Thursday, February 09, 2006

Why everyone who cares about fairness for lesbians & gays should know about Paul Cameron

As a lesbian, you get a lot of garbage thrown at you. Sometimes literally, always figuratively.

When I pick up the paper and see another anti-gay article or listen to yet another preacher rant, I often wonder what the fuss is about. I know what my life is like. All in all, it’s rather boring.

Most often my life consists of going to work, coming home and watching TV. I have my college-age son over for dinner (got to make certain he eats healthy once a week) and hang out with my mother who moved in with me about 18 months ago. I agonize over the fact that I haven’t painted my living room lately or fixed a hole in the paster upstairs. I like to go to the library. I like movies, and no, I haven’t had time to see Brokeback Mountain, yet.

Recently – more than 13 years after my life partner died of breast cancer -- I met someone. I think she may well be my soul mate. I know I’m falling in love. How this fact hurts anyone else, I have no idea.

Last spring during a TV debate on the ban on same-sex marriage, Overland Park minister Jerry Johnston declared that lesbians and gays don’t deserve marriage because, well, we aren’t like heterosexuals. Johnston declared that we have thousands of sexual partners. Actually, I don’t remember the exact number he gave. It was at least 1,000, perhaps more, but I think you get the idea.

At that time I hadn’t been in love for a long time, and all I could do was laugh. That night I wished I were the person debating Johnston. I would have chuckled at him and excused myself to, well, catch up. After all, I was then and still am woefully behind in meeting my sexual quota.

All of this stuff they say about us queers would be laughable if folks weren’t taking it as seriously as they used to (and often still do) take stereotypes about African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities.

These ideas and attitudes hurt people. They hurt teenagers who are trying to figure out how to live with integrity and authenticity. They hurt children who are kept from their parents for no other reason than the fact that their parents are gay. They hurt widows and couples and countless others.

I bring this up because AlterNet had a fantastic article today on the homophobes’ very own pet scientist. His name is Paul Cameron. If you are concerned with justice and fairness for lesbians, gays and bisexuals, then you need to know about his work and know how to counter it.

His work would be laughable if it wasn’t destroying so many lives. Cameron misrepresents data, twists the scientific method and has been kicked out of two professional associations for his lousy work. However, his so-called studies continue to be used as the justification for just about every anti-gay law in this country.

While he makes no attempt to disguise his personal bias, Cameron dresses up his studies with footnotes, bibliographies and charts, and then publishes them in bogus "academic" journals. His work is propaganda masquerading as cience and has been repeatedly unmasked as such by many legitimate scientists. Cameron himself has been cast out of both the American Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association. The ASA declared that, "Dr. Cameron has consistently misinterpreted and misrepresented sociological research on sexuality, homosexuality and lesbianism."

But no matter how low his professional reputation sinks or how patently ludicrous his findings become (one recent Cameron study concluded that lesbians are 300 times more likely to die in car accidents than heterosexual women), the social impact of Cameron's so-called research far exceeds that of all but a few genuine research psychologists. Cameron's findings are repeated ad nauseam by lawmakers, radio talk show hosts, preachers and anti-gay activists across the country. In 2003, his research was cited by dissenting justices on the Massachusetts Supreme Court in the case that led to legalizing same-sex marriage in that state. In 2004, a majority decision by the Florida Supreme Court that upheld a law banning adoption by same-sex couples specifically cited Cameron's research as being "consonant with the notion that children raised by homosexuals disproportionately experience emotional disturbance and sexual victimization."

What the Florida Supreme Court ignored was the fact that every reputable study of the children of lesbian and gay parents has shown the exact opposite. Our kids are as normal as anyone else’s, except perhaps being a little more tolerant of differences. To see the work of legitimate scientists on this topic go to the American Psychological Association and the ACLU.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, has a fantastic interview with a scientist about the flaws in Cameron’s material. The article appears in its Intelligence Report publication. Here’s just one of the ways that Cameron’s work is flawed.
IR: Cameron also gave numerous media interviews in the cities where his surveys went out in which he predicted and even promoted certain results. You've identified his conduct as a serious breach of professional standards. Why is that?

HEREK: One of the principal challenges of social research is that the individuals who are being studied can become aware of the researcher's expectations or goals, which can alter their behavior. For this reason, researchers do not communicate their expectations or hypotheses in advance. Nor do they bias participants' responses by suggesting that a particular answer is more correct or desirable than others.

Contrary to this well-established standard, Cameron publicly disclosed the survey's goals and his own political agenda. In one front-page interview, he characterized the survey as providing "ammunition for those who want laws adopted banning homosexual acts throughout the United States." This was in an article headlined "Poll Will Help Oppose Gays" that appeared while data collection was still in process.
SourceWatch also has a good page on Cameron.

Someday I hope we can look back on what Cameron is doing and think of it as an historic artifact. I hope we can see it as the propaganda it is. But right now, Cameron is destroying lives

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