The Psychological Burden Associated with the Stigmatization of Homosexuality

imagesThe Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) has long focused on the psychological burden associated with the stigmatization of homosexuality and, in articles over the past decade, explored the roots of public opposition to marriage equality; examined the rights and responsibilities of gay parents; and critiqued the “psychological” arguments that are typically put forward regarding gay rights.

In “Social Advocacy for Equal Marriage: The Politics of ‘Rights’ and the Psychology of ‘Mental Health’, (Analyses of Social Issues of Public Policy, December 2004), Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson argue against the discipline’s dominant narrative regarding homosexuality, with its focus on social stigmatization and the mental health damage or deficit that such stigmatization imposes. They argued instead for a discourse of rights, which “asserts universally applicable principles of equality, justice, freedom, and dignity.” The psychological approach, by contrast, seemed fundamentally “antithetical to the conceptual framework of human rights, as a basis for social justice.”

In “The Rights and Responsibilities of Gay and Lesbian Parents: Legal Developments, Psychological Research, and Policy Implications,” (Social Issues and Policy Review, December 2008), Jared Chamberlain, Monica Miller, and Brian Bornstein enrich the discussion about how courts should deal with gay parents who chose to end their relationship. They argue that children benefit from having continued contact with two parents—even if in gay relationships there may be a biological connection to only one of the parents—and that the children’s well-being is unaffected by their parents’ sexual orientation. The same “best interest” standard that prevails among heterosexual parents in determining child custody should prevail among gay parents, with visitation rights allocated accordingly. A review of the literature reveals that children of lesbian parents showed no differences in terms of “psychological development and family functioning,” exhibited similar levels of self-esteem, and experienced similar gender identity formation processes. They concluded by urging psychologists:

to continue to conduct and publicize the results of research on children of same-sex parents, especially in new areas such as dissolution of the same sex-relationship; they can conduct research comparing families with lesbian gay and heterosexual parents; and they can evaluate children in custodial disputes that result from the breakup of same-sex relationships in the same manner that they work with the children in heterosexual divorce cases.

In “Anti-Equality Marriage Amendments and Sexual Stigma,” (Journal of Social Issues, No. 2, 2011) Gregory Herek summarizes the stigma-based analysis of anti-equality marriage laws and campaigns. He discusses how being denied the legal right to marry because of one’s orientation constitutes an instance of stigma; and being subject to political campaigns promoting anti-equality marriage amendments are a source of heightened stress for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. The personal and political are interrelated: The initial enactment and continuing existence of anti-equality marriage laws depend on the continuing salience of such attitudes among the voting public. He closes by asking two questions: How the process of coming out and discussing one’s sexual orientation impacts one’s friends, relatives, and acquaintances; and second, how and why some heterosexual friends and family chose to become allies in the struggle for marriage equality and related structural stigma and prejudice.

Finally, Melanie Duncan and Markus Kemmelmeier focus on what attitudes fuel opposition to same-sex marriage, in their article “Attitudes Toward Same-Sex Marriage: An Essentialist Approach.” They argue that the negative same-sex marriage (SSM) attitudes are the result of essentialist thinking about marriage—that is, thinking that categorizes marriage as universal, unique, invariant, and not the result of human agency. In fact, “essentialist” attitudes about marriage were a more potent predictor of negative SSM even than essentialist conceptions of homosexuality. In that respect, marriage is often conceptualized as if it predated or had an existence independent of the society in which it is practiced; marriage is viewed by opponents of SSM as if it had an “objective” reality, whose essence is formally enshrined. These attitudes are revealed in studies probing essentialist beliefs about homosexuality and essentialist beliefs about marriage: “Although opponents of SSM may be likely to harbor prejudices against homosexuals, their opposition to SSM seems to be more critically motivated by their essentialist perspective on marriage itself.”

We encourage you to share your thoughts and comments on this post below. If you’re interested on reading scholarly content, made free this month only to support the continuation of conversations surrounding the LGBT Community, read here.

For more from SPSSI, visit Wiley Online Library.  There you’ll find a free sample issue, content alerts, and a host of psychology articles.

“Unsettling Science and Religion: Contributions and Questions from Queer Studies”

“Unsettling Science and Religion: Contributions and Questions from Queer Studies”

IRAS, August 8-15, Star Island, NH – Event Registration

Call for Papers – More Information

ZygonQueer studies, the critical philosophical approach initiated by Michel Foucault and taken up by a number of contemporary thinkers, builds upon research in the biological sciences to challenge the assumptions of heterosexuality, monogamy, gender, and sexual dimorphism as not founded in “naturally occurring” categories but instead as cultural constructs, created through time, traditions, politics, and power dynamics. At its most basic level, it suggests that reality is more complex and far stranger than any thought, idea, system, or belief can capture. It aims at continuing conversations and explorations of the world in which we live, rather than arriving at any final conclusions.

The aim of the 2015 IRAS conference is to borrow the techniques and challenges from within queer studies and queer theory, with the goal of unsettling—or “queering”—our own discipline(s). To this end, we call for papers and posters on topics at the intersection of religion, science, and queer theory. This might include ways to challenge the boundaries within and between religion and science, and/or between and within the academy, as well as the boundaries of the sacred and secular, of reason and faith. Ultimately, we want to ask how queer religion, science and philosophy, can and/or should be.

More information about the 2015 conference can be found at: http://www.iras.org/.

Confirmed keynote speakers include: Carol Wayne White, Karen Barad, Fern Feldman, Catherine Keller, Laurel Schneider, Emilie Townes, Whitney Bauman, Lisa Stenmark, and Chapel Coordinator Donna Schaper.

Zygon

Edited By: Willem B. Drees, Tilburg University

Impact Factor: 0.833 – ISI Journal Citation Reports © Ranking: 2013: 23/42 (Social Issues)

Eugenics in America

Elaine Riddick is just one of 60,000 Americans who fell foul of a shocking policy of eugenics operative in the United States for the majority of the last century. On June 22 Ms. Riddick will tell, to a task force specially assembled for victims such as her, the story of how in 1968 she was sterilised at the hands of US government at the age of 14.

Ms. Riddick was raped and impregnated when she was 13 years-old by a neighbour in her hometown of Winfall, North Carolina. She was singled out by a social worker to be “feeble-minded”, and after giving birth through Caesarian section, with putative “consent” from her fearful and illiterate grandmother, who signed with an ‘X’ the necessary forms, was subjected to tubal ligation, permanently preventing her from producing any future children. These actions were carried out under a eugenicist movement in the US, beginning in 1907, ending in 1979, and sanctioned by laws in 32 states. (Full report on BBC News website).

The policy of sterilisation reportedly targeted women deemed to be sexual deviants, homosexual men, people on welfare, people who were mentally ill or suffered from epilepsy, criminals, and delinquents. The idea placed emphasis on the attempt to preclude the necessity of supporting those who most likely would be able to support neither themselves nor the rest of society by removing altogether the means for their creation. Speaking to the BBC, Professor Paul Lombardo of Georgia State University, editor of a book on the history of eugenics in America, said:

We have in this country have always been extremely sensitive to notions of public stories of inappropriate sexuality

We exercise that most dramatically when it comes to times in which we think we’re spending individual tax money to support people who violate those social norms. It’s our puritanical background, running up against our sense of individualism.

Continue reading “Eugenics in America”

The Global Reach of Human Rights, Amartya Sen

Society for Applied Philosophy 2011 Annual Lecture

The Global Reach of Human Rights

Professor Amartya Sen

Tuesday 14 June 2011
5pm at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford
(Doors open from 4.30pm)

The lecture will be followed by a reception for Society for Applied Philosophy members. Further Information.

The Society for Applied Philosophy sponsors an Annual Lecture to be delivered by a philosopher who has made an important contribution to the field of applied philosophy broadly construed.

Listen to past lectures:

2010: Militant Modern Atheism, Professor Philip Kitcher

2009: Measuring Development, Poverty and Gender Equity, Professor Thomas Pogge

2008: Naturalism, Normativity, and Applied Ethics, Baroness Onora O’Neill (Inagural SAP Annual Lecture)

The Prisoner Dilemma

It is an issue that has been brewing for almost a decade now, since prisoner John Hirst first had his case dismissed by Britain’s High Court in April 2001, and, because in November 2010 the Council of Europe gave Britain six months to bring themselves into alignment with the judgements of the Strasbourg Courts, the question is now on everybody’s lips: Should prisoners be allowed to vote?

Back in March 2004, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that a blanket disenfranchisement of prisoners, irrespective of crime or sentence, was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. By the time of the 2010 elections, the British government had failed to materially respond to these rulings, but now Europe has mounted pressure to change – forcing the new Conservative government to tread carefully the line of avoiding in the future paying out tens of millions of pounds in compensation to prisoners while still keeping sweet the Conservative supporters who want to see Europe’s power over policy in Britain lessened. Continue reading “The Prisoner Dilemma”

Is There a Middle-Ground for Multiculturalism?

Mass migration is a fascinating subject. It’s been happening for hundreds of years and can often be an attributing factor to changes in course of the history of humanity. Personally, I think mass migration is a driving force of progress and inevitably improves the outlook of any society which is host to mass migration over time by virtue of the broadening of the outlook of that society as a whole (for a detailed account of immigration by a renowned philosopher I cannot recommend highly enough On Immigration and Refugees by the great Michael Dummett, in which he condemns the kind of nationalism which leads to suspicion of new comers into a society). Unfortunately this takes time, and can cause serious teething pain for both the host majority and the incoming minority. Continue reading “Is There a Middle-Ground for Multiculturalism?”

Extreme Religious Beliefs?

A man was barred from entering the UK this week because he holds “extreme beliefs”. An oversimplification? Well, yes. But it is certainly interesting to look at the story of Pastor Terry Jones, the infamous Qur’an burning provocateur and his recently denied entrance to the UK, from a strictly philosophical point of view.

As I play at being Socrates, let’s begin with the facts. A Home Office spokesman said: “The government opposes extremism in all its forms which is why we have excluded Pastor Terry Jones from the UK.” So Terry Jones – incidentally, a gift of a name for satirists who can manage a Monty Python impression – is denied entrance to the UK because he is an ‘extremist’. What is an extremist? My dictionary (the Oxford English) says: “Extremist: a person who holds extreme political or religious views.” So Terry Jones was denied entry to the UK because he holds extreme political or religious views. We might ask, is it his political or religious views that have condemned him? Richard Dawkins holds extreme religious views, compared to the Archbishop of Canterbury for example, yet Dawkins is welcome in this country (as far as I’m aware…). What is ‘extreme? “Furthest from the centre or a given point” (my dictionary is working hard today), or “far from moderate”. Both of these could be true of Dawkins’ religious views. But there are no cries to deport Dawkins, so Terry Jones’ rejection can’t be simply because of his ‘extreme religious views’. Continue reading “Extreme Religious Beliefs?”