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50 posts categorized "Social science"

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.

Continue reading "Hong Kong College of Psychiatrists de-lists homosexuality as illness" »

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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December 15, 2011

Divorce and CP dissolutions increase in Britain with rockier economy

A total of 42,778 same-sex couples in England have entered civil partnerships; only 1,007 of those have sought dissolutions. Of late, however, there has been an upward trend for termination of both same-sex and different-sex couple relationships. From SoSoGay:

A new report released by the [British] Office of National Statistics this week has shown that divorce figures in 2010 have risen. It is thought that the current economic climate is putting financial pressure on couples, leading to breakdowns in relationships and a rising number of couples getting divorced. The divorce statistics for married couples have been reflected in those of same sex Civil Partnerships; there has also been a rise in the number of dissolutions... 

[Civil partnerships became available for same-sex couples in late 2005.] [F]emale partnerships [are] more likely to end than male ones despite the fact that up until 2010, more men formed civil partnerships than women. Thomas Duggins is Solicitor in the family team at Charles Russell LLP. ‘Up to the end of 2010, 62% of dissolutions have been to female couples, despite the fact that only 44% of formations were to female couples,’ he told So So Gay. ‘The evidence suggests therefore, that female civil partners are more likely to dissolve their partnerships.’ This trend has also been seen in other countries where same sex unions are possible. 

Duggins attributes this variation to the age difference between male and female partnerships. ‘Statistically, male civil partners are on average older than females when they form a civil partnership, and this may explain the difference in dissolution rates. It could be that entering the civil partnership when older means that it is less likely to fail, because the parties have known each other for longer. Certainly, the statistics show that the mean age at dissolution is similar or lower than the mean age at formation, which suggests that younger couples are more likely than older couples to dissolve their partnerships.’ Which may indeed mean that age is a more important factor than gender, in the stability of civil partnerships.

November 09, 2011

Social science research on lgbt parenting past, present and future

On Thursday night, the Williams Institute is sponsoring a discussion of lgbt parenting research featuring an international panel of renowned scholars. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 1608 Rhode Island Ave, NW, Washington, DC from 6 to 7 pm. Speakers include:

Nanette Gartrell (photo) and Henny Bos - Gartrell, a psychiatrist affililated with UC-San Francisco, is the lead investigator of 6a00e553bc36a388340133f0b7d896970b-800withe National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study of 78 teenagers with lesbian mothers. The NLLFS is a remarkable and unique longitudinal study in which the families have participated since the children's birth.  Henny Bos, Assistant Professor of Childhood Education and Family Support at the University of Amsterdam, has become a co-investigator on the NLLFS. Together they just published Custody Arrangements and Adolescent Psychological Well-Being, which points to the importance to children of joint custody arrangements when parents separate

Abbie E. Goldberg is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at Clark University in Worcester Massachusetts, and Senior Research Fellow at the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. She is the author of Lesbian and Gay Parents and Their Children: Research on The Family Life Cycle and Gay Dads: Transitions to Adoptive Fatherhood, will be published by NYU Press in Spring of 2012.

Susan Golombok is Director of the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge. Her research examines the impact on children of being raised in new family forms, including lesbian mother and gay father families. She is the author of Parenting: What Really Counts? and co-author of Bottling it Up, Gender Development, and Growing up in a Lesbian Family

November 06, 2011

The week ahead: November 7, 2011

Tuesday November 8 - Los Angeles - UCLA Professor Invisible-Families-Book-Cover-330x494 Mignon Moore, a member of the Williams Institute Faculty Advisory Committee, will discuss her new book, Invisible Families: Gay Identities, Relationships and Motherhood Among Black Women, at UCLA Law School Room 1357, 12:15 to 1:30 pm. 

Also November 8 - Election day, though not many races are happening in this off year. One to watch is in Iowa, where a take-over by Repubicans of a state senate seat now held by Dems could flip the chamber from Democratic to Republican control, which could allow a bill to proceed (and probably get signed by the Republican governor) that would put an initiative to amend the state's constitution to eliminate same-sex marriage on the 2012 ballot.

Thursday, November 10 - The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin debate and mark-up on S. 598, the bill that would repeal Section 3 of DoMA and substitute the following language: 

    For the purposes of any Federal law in which marital status is a factor, an individual shall be considered married if that individual's marriage is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any State, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a State.

Also November 10 - Washington, DC - The Williams Institute is hosting a panel discussion of Innovative Research on LGBT Couples and Families from 6 to 7:30 pm at 1608 Rhode Island Ave., NW. 

October 24, 2011

Openly gay men need not apply

The American Journal of Sociology has published a new study that provides direct evidence of patterns of employment discrimination against openly gay men. Most prior studies of job discrimination have utilized either wage studies or surveys in which lgbt persons self-report incidents of discrimination. For this study, the author, András Tilcsik, a graduate student at Harvard, sent matched fictitious resumes, with one containing a signal that the applicant was gay, in response to more than 1,700 posted job openings.

The study found that gay applicants were 40 percent less likely to be granted an interview than their heterosexual counterparts. The differential was comparable to that between white and black applicants in a similar study conducted in Boston and Chicago.

Tilcsik also found dramatic geographic differences: the gap was twice the overall average in Texas and Ohio, while there was no statistically significant difference in California, Nevada, New York and Pennsylvania. The study included a concrete example of the impact of the findings: an openly gay job applicant would have a 3.7% likelihood of a callback in Texas, but a 10.2% chance of getting an interview for the same kind of job in California.

In essence, then, this study suggests that at least this form of anti-gay discrimination, in these types of jobs, may be sharply regional, a U-shaped rather than a bell curve.

The research also found that employers seeking stereotypically heterosexual male traits were more likely to discriminate gay men. Gay applicants had lower callback rates when the employer described the ideal candidate for the job as "assertive," "aggressive," or "decisive.

For the study, Tilcsik sent two fictitious but realistic resumes to more than 1,700 entry-level, white collar job openings -- positions such as managers, business and financial analysts, sales representatives, customer service representatives, and administrative assistants. One resume for each opening stated that the applicant had been the treasurer of a gay organization in college, managing the organization's financial operations." The second resume Tilcsik sent listed experience in the "Progressive and Socialist Alliance" instead of the gay organization, in order to control for anti-progressive bias in general. 

This analysis is an enormous contribution to the literature on job discrimination, and I would bet that Tilcsik will be asked to testify in future legislative hearings and court cases.  

September 28, 2011

Census Bureau on same-sex couple households: Read the data, see the movie

The Census Bureau has issued a correction in the numbers of same-sex spouses and same-sex unmarried partners, revising the estimated numbers in the two categories down from 349,377 to 131,729, and from 552,620 to 514,735, respectively. Williams Institute Distinguished Scholar Gary Gates, together with other demographers, concurred in the revision. (Full statement after the jump)

That makes a revised total of 646,464 gay couples, up from the 2000 Census number of 594,391. (Because the Census counts the population by households, there is no figure for the number of unpartnered lgbt people.)

What's really amazing is that the Bureau produced this videotape to explain how the initial overcounting errors occurred.

    

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September 22, 2011

Support for pro-gay speech and gay teachers rises dramatically

According to the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, public support for allowing an "admitted homosexual" to speak or to teach has risen farther and faster than support for any other of the unpopular speech categories that NORC has studied. Allowing an openly gay person to speak has shot up from 62% in 1973 to 86% in 2010; the level of support for allowing an openly gay person to be a teacher was 48% in 1973 and 84% in 2010.

By comparison, the support levels for "someone who is against all churches and religion" moved in the same time period from 66% to 72% for speaking and from 41% to 60% for teaching.

The full report contains results for other unpopular speakers as well, none of which registered the same jump in public support as the "admitted homosexuals." The underlying data come from the GSS (General Social Survey), probably the most respected source of data on social trends in the U.S.

August 30, 2011

The big picture: marriage itself continues to evolve, with a big push from economics

Following is the transcript from a PBS News Hour segment on "the new geography of marriage;" video here. Both experts being interviewed, who come from quite different political vantage points, agree that divorce rates are driven in significant measure by economics, a pattern that gets reflected geographically in state-by-state comparisons. There is also a broader societal shift in marriage norms, which both different-sex and same-sex couples share.

Extrapolating from these data, one prediction is that we will see significantly higher divorce rates among same-sex couples who are struggling financially (which will be mapped as those who tend to live in the South and West, where the average income is lower) than we will see in same-sex couples who are more economically secure. 

[RAY SUAREZ] Among the newly-released studies is a first-of-its-kind Census Bureau analysis of marriage and divorce rates by region. The report, published last week, found that the South and West had the highest rates of divorce, while the Northeast ranked the lowest of the four regions. 

At the same time, the number of unmarried Americans has reached a historic high, as the census also found that 30 percent of Americans have never been married, the largest percentage in the past 60 years. And yet another census snapshot released by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that same-sex couples have dispersed from urban enclaves to other parts of the country. 

Joining us now to look at what all this may mean for the institution of marriage and its role in American life are David Blankenhorn, founder of the Institute for American Values, and Elaine Tyler May, professor of American studies and history at the University of Minnesota. 

David Blankenhorn, are we in the midst of a redefinition of American marriage, why people get married, when they do it in their lives, even where they do it and what they think it's for? 

DAVID BLANKENHORN, Institute for American Values: Yes. 
I think the shift in broad terms is toward -- for marriage as an institution to marriage as a private relationship, an option for a private relationship. You know, in our parents and grandparents' generation, when you got married you were joining an institution that had authority, told you the rules. You were supposed to act in accord with its procedures. Now the shift is toward private ordering. Each individual couple defines the relationship for themselves. One way to think about it is, in an earlier day, the marriage vow defined the couple. And now it's really the couple defining the marriage vow... 

RAY SUAREZ: Professor May, you have been writing about marriage for decades. Do you buy that definition, couples, rather than submitting themselves to established ideas, shaping marriage for themselves? 

ELAINE TYLER MAY, University of Minnesota: Well, I don't think it's that new, really, that couples have been shaping the institution of marriage. I think what's different is that people don't need to marry anymore for the same reasons that they did in the past, and that there have always been changes in the patterns of marriage demography for the last 100 years or so, and longer ago than that. 

...[W]hat we see today is a very different kind of pattern... But we have to think about all the changes that have happened in the society..., women being able to work at jobs that they used to have no access to.... I think what we're seeing now is ...people are marrying because they want that sense of commitment, they want that sense of citizenship that marriage confers, and they want to express themselves as part of a couple that is committed to each other by love. 

RAY SUAREZ: David Blankenhorn, when you look at these statistics, unprecedented numbers of people, well, in recent history reaching 30, 40 and 50 without ever having been married, not divorced, but without ever, ever having been married, large numbers of people choosing to have children inside unions that they make outside of marriage. Are you saying that we're in a new place, or do you accept Professor May's idea that -- just sort of taking a snapshot for an institution that's always changing? 

DAVID BLANKENHORN: Well, the institution is always changing. That's true. But we are in the middle of a definable long-term shift away from the authority of the institution. The most fundamental sign of this, I think, in terms of social meaning is that, several generations ago, a majority of Americans said that, if you're having trouble in your marriage, you should stay together for the sake of the children. 

And now a majority of Americans say that you shouldn't do that; that's a bad idea. So, another -- a related issue is the, really, breaking of the link between marriage and childbearing. It used to be that you would never -- you know, having a child outside of marriage was frowned on by society. You really wanted to avoid that.

Now it's perfectly acceptable among many Americans. So [in] this shift away from the institutional authority of marriage..., I think the profoundest consequences have to do with the living arrangements of children, but it has to do also with just a new way that we're thinking about what it means to be married. 

RAY SUAREZ: Professor May, a lot of the new data has to do with where things are happening, gay couples moving outside of enclaves to suburban collar counties, the marriage statistics coming in from the South and West showing persistently higher rates of divorce than in the Northeast and Middle Atlantic. Talk a little bit about what you see when you look at a map of America. 

ELAINE TYLER MAY: Well, I think what we see is what we have always seen. And that is that, when people are in economic distress, they're much more likely to face marital tensions and much more likely to divorce. And we have large numbers of people in poverty and in stressful economic situations in the South and the West, more so than in the Northeast. And I think that explains a lot of what we're seeing here. 

I think what we have to watch out for is the notion of cause and effect. And you often hear that, when people have marriages that fall apart, that is a cause of poverty. Well, it is for women and children, for sure, because they have a harder time supporting themselves, but the fact is that it's poverty itself and economic stress that causes divorce in the first place. 

And that's why I think we're seeing more of it in these areas where there are greater concentrations of people who are struggling. Now, as far as gay couples are concerned, I think it's clear that, as the country has become more gay-friendly all over, that gay people have felt that it was OK to live wherever they wanted to and be accepted... 

RAY SUAREZ: Let me go back to David Blankenhorn for a response. What do you see happening geographically with American marriage, both in divorce and gay households? 

DAVID BLANKENHORN: I agree with what Professor May says. I would add to the issue of more poverty in the high divorce states, you also have younger people, people with lower levels of education and higher rates of geographical mobility. And all of those factors, plus low-income, correlates with more family instability. 

...[A]nd I agree on the issue of the sort of mainstreaming, you know, the acceptance of gay and lesbian people, gay and lesbian relationships, and the sort of breaking up of the enclaves. Gay and lesbian people now can live anywhere they want to live. And I think that's what we're seeing in these numbers.

August 25, 2011

I thought they all lived somewhere else

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Ah, the power of numbers and maps. Using Census Bureau data (that counts only households, and therefore can identify same-sex couples but not individual lgbt persons), Williams Institute ace demographer Gary Gates continues to generate analyses that tell us and the rest of the world where we are and where we cluster.

And there is clearly something about this information that strikes the world as big news, big enough for the N Y Times to run an article about it on page 1 above the fold. Good golly, those gays really are everywhere! Like maps of divorce rates, health insurance coverage, foreclosures, obesity, religiosity, you name it - if you can map it, it must be real.

And so my friend Gary, the merry wizard of Westwood, gleefully crunches numbers.

July 13, 2011

Data on same-sex marriages and civil unions in the U.S.

The Williams Institute has published the data chart below. Note the dramatic jump in the number of marriages in 2008, reflecting the period during that year when same-sex marriage was legal in California. 

WI mar:cu data
 

July 05, 2011

Important new report on gay/trans socio-legal status in Europe

The Council of Europe has issued an extraordinarily thorough report (available on the web here) on the legal and social status of lgbt people across Europe. This will be a foundational document for anyone interested in trans-national studies of sexuality and gender.

The report has two parts: one on legal status and one on social status. The former is a comprehensive compilation covering employment, family law, violence, change of gender and asylum, among other topics. It will be a great reference, but in the end it is essentially a compilation, although with an excellent set of recommendations that can serve as benchmarks. What I found more interesting and impressive was the way that the second aspect of the report weaves in the results of survey and other sociological research to paint a picture of the experience of sexual and gender minorities.

It is easy for Americans to forget how diverse the social climates are across Europe. Support for same-sex marriage, for example, varies from 82% in the Netherlands to 11% in Romania. In about half of the 27 countries in the Council, support is 40% or more (in 8 countries, it's above 50%). Quickie comparison: here in the U.S., according to 2009 data, support is above 40% in 23 states, including 6 where support is above 50%.

Nor is everything golden even in European countries with the most progressive laws: A Swedish survey found that 50% of lgb respondents were closeted at work; among the general population, 68% of EU citizens think that it is difficult to be openly lgb at work. A Netherlands study found that 40% of respondents objected to seeing two men kiss in public (compared to 13% for different sex couples kissing). [Caveat: I don't know if these surveys were based on representative samples.]

The report also notes the danger of some European politicians trying to use acceptance of gay people as an argument to demonize immigrants from presumably anti-gay cultures, quoting Judith Butler (yes, Judith Butler).

I wonder what a similarly comprehensive report on the United States would find.

June 29, 2011

HHS takes lead in laying foundation for data-driven policies on lgbt health issues

From Metro Weekly:

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a plan to include sexual orientation and gender identity in health data collection, a result of discretion granted to the secretary of HHS in a provision of the Affordable Care Act addressing data collection regarding health disparities. 

Specifically, today's plan requires "HHS [to] integrate questions on sexual orientation into national data collection efforts by 2013 and begin a process to collect information on gender identity." 

The release notes that the plan includes the testing of questions on sexual orientation to potentially be incorporated into the National Health Interview Survey.  According to today's information, HHS also intends to convene "a series of research roundtables with national experts to determine the best way to help the department collect data specific to gender identity."

Under section 4302 of the Affordable Care Act, data collection efforts to understand health disparities relating to race, ethnicity, sex, primary language and disability status are required. The secretary, however, has authority to require additional standards.

The moves, advocates say, are a first step in determining standards for inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity questions in all HHS surveys, which include agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and nationwide surveys like the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. 

In a release announcing the move, Sebelius said, "Health disparities have persistent and costly affects for minority communities, and the whole country. Today we are taking critical steps toward ensuring the collection of useful national data on minority groups, including for the first time, LGBT populations. The data we will eventually collect in these efforts will serve as powerful tools and help us in our fight to end health disparities."

Explaining the significance of the move, Center for American Progress senior vice president for external affairs Winnie Stachelberg said, "It's foundational. One of the things that we always try to do here at a think tank is quantify the problem and understand the problem – and base your solutions on facts. 

"You can't do that unless you have the data about the gay and transgender community. And finally we'll be able to collect that data so that we can develop solutions that actually address the problems – not the notional problems, but the actual ones that are data driven."

Williams Institute scholar Dr. Gary Gates responded to the news in a statement, saying, "As was clearly stated in the findings from the recent Institutes of Medicine report on LGBT health disparities, the need for more data is acute. I urge HHS to move as quickly as possible to include sexual orientation and gender identity questions on the NHIS." ...

June 22, 2011

Secretary Sebelius makes "fantastic" commitment to data on sex/o and GI

From the Blade:

Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius committed on Tuesday to start the collection LGBT data as part of federal health surveys, although she said the questions that would be used to gather the information must first be market-tested before they’re made as part of any questionnaire. 

During a news conference at the White House, Sebelius said in response to a question from the Washington Blade that the Department of Health & Human Services “fully intend[s] to collect LGBT data” through federal surveys. 

“So it is definitely a commitment,” Sebelius said. “We will be adding data questions to the national health surveys. And right now we are looking at developing a slew of questions, market-testing them, coming back and making sure we have the right way to solicit the information that we need.” 

Sebelius said including LGBT questions on federal health surveys has been difficult because the federal government hasn’t engaged in such data collection before and hasn’t settled on the right way to ask such questions. The secretary asserted the Department of Health & Human Services is market-testing questions to make sure they’re worded in the right way to collect the necessary information.... 

Gary Gates, distinguished scholar at the Williams Institute at the University of California in Los Angeles, called the commitment from Sebelius “fantastic,” but said questions on sexual orientation and gender identity “need not start from scratch.”

“We know a great deal already about how to measure sexual orientation and some recent studies have also highlighted promising approaches to measuring gender identity,” Gates said. “HHS now has a real opportunity to develop an open and transparent process as they assess how to best utilize this body of research to inform how they achieve LGBT inclusion in their data collection. That process must be transparent and involve experts from both inside and outside of the government as well as experts from the LGBT community.”

January 19, 2011

The other gay life: raising children in the South

From today's NY Times, excerpted:

Being gay in [Jacksonville, FL] was once a lonely existence. Most people kept their sexuality to themselves, and they were reminded of the dangers of being openly gay when a gay church was bombed in the 1980s. These days, there are eight churches that openly welcome gay worshipers. One even caters to couples with children.

The changes may seem surprising for a city where churches that have long condemned homosexuality remain a powerful force. But as demographers sift through recent data releases from the Census Bureau, they have found that Jacksonville is home to one of the biggest populations of gay parents in the country.

In addition, the data show, child rearing among same-sex couples is more common in the South than in any other region of the country, according to Gary Gates, a demographer at the [Williams Institute]. Gay couples in Southern states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas are more likely to be raising children than their counterparts on the West Coast, in New York and in New England.

The pattern, identified by Mr. Gates, is also notable because the families in this region defy the stereotype of a mainstream gay America that is white, affluent, urban and living in the Northeast or on the West Coast. “We’re starting to see that the gay community is very diverse,” said Bob Witeck, chief executive of Witeck-Combs Communications, which helped market the census to gay people. “We’re not all rich white guys.”

Black or Latino gay couples are twice as likely as whites to be raising children, according to Mr. Gates, who used data from a Census Bureau sampling known as the American Community Survey. They are also more likely than their white counterparts to be struggling economically.

Experts offer theories for the pattern. A large number of gay couples, possibly a majority, entered into their current relationship after first having children with partners in heterosexual relationships, Mr. Gates said. That seemed to be the case for many blacks and Latinos in Jacksonville, for whom church disapproval weighed heavily.

“People grew up in church, so a lot of us lived in shame,” said Darlene Maffett, 43, a Jacksonville resident, who had two children in eight years of marriage before coming out in 2002. “What did we do? We wandered around lost. We married men, and then couldn’t understand why every night we had a headache.”

Moreover, gay men who have children do so an average of three years earlier than heterosexual men, census data shows, Mr. Gates said. At the same time, there are fewer white women of childbearing age nationally, according to demographers, while the number of minority women of childbearing age is expanding...

[L]ast summer, [Valerie] Williams became pastor of St. Luke’s Community Church, one of the oldest gay-friendly churches in the city, and immediately set up a youth program. Attendance by the mixed-race congregation swelled to more than 90 from 25 in just a few months. “All of a sudden you started seeing all of these women coming out,” Ms. Mafett said. “All of them had children.”

In 2009, the Census Bureau estimated that there were 581,000 same-sex couples in the United States, Mr. Gates said; the bureau does not count gay singles.

About a third of lesbians are parents, and a fifth of gay men are. Advocacy groups argue that their children are some of society’s most vulnerable, with fewer legal protections and less health insurance than children of heterosexual parents.

Even so, their ranks have been mostly left out of national policy debates, because the Census Bureau did not conduct its first preliminary count of same-sex couples until 1990. This year, the bureau will count married same-sex partners for the first time. “We don’t know a lot about this group,” Mr. Gates said. “Their story has not been told.”

About 32 percent of gay couples in Jacksonville are raising children, Mr. Gates said, citing the 2009 Census data, second only to San Antonio, where the rate is about 34 percent...