Zietsch BP, Verweij KJ, Heath AC, Madden PA, Martin NG, Nelson EC, & Lynskey MT (2012). Do shared etiological factors contribute to the relationship between sexual orientation and depression? Psychological medicine, 42 (3), 521-32 PMID: 21867592
We are bombarded with an ever-worsening picture of gay men’s mental health. Every time I tune into the gay press these days there are lofty claims about how mad we all are, and getting madder by the second. I know and others who regularly read my blog would also know that I stopped counting when the LGBTI Health Alliance called us the most suicidal Australians of all (a big rap, to be sure, and motivation enough for me to hastily drop my local citizenship to be restored as fully Irish). The shimmer in those shocking statistics was that ‘worst’ can actually be enumerated as 14 times more likely than non-pewfs to do the deadly deed. Fourteen times, I say, why not 100 or 1000? Thankfully, Zietsch et al. (2012, p.p.521) pull back in this article to a measly twice as often but dang, who really cares about a 700 per cent gap between researchers, anyway?
That said, if I was hoping for the authors (2012) here to embark on a sensible revision of the bulging mountain of crap that has sprung up, linking pewfness to madness, I was soon sorely disappointed. In fact, by the time I got to the end of this article I was positively seething that the authors (2012) felt compelled to issue a plea to homophobes that their findings not be used as anti-pewf fodder:
‘It should be emphasized that the findings of this study should not be interpreted so as to pathologize non-heterosexuality, any more than we should pathologize non-right-handedness, which is also associated with higher rates of psychiatric disorder (Elias et al. 2001; DeLisi et al. 2002). Research aiming to understand the link between sexual orientation and psychiatric disorder should not be stymied by groups that seek to misuse the findings to support an anti-gay agenda’ (p.529)
A similar argument might be put for the right to free speech versus the intended or likely outcome of such speech to promote violence against gay men or any other marginalised group. One can wish for research to be objective, critical inquiry and one can start out earnestly wanting to discover why it is that pewfs are ever so shockingly mad in comparison to non-pewfs. However, anyone claiming that ‘non-heterosexuality’ (2012, p.522) and depression share common etiological backgrounds is bound to ramp up passions on both sides of this hotly contested debate. Even more so, I would suggest, since Zietsch et al. (2012) trash the widely-held notion that sexual orientation is fixed at birth (p.529). They quip that it is the freaky interplay between genes and environment (2012, p.529) and not any ‘biological theory of male sexual orientation’ (2012, p.529) that creates male subjects who grow up bent, and blue (p.528).
Caused perhaps by an absent father and overbearing mother?
Well, not precisely, but Zietsch et al. (2012, p.523) do promote those well known criminals, that is, poor parenting and (pp. 523, 526, 528-529) childhood sexual abuse (pp.523-524, 526, 528-529), as possible explanations for later, co-existing homosexuality and depression. When claiming ‘that 60% of the correlation between sexual orientation and depression can be accounted for by genetic factors’ and that pewfs are born predisposed to neuroticism and psychoticism, the authors (2012, p.528) are veering so worryingly close to coming out with their own flaky gene theory that they might as well be selling pink slime on top of that grotty DNA. According to that theory (by whatever name), pewfness and madness are co-located in the same messed-up genes and so finding those faulty genes opens the door to knocking out two duds for the effort of one. Unfortunately, it also buys right into the homophobic garbage that homosexuality is a sickness that can be cured.
Admittedly, at first glance I was fascinated to read in this article (2012) that pewfs in that progressive liberal democracy, Norway, are still so resolutely down in the dumps, despite all the lavish servings of humanity bestowed upon them in recent years (pp.521-522). Does hard evidence of that type confirm, therefore, that even accounting for contextual variations, pewfs are more prone to madness than are non-pewfs and further, that pewfness and madness are spat from the same stinking pot? On that point, Zietsch et al. (2012) appear to simultaneously back the certainty of that causal association while conceding ‘uncertainty’ as to how one gets from stinking pot to gloomy queen (pp.528-529). Even discounting the critical causation problems associated with the frustrating fuzziness of any depression ‘diagnosis’, there are numerous alternative explanations for why pewfs are seemingly exponentially madder than non-pewfs, including that:
- Gay men are more likely than straight men to be aware of and responsive to their emotions;
- Gay men are more likely than straight men to seek professional help for their emotional problems;
- Even in enlightened domains such as Norway, health professionals are likely to hold stigmatised behaviours and attitudes toward gay men, among them that such men are inherently flaky;
- And flowing from above: just as health professionals are less likely to recognise depressive symptoms in straight men, they are more likely to recognise depressive symptoms in gay men; and
- The immense power imbalance that is usually contained within the doctor-patient relationship enforces the will of the former over the latter or more simply put, the patient tends to confirm what the doctor wants to hear:
D: How are you feeling?
P: I feel like total shite.
D: So you’re depressed, then?
P: Yes, I guess so…
The quest to improve our understanding of why gay men are seemingly overrepresented in mental health statistics must be undertaken with due regard to the constant presence of homophobia in our lives. Those who would gladly see us burn in hell because of who we are or what we do, predominantly, that many of us engage fervently in anal sex, would be full of joy to learn that researchers are getting closer and closer to proving what they already knew, that is, that homosexuality is a discrete, psychopathological subset. Dissin’ the dominant ‘‘minority stress’ hypothesis’ (p.521) is hardly a radical step by the authors (2012) when one considers that many within the gay rights movement have already done the same, primarily because the they hate us hypothesis does not properly explain why so many gay men are depressed, suicidal, self-harming or drug-fucked. However, replacing that hypothesis with a biogenetic one will not itself yield more robust findings and could pave the way to pewf extinction…
Update: Having been told about this article, seasoned gay haters, Salt Shakers, commented that the findings ‘certainly confirm what we have said for some time’…