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Minority Stress and... Mark Regnerus

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 15th December 2016

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One of the newer figures on the anti-LGBT US academic horizon is University of Texas sociologist of religion and devout Catholic Mark Regnerus. Why is the US Christian Right (and our own Family First) now targeting the proposition that discrimination and stigma lead to shortened LGBT lifespans?

One pro-LGBT blog, The Slowly Boiled Frog, has dissected the current campaign against psychological research that testifies to the psychological damage that discrimination and stigma cause in the lives of LGBT individuals. It is no accident that one of the primary figures in this particular misrepresentation campaign is Glen Stanton, better known in New Zealand for authoring a somewhat flawed attack on transgender health and safety in school environments which sank without trace after the Family First pressure group launched it.

Writing in the right-wing US Federalist online publication, Stanton argues that research that demonstrates that active experience of discrimination and stigma shortens (US) LGBT lifespans by twelve years is "invalid." Suicide, homicide and cardiovascular problems are all exacerbated in 'high-prejudice' communities, according to this research.

Yet, the research cannot be replicated, according to a report in Social Science and Medicine. The trouble is the person who's doing the project, who sadly happens to be the aforementioned conservative Catholic sociologist of religion Mark Regnerus

Now, Regnerus has his own track record of acting as an attempted hatchet person for the US Christian Right, coming out with a notoriously inept piece of pseudo-science which did not demonstrate that same-sex parenting had 'inferior' results to straight parenting, due to its highly biased research design. The resultant furor is summarised on the Regnerus Fallout webpage, which tracks that controversy. Family First and other New Zealand opponents of marriage equality rehashed it when the time came to oppose marriage equality in New Zealand, but by then, rebuttals were available from US LGBT organisations and liberal allies.

The American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Medical Association, American Psychoanalytic Association, US National Association of Social Workers, American Academy of Pediatrics, California Association of Social Workers and California Psychological Association all critiqued the veracity of Regnerus' research in an amicus curiae related to a federal US employment discrimination case.

But what about the research under critique here? The problem is that while one piece of research may or may not have been invalidated, there is a robust source of replicable data and theoretical framework available for those who want to examine 'minority stress' in the context of LGBT lives.

It's called the "minority stress' model and was originated in 2003. It is also supported by the mainstream mental health profession. On the American Psychological Association website, it is explained as measuring dysfunctional fits between lived minority experiences and dominant values within an adverse social environment.

Harassment, maltreatment, discrimination and victimisation all have cumulative effects on the life expectancy of LGBT and other minority individuals. These arise from experiences of discrimination, expectations of rejection, hiding, concealment, internalised homophobia and coping mechanisms. Moreover, this is a robust theoretical framework, given that a Google search uncovers 98,000 examples of such research!

Predictably, though, as well as Family First and Focus on the Family's Stanton, numerous fellow travellers of the US Christian Right have rallied to Regenerus' side, as opposed to reputable professional associations. These include the anti-feminist "Independent Women's Forum" and the UK Christian Medical Fellowship's Michael Cook.

The Regnerus problem is, even if one study falls, there are ample other examples to replace it. So much for its probable abuse in pro-bullying activism in educational policy debates for comprehensive anti-bullying reform...

Recommended:


Slowly Boiled Frog: "Glen Stanton outdoes himself for misrepresenting research...with some help from a friend" 09.12.2016:http://www.slowlyboiledfrog.com/2016/12/glenn-stanton-outdoes-himself-for.html

Karen Golinski versus US Parent Office of Personnel Management and Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives: http://tinyurl.com/7g55hzt

Michael Dentato: "The Minority Stress Perspective": American Psychological Association: April 2012:http://www.apa.org/pi/aids/resources/exchange/2012/04/minority-stress.aspx



Craig Young - 15th December 2016

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