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4 posts from January 1, 2012 - January 7, 2012

January 04, 2012

Hong Kong College of Psychiatrists de-lists homosexuality as illness

In a development that has gone unreported until a few days ago, the association of psychiatrists in Hong Kong voted late last year to adopt the official position that "homosexuality is not a mental disorder" and to state that

There is, at present, no sound scientific and clinical evidence supporting the benefits of attempts to alter sexual orientation.

A psychiatrist should provide care with no discrimination... 

According to Fridae, a gay Asian publication, this step is of critical political and policy importance for multiple reasons:

Firstly, ... I know of no other Asian psychiatric or psychological professional body that has followed the examples of their corresponding bodies in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe or Australasia in sticking out their necks and making a statement on this issue. This seems to me to be something of a continental first.

Secondly, certainly in Hong Kong no professional organisation has issued such a statement before, so until this statement there has been no ‘official’ guidance on the matter. This has, until now, enabled the government to pretend that the issue remained subject to debate. The government has hitherto been able to adopt, therefore, a detached position of seeming to arbitrate or balance between the two sides of the LGBT rights argument, hiding as it does so beneath the liberal cloak of maintaining ‘the freedom of speech’. Because of the new statement, it will be able to evade the issue in this way no longer. 

Thirdly, activists in Hong Kong will no longer have to adduce arguments based upon foreign professional pronouncements in support of their cause. They now have a locally produced weapon with which to attack government inactivity or discrimination and to counter the public assaults of the fundamentalist right. They no longer have to prove these issues; in future they will be able to quote the College of Psychiatrists’ statement as proof that those with more professional standing than anyone likely to be in the room have ruled thus. In hide-and-precedent-bound Hong Kong, this is a powerful weapon indeed. 

So how did this unusual statement come about? The roots of the story lie back last June when the government appointed ‘reparative therapy’ advocate, psychiatrist Dr Hong Kwai-wah, to teach its social workers issues of sexual orientation. This caused a furore locally after activists from the Womens Coalition of the HKSAR and Rainbow picketed the venue. Word of this spread worldwide.

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January 02, 2012

Data show that "marriage is losing market share"

To me, the most telling statistic in the following analysis of marriage data, from the Pew Foundation, is multiple paragraphs down. Although Americans marry at a later age than 50 years ago, the great majority marry at some point in their lives.  The "great" part of that statement, however, is also diminishing: from 85 per cent in 1960 to 72 per cent in 2010. Put differently, more than a quarter of Americans never marry.

Barely half of all adults in the United States—a record low—are currently married, and the median age at first marriage has never been higher for brides (26.5 years) and grooms (28.7), according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data.

In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married [at the time of the survey]; today just 51% are. If current trends continue, the share of adults who are currently married will drop to below half within a few years. Other adult living arrangements—including cohabitation, single-person households and single parenthood—have all grown more prevalent in recent decades.

The Pew Research analysis also finds that the number of new marriages in the U.S. declined by 5% between 2009 and 2010, a sharp one-year drop that may or may not be related to the sour economy.

The United States is by no means the only nation where marriage has been losing “market share” for the past half century. The same trend has taken hold in most other advanced post-industrial societies, and these long-term declines appear to be largely unrelated to the business cycle. The declines have persisted through good economic times and bad.

In the United States, the declines have occurred among all age groups, but are most dramatic among young adults. Today, just 20% of adults ages 18 to 29 are married, compared with 59% in 1960. Over the course of the past 50 years, the median age at first marriage has risen by about six years for both men and women.

It is not yet known whether today’s young adults are abandoning marriage or merely delaying it. Even at a time when barely half of the adult population is married, a much higher share— 72%—have been married at least once. However, this “ever married” share is down from 85% in 1960.

Public attitudes about the institution of marriage are mixed. Nearly four-in-ten Americans say marriage is becoming obsolete, according to a Pew Research survey in 2010.1 Yet the same survey found that most people who have never married (61%) would like to do so someday.

It is beyond the scope of this analysis to explain why marriage has declined, except to note that it has declined far less for adults with college educations than among the less educated. Some of the increase in the median age at first marriage over the long term can be explained by the rising share of young adults enrolled in college, who have tended to marry later in life; recently, there are indications that adults who are not college graduates also are marrying later.2 Fallout from the Great Recession may be a factor in the recent decrease in newlyweds, although the linkage between marriage rates and economic hard times is not entirely clear.3

Divorce is a factor in diminishing the share of adults who are currently married compared with 50 years ago. But divorce rates have leveled off in the past two decades after climbing through the 1960s and 1970s, so divorce plays less of a role than it used to.4

What is clear is that a similar delay and decline of marriage is occurring in other developed nations, especially those in Europe, and in some cases in less developed nations. According to a recent United Nations report that analyzed marriage trends in the context of their impact on fertility,5 female age at first marriage rose from the 1970s to the 2000s in 75 of 77 countries included in its analysis. The increase was most marked in developed nations—and especially notable in those countries because the age at first marriage had been declining until the 1970s.

On another measure, the share of women ever married by ages 45-49, there were declines in all developed nations between the 1990s and the 2000s. According to the U.N. report, this was “due in part to an increasing acceptance of consensual [cohabiting] unions as a replacement for marital unions.”

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January 01, 2012

The rising star from 2011: Frank Mugisha

I doubt that there are any lgbt rights leaders in Imgresthe United States who literally put their lives on the line, day after day, to fight for justice. So it's difficult to overstate the courage of Frank Mugisha, a leader of the political organization Sexual Minorities Uganda and of Icebreakers Uganda, a group offers counseling and suicide-prevention services. Mugisha has been imprisoned by the government in Uganda and targeted for death by the same group that encouraged the murder of David Kato.

Last month, after receiving the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights' annual Human Rights Award, Mugisha published a powerful op-ed in the NY Times, arguing that "homophobia - not homosexuality - is the toxic import" to Africa, and calling on Americans of color to join the struggle to end brutality against lgbt people in Africa.

Granted, I am way jumping the gun here - Mugisha is only 29 - but I see a Nobel in his future.

Following is an interview with Mugisha from The Root:

The Root: The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award recognizes individuals who stand up, at great personal risk, to oppression in the nonviolent pursuit of human rights. Are you afraid for your safety, or even for your life?

Frank Mugisha: I fear. I fear for what will happen to me from the community, from people around me, from my friends. But my biggest fear is not coming from the government because, as an activist, I have a little bit of protection. My biggest fear is from the everyday people on the street. From my neighbors. Because I don't have any security, I could be attacked and killed like my friend [David Kato] was.

TR: What is life like every day for gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities in Uganda?

FM: There are different categories. If you are an activist, then you have to calculate and decide, "Should I take that street, should I go to that shopping mall, should I do this today, even?" Because you don't know where the harassment will come from.

Then you have an openly gay man who's not an activist -- the fear is as he's doing his everyday work. He has to ask, is he going to be harassed, is he going to be beaten, is he going to be a target?

Then you have people who are not out, but they are gay. Their fear is the media. Their family finding out about them, the media finding out about them. Their workplaces finding out about them. They fear that they could be fired, that they could be thrown out of their homes.

TR: You have discussed the way the media fuel homophobia by outing people. What else is driving homophobia in Uganda?

FM: Culture. People think homosexuality is not African, that [it] is from somewhere else, from the West. People believe the Bible has been very clear that homosexuality is a sin, and a big percentage of Uganda -- 80 percent -- is Christian, so that has also greatly increased homophobia.

But I've had a problem both with people racializing homophobia and also with saying homosexuality is imported. I think [it] is very important to recognize that there is homophobia in the United States, in Europe and in Africa. The question should be, what has made it increase?

When I was growing up, I knew people who lived together, man and man, as if they were married, and no one harassed them, no one arrested them. But today we are seeing this kind of new wave of religion that has come in and said the homosexuals you know are bad people.

TR: What role have U.S. evangelicals played in that new wave of religion?

FM: They talk about abortion; they talk about family values and all that. But in Uganda they've identified homosexuality as the issue they can pick on. They pick on so many issues, but they came to Uganda because Uganda is so Christian, and Ugandans are going to listen when they say homosexuality is a sin.

TR: You've talked about how pleased you were to hear from TransAfrica and learn that you were not alone in the fight to protect sexual minorities in Uganda. What can individual African-Americans do to communicate that message and show their support? 

FM: Work with us. I've done amazing work with TransAfrica. Other organizations can work directly with us. People can support progressive [nongovernmental organizations] and NGOs that work on human rights. Let people give them support and moral support. It will give us courage.

Updates from the end of 2011

Here's what we've missed from the last two weeks:

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 It's a Navy tradition that when a ship returns to home port, there is a lottery to pick the sailor who gets to be the first to kiss a loved one. Petty Officer 2d Class Marissa Gaeta won the prize on December 22, and when her ship docked in Virginia Beach, she got to kiss her girlfriend Citlalic Snell. The crowd cheered. Another example of the disastrously horrible effect on morale and unit cohesion of repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell.  Not.

In Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Augusta State University could require a remediation course for a graduate student in its counseling program who wanted to recommend conversion therapy for gay patients. The student had argued that her religious freedom was violated, but the court found that the university's actions were neutral and a legitimate requirement in light of the concern that Keeton would violate ethical codes governing counselors during her counseling practium, which involved actual patients.

The death of John Lawrence, one of the men who resisted prosecution for gay sex in a case that went to the Supreme Court and produced a ruling that criminal laws prohibiting (most) consensual sex are unconstitutional. Sadly, his co-defendant Tyron Garner had died earlier. 

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a measure prohibiting state government agencies from offering benefits to unmarried partners of employees. It is reportedly unclear whether the new law applies to public universities in the state, because universities have some degree of autonomy under state law.

Debates arose in Zimbabwe over whether drafters of the new constitution should include a provision guaranteeing the rights of lgbt people.

The Victory Institute announced that 48 out of the 50 states have at least one openly gay elected official (to answer your question: Alaska and South Dakota).

Welcome to 2012...