The Pseudo-Science of Religious Hate

Image is in the Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Image is in the Public Domain.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

I’ve been sitting on this post for a while because there’s no easy way to talk about the effect hate groups are having on national debates. As I’ve noted earlier, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has been criticized for including certain anti-lgbt groups as hate groups. The criticism is that some of these groups claim they’re appropriately expressing corollaries of their religious beliefs, and so they shouldn’t be labeled as hate groups.

The response to this is that the SPLC designation actually deals with things called facts and not just with opinions. Groups that make claims which have been proven to be false in order to defame or marginalize classes of people therefore get on the list. Controversy only surrounds this because it’s not a designation based on race, but rather on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Why this is a big deal.
Consider this article (trigger warning) over at “Applied Faith.” Its thesis is that the designation of Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, or Queer (LGBTQ) is normalizing something that ought to be considered a disorder, that it was removed as a disorder for unscientific reasons, and that doing so hurts people in the LGBTQ community. The problem with this thesis is that actual facts do not support it. I want to address the support in the article, because there are many assertions which are not actually factual.

Being LGBTQ is a disorder.
This is false. Research by the American College of Pediatricians (ACP) is actually non-scientific opinion which then gets quoted by other sources as fact (one example here). ACP has been listed by the SPLC as a hate group because it makes false statements that have been proven wrong. In the report the original post author cited, all the authorities it cited did not justify its assertions.

Additionally, one will not find homosexuality, same-sex attraction, or transgender identity listed as a disorder in any DSM manual. The closest thing that comes to it is the new diagnosis of gender dysphoria, which only seeks to treat distress and not stigmatize the gender label itself. Even here, there’s very careful mention that being transgender is not a disorder.

The changes to all of this were politically motivated.
This is also false. In the “Applied Faith” article, this source was mentioned to justify that assertion. However, the same article noted:

“[The Committee on Nomenclature] was charged with revising the initial version of DSM, and Spitzer-armed with research showing there were no valid data to link homosexuality and mental illness-advocated forcefully for the strategy of deleting homosexuality from the disorders list[.]”

(emphasis added)

In other words, the justification used to get rid of homosexuality as a mental illness was based in actual research and not on some kind of backroom political deal.

Not labeling all of this as a disorder hurts LGBTQ people.
A while back, this report found that transgender people attempted suicide at an alarmingly higher rate than anyone else. In the “Applied Faith” article, this is used to support the notion that being transgender is what is causing this suicidal thinking. This is also false. A Canadian study actually found that it was the experience of transgender people that prompted the suicide rates, and not just being transgender. Moreover, they found that having a family accept them for who they are lowered the rate by 57%.

The bottom line is that pseudo-science is negatively impacting more than just LGBTQ people.
People are entitled to their own opinions, but they’re not entitled to their own facts. Even between the ACP and groups like the Family Research Council, they bounce around citations which on their face support what they’re saying. It takes time and effort to dig through it all to find out if it’s true or not. A lot of people who are given this false information are induced to come to a conclusion that is not true.

Another awful thing about all of this is the notion that views which support treating LGBTQ people as being normal is somehow the product of some kind of conspiracy. This view is one I’m not unfamiliar with, and it’s even made its way into U.S. Supreme Court opinions (see Scalia’s dissent in Lawrence v. Texas“Today’s opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct.”). Even if it was true, this doesn’t negate that there is actual research backing up pro-LGBTQ sentiments. Regardless, there isn’t some kind of hidden conspiracy going on; all this research and public discussion is happening out in the open for all to see.

Indeed, it’s the opposition to it that is increasingly relying on clouding the issue to maintain its views (here is a great source with links to additional articles discussing other tactics). The whole point of it is to try to give an air of legitimacy to something that is not actually legitimate at all. My worry is that this kind of stuff will be used to trap people into more sequestered forms of hate.