Tuesday, I blogged about a recent CDC study that suggests that gay teens tend to engage in riskier behaviors than heterosexual teens. Yesterday, Alvin McEwen drew attention to a blog post by Brian Brown of the National Organization
for Marriage of Moralists that mentions this study. Except that Brian tries to use the study to demonstrate that gay teens are “safer” in states that ban same-sex marriage than in states that have embraced such unions. He does this by comparing some of the statistics for Wisconson and Massachusetts:
For example, about 25 percent of
Massachusetts teens who self-identify as “gay” said they had missed
schools because they felt unsafe, compared to 14 percent of Wisconsin
teens. More than half (50.5 percent) of Massachusetts gay teens said
they felt “sad or hopeless” compared to 29 percent of Wisconsin teens.
Thirty-three percent of Massachusetts gay teens attempted suicide,
compared to less than 20 percent of Wisconsin teens. Massachusetts gay
teens were about twice as likely as Wisconsin gay teens to commit a
suicide attempt serious enough to require medical care (15 percent to 8
percent). (By contrast, heterosexual teens in both states were about
equally likely to have committed a suicide attempt that required medical
care: around 2 percent.)
You see? Brian Brown has shown that this survey says that kids do better in Wisconsin than they do in Massachusetts. But Brown also plays with some of the figures from the study. For example, Brown notes that a whopping 25% of Massachusetts teens that self-identify as gay miss school due to feeling unsafe, compared to 14% of teens in Wisconsin. Those figures come out of Table 18 (page 27) of the study. The problem is, Brian is comparing the wrong numbers.
The 14% of students in Wisconsin are students who (1) have had sexual contact and (2) have only had sexual contact with members of the same sex. This percentage comes from a sample set that is defined by sexual activity, not self-identity. That is a qualitative difference. The importance of that of that difference become obvious when you look at the table, find the figure that corresponds to the group of Massachusetts students specified by sexual activity rather than self-identity, and discover the comparable figure in Massachusetts drops to 12.6%.* We have nothing to compare the Massachusetts students who self-identify as gay with, because that data is not available for the state of Wisconsin.
Brian plays this same shell game with the other statistics he cites. Comparing the correct figures makes the results for those two states much closer** together. The fact that Brian plays the shell game to make his argument more compelling is particularly
ironic hypocritical, as the whole point of his blog post is to whine that the media and homosexual activiists play with statistics to get them to say what they want. I’m sure that some members of the media and gay people do exactly that. However, I know Brian Brown does it. I just showed you where he does it.
Of course, what’s bizarre is that Brian brings up the CDC survey, not to discuss anti-gay bullying, but to defend his opposition to marriage equality by conflating the two issues:
Why is this stark clear evidence that marriage is not responsible for
gay teens’ suffering never, ever considered worthy of mention in the
debates over bullying?
The answer to Brian’s question is actually quite obvious: No LGBT person I know considers the fact that same-sex marriage is not yet a reality to be a cause of anti-gay bullying. No LGBT person I know considers achieving marriage equality to be the solution to ending anti-gay bullying. GLSEN does not hand out “support marriage equality” buttons to raise awareness of or stop anti-gay bullying. They hold the National Day of Silence. They push schools and educators to create safe spaces for LGBT teens. They push schools to adopt anti-bullying policies that explicitly mention LGBT students. Dan Savage starts the It Gets Better campaign and associates it with the Trevor Project.
The only link that LGBT people make between marriage equality and anti-gay bullying is that they are both issues that arise out of the same anti-gay animus. Beyond that, we understand that they are issues that need to be approached in different ways through solutions meant to address them appropriately.
It’s people like Brian Brown and the other folks of NOM that tend to conflate such issues. It’s NOM who tried to link a California educational program about gender identity and bullying to marriage equality, for one example. In reality, NOM tries to link this issue to anything that will scare people into fighting against marriage equality. They do this because they know that they can’t stand on their anti-gay animus alone.
Brian Brown and the rest of NOM are simply projecting their bad faith tactics onto us, their opponents intended victims.
* This does raise interesting questions as to what differences there are between students who self-identify as gay and those who have actually had sexual contact exlucisvely with members of the same sex.
** I’m hoping Erin will confirm or correct me on this, but based on the CI values, I believe ate least some of these percentages are too close to really comment on which state is better or worse, statistically speaking.