here are recent findings as collected by Wikipedia:
- 2003 [Australia]: The largest and most thorough survey in Australia to date was conducted by telephone interview with 19,307 respondents between the ages of 16 and 59 in 2001/2002. The study found that 97.4% of men identified as heterosexual, 1.6% as gay and 0.9% as bisexual. For women 97.7% identified as heterosexual, 0.8% as gay and 1.4% as bisexual. Nevertheless, 8.6% of men and 15.1% of women reported either feelings of attraction to the same sex or some sexual experience with the same sex. Half the men and two thirds of the women who had same-sex sexual experience regarded themselves as heterosexual rather than homosexual.
- 2005 [United Kingdom]: HM Treasury and the Department for Trade and Industry completed a survey to help the Government analyse the financial implications of the Civil Patrnerships Act (such as pensions, inheritance and tax benefits). They concluded that there were 3.6m gay people in the United Kingdom – around 6% of the total population or 1 in 16.66 people.
- 2003 [United States]: Smith’s 2003 analysis of National Opinion Research Center data states that 4.9% of sexually active American males had had a male sexual partner since age 18, but that “since age 18 less than 1% are [exclusively] gay and 4+% bisexual”. In the top twelve urban areas however, the rates are double the national average. Smith adds that “It is generally believed that including adolescent behavior would further increase these rates.” The NORC data has been criticised because the original design sampling techniques were not followed, and depended upon direct self report regarding masturbation and same sex behaviors. (For example, the original data in the early 1990s reported that approximately 40% of adult males had never masturbated–a finding inconsistent with some other studies.)
- It is important to note, however, that these numbers are subject to many of the pitfalls inherent in researching sensitive social issues. It is possible that survey results may be biased by under-reporting, for instance. The frequent use of non-random samples (white college students) in many studies could also serve to skew the data.
2. Strawman argument of the gay gene. Haley falsely claims that advocates for tolerance are wedded to tenuous early-1990s research about the possibility (since discarded) of a single gene determining sexual orientation. Subsequent studies have found numerous biological factors that may collectively play a role in predisposing one’s sexual orientation, but Haley distorts basic biology by insinuating that biological factors must be genetic; then, having disqualified non-genetic biological research from his worldview, Haley declares that “there is no evidence to support the claim that someone can be born homosexual.” Haley ignores one ex-gay pundit, Dean Byrd of NARTH who recently acknowledged that biology may play a significant role in determining sexual orientation, and distorts the view of another pundit, ex-gay therapist Joseph Nicolosi of NARTH, the national reparative-therapy advocacy group.
3. Unsubstantiated smear. In response to the growing public realization that long-term gay relationships possess the same love and desire for mutual support, fidelity, and sometimes child-raising as heterosexual relationships, Haley declares as a fact, without substantiation, that homosexuals are promiscuous and diseased.
It is surprising, to say the least, that an organization with a $150 million annual budget that claims to uphold family values would lie to youths, resort to strawman arguments, and promote misunderstanding in families about something as basic as spouses’ and siblings’ sexual orientation.
Haley has written an entire book of supposed gay myths, titled “101 Frequently Asked Questions about Homosexuality,” which is sold at Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out” roadshows and at the Exodus bookstore. Given Haley’s use of outdated and unsourced information in Breakaway, we are naturally skeptical whether Haley’s supposed 101 questions accurately or fairly represent current conventional wisdom or research.
When Haley and his Focus colleagues complain about being denied a soapbox in U.S. public schools, we question why they believe public schools are an appropriate forum for such sloppy and inaccurate propaganda. Schools are for learning — not politics.
Hat tip: Good As You