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Hey, we all know it is stressful living with lies. But a new study suggests coming out of the closet can actually improve your health!
NBC News has a discussion based on Carlo Joyce’s story.
“After I came out at 19, things got better with my family,” he recalled. But then he joined the Marines and had to hide his sexuality all over again.
He had to go to strip bars to fit in, and when the other guys talked about sex, or dating, he had to be sure he changed the gender in his stories. “It was very stressful to live that double life,” he explained. “I always had to watch what I said.”
Now, in a study released today in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, a team of psychologists and neurologists from McGill University and the University of Montreal has found that leading that double life affects physical and mental health. Gays, bisexuals and lesbians who disclosed their sexuality to family, friends and co-workers were psychologically healthier and had lower levels of a key stress-related hormone than those who were still “in the closet.”
That finding could help explain a remarkable study published last year by a group of researchers from Columbia University in the American Journal of Public Health. They found that after Massachusetts enacted its same-sex marriage law in 2003, there was a significant drop in medical and mental health care visits — and therefore costs – incurred by gay men.
Read the rest at NBC News.
Adults who have Internet access at home are much more likely to be in romantic relationships than adults without Internet access, according to research to be presented at the 105th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.
“Although prior research on the social impacts of Internet use has been rather ambiguous about the social cost of time spent online, our research suggests that Internet access has an important role to play in helping Americans find mates,” said Michael J. Rosenfeld, an associate professor of sociology at Stanford University and the lead author of the study, “Meeting Online: The Rise of the Internet as a Social Intermediary.”
According to the study, 82.2 percent of participants who had Internet access at home also had a spouse or romantic partner, compared to a 62.8-percent partnership rate for adults who did not have Internet access. The paper uses data from Wave I of the How Couples Meet and Stay Together (HCMST) survey, a nationally representative survey of 4,002 adults, of whom 3,009 had a spouse or romantic partner.
In addition to finding that people are more likely to be in romantic relationships if they have Internet access in their homes, Rosenfeld and study co-author Reuben J. Thomas, an assistant professor of sociology at the City University of New York, found that the Internet is the one social arena that is unambiguously gaining importance over time as a place where couples meet.
“With the meteoric rise of the Internet as a way couples have met in the past few years, and the concomitant recent decline in the central role of friends, it is possible that in the next several years the Internet could eclipse friends as the most influential way Americans meet their romantic partners, displacing friends out of the top position for the first time since the early 1940s,” Rosenfeld said.
The study also found that the Internet is especially important for finding potential partners in groups where the supply is small or difficult to identify such as in the gay, lesbian, and middle-aged heterosexual communities.
Among couples who met within two years of the HCMST Wave I survey in the winter of 2009, 61 percent of same-sex couples and 21.5 percent of heterosexual couples met online.
“Couples who meet online are much more likely to be same-sex couples, and somewhat more likely to be from different religious backgrounds,” Rosenfeld said. “The Internet is not simply a new and more efficient way to keep in touch with our existing networks; rather the Internet is a new kind of social intermediary that may reshape the kinds of partners and relationships we have.”
The paper, “Meeting Online: The Rise of the Internet as a Social Intermediary,” will be presented on Monday, Aug. 16, at 8:30 a.m. EST in the Atlanta Marriott Marquis at the American Sociological Association’s 105th Annual Meeting.
About the American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association (www.asanet.org), founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.
As more and more gay men set out to become parents, a new book by University of Iowa Professor Ellen Lewin explores their desire to become parents, the challenges they face along the path to parenthood, and how fatherhood affects their identities as gay men.
“Gay Fatherhood,” an ethnography published by the University of Chicago Press, is the result of interviews with nearly 100 gay men who have or are trying to have children. The book chronicles the men’s lives, investigating how they cope with political attacks from the right and left, including criticism from peers in the gay community who view parenthood as a sign of conformity.
“Many people can understand lesbian’s desire to have a baby because they appreciate the idea of maternal instinct,” said Lewin, professor of anthropology and women’s studies in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “They’re much more suspicious about why gay men would want to be dads, and therefore gay men have to jump through a lot more hoops to be parents.”
Adoption through the foster system is the most affordable way for gay men to become fathers, but Lewin discovered they are typically last in line in the system, meaning they must consider whether they will accept an older child, a child with disabilities, or a child of a different race.
“Straight, middle-class married couples get first pick,” she said. “Heterosexual singles come next, and then gay people of various sorts. Some states prohibit gays from adopting, but a lot of individual social workers realize these guys can be good parents and want to get the kids into homes. There are 100,000 kids in the system, half of which are available for adoption. Most will never get adopted and will remain in the system until age 18, so there’s a sense of urgency.”
Domestic adoption through a private agency can run $20,000, and some mothers will not select gay men to raise their babies. Options for overseas adoptions, which can cost up to $40,000, are limited. Guatemala is one of the few countries with rules flexible enough to allow gay men to adopt, but one partner is invisible during the process – and the fact that the adoptive dad is gay is not advertised. Surrogacy allows a biological connection to one dad but costs upwards of $100,000.
“They have to make choices about what they want versus what they can afford,” Lewin said. “In some cases, gay couples have more financial resources because they’re men, and men make more money. But for a typical middle-class gay couple, some of these options are out of reach.”
Some dads described their urge to become parents as a natural impulse that crept up as they matured. They spoke disparagingly about stereotypical gay life, saying they wanted to do something significant in life – not just look back on fun parties and a well-decorated home.
A desire to pass on values and traditions was motivation for some of the men to become parents. Several expressed a desire to be considered a family, not just a couple.
“The definition of family in American culture is linked to having kids,” Lewin said. “When people ask whether you have a family, they don’t mean, ‘Do you have any relatives?’ or ‘Do you have a spouse or partner?’ They mean ‘Do you have children?’”
In some cases, moral or spiritual beliefs ignited a desire to have children. Men talked about how parenting inspired them to be better people, or about rescuing kids that “no one else wanted.”
One man adopted a homeless, transgender teen who was in trouble for petty theft and drugs and helped her turn her life around. Another man took in a child who was severely disabled by a stroke. The child was unable to walk, talk, make eye contact, speak or eat, and was believed to be deaf. As the dad “moved heaven and earth,” Lewin said, the child improved. He learned to walk and talk, graduated from high school, and now lives semi-independently in a group home.
“I interviewed several guys who adopted kids with disabilities or other challenges and basically gave their lives up for their child,” Lewin said. “But most weren’t out to be heroes or do something revolutionary by becoming gay fathers. Most were ordinary people who live in suburbs, go to Disney World for their vacations, and just want to have children like anyone else.”
When Lewin asked the dads about how parenthood affected their identities as gay men, responses were split. One dad felt “more gay” because he stood out from the straight parents with which he was surrounded; his partner felt “less gay” because they socialized mainly with straight parents from their kids’ school, and friendships with childless gay friends waned.
“Some dads were wistful about aspects of gay life before kids – maybe they missed going to the clubs, or the opera. But one of the findings was that once you’re a parent, you hang out with people you meet at your kid’s play group,” Lewin said. “One couple said, jokingly, ‘We aren’t really gay anymore. We pick our friends based on whose kids have the same nap time.’”
Fatherhood also had an impact on the dads’ relationships with their own families. Homophobia had driven a wedge between some men and their parents, but the grandchild provided a bond.
“I heard stories about gay men who were estranged from their families, but once they had a kid, the grandparents came over all the time,” Lewin said. “Their relatives may not have understood or supported them in the past, but having kids was something their family got and related to.”
Newswise — Being married has often been associated with improving people’s health, but a new study suggests that having that long-term bond also alters hormones in a way that reduces stress.
Unmarried people in a committed, romantic relationship show the same reduced responses to stress as do married people, said Dario Maestripieri, Professor in Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago and lead author of the study, published in the current issue of the journal Stress.
“These results suggest that single and unpaired individuals are more responsive to psychological stress than married individuals, a finding consistent with a growing body of evidence showing that marriage and social support can buffer against stress,” Maestripieri writes in the article, “Between- and Within-sex Variations in Hormonal Responses to Psychological Stress in a Large Sample of College Students.”
The team of researchers from the University of Chicago and Northwestern University studied 500 masters’ degree students at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. About 40 percent of the men and 53 percent of the women were married or in relationships. The group included 348 men with a mean age of 29 and 153 women with a mean age of 27.
The students were asked to play a series of computer games that tested economic behaviors, and saliva samples were taken before and after to measure hormone levels and changes.
Each student was told that the test was a course requirement, and it would impact their future career placement. That made the test a potentially stressful experience that could affect levels of cortisol, known as the stress hormone.
The researchers found cortisol concentrations increased in all participants, but that females experienced a higher average increase than males. The exercise also decreased testosterone in male subjects, but not in females, a stress effect previously observed in humans and animals.
But a piece of personal information collected before the test provided another interesting difference within the subjects. “We found that unpaired individuals of both sexes had higher cortisol levels than married individuals,” Maestripieri said.
“Although marriage can be pretty stressful, it should make it easier for people to handle other stressors in their lives,” Maestripieri said. “What we found is that marriage has a dampening effect on cortisol responses to psychological stress, and that is very new.”
The study also found that single business school students also displayed higher baseline testosterone levels than their married or committed colleagues, a finding that mirrors previous human research as well as animal observations.
Maestripieri, who conducts the majority of his research on monkeys in Puerto Rico, said that in species of primates and birds where males assist females with rearing offspring show similar changes. In species that show monogamous pairing and shared rearing of offspring, testosterone levels in males drop as they engage in more fatherly behavior.
Maestripieri’s co-authors are former University of Chicago student Nicole Baran, AB ’09, now a graduate student at Cornell University; Luigi Zingales, the Robert C. McCormack Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance, University of Chicago Booth School of Business; and Paola Sapienza, Professor of Finance at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.
The Templeton Foundation helped support the study with a grant.
Rhetoric, Framing Efforts Have Little Influence in Same-Sex Marriage Debate
Newswise — A study by Indiana University researchers found that terminology and efforts to frame an issue — often effective in influencing public opinion — have no effect on public opinion concerning the ongoing debate in the U.S. over legalizing same-sex marriage.
Using an experimental approach involving a nationally representative sample, the researchers found that beliefs and values held sway, not rhetoric, such as the use of ‘same-sex couple’ instead of ‘homosexual couple’ or using the term ‘civil rights’ instead of ‘gay rights.’
“Framing, wording doesn’t matter,” said Oren Pizmony-Levy, a doctoral student in IU’s Department of Sociology. He discussed the study on Monday at the American Sociological Association 2010 Annual Meeting. “We need to stop trying to change the rhetoric and focus on the important issues, such as the benefits that children in same-sex families gain from the legalization of same-sex marriage.”
About the study: The researchers embedded their unique experiment — the first of its kind — in the 2009 Survey of American Social Policy Attitudes, designed by IU sociology professor Clem Brooks. The survey, which involved more than 1,400 respondents, included one of six versions of the question: “Should homosexual couples have the right to marry one another?” To test for framing effects, they manipulated the question by using different words to describe supporters of legalized same-sex marriage, using ‘civil rights activist,’ ‘gay rights activist’ or ‘some people.’ They also varied the term used for describing the social category of those who are subject of the debate, using ‘homosexual couples’ and ‘same-sex couples.’ Different versions of the question were randomly assigned to participants in the survey. A counter statement, “Family values activists argue that only heterosexual couples should have the right to marry,” appeared before the question. Pizmony-Levy said this is the first academic study with a national representative sample that tests whether frames and terminology used by interest groups on both sides of the debate really influence public opinion on this issue. The results apply to the same-sex marriage debate, however, and cannot be generalized to other issues involving sexual minorities. In the debate about whether gays and lesbians should be able to serve in the military, for example, terminology and framing have been shown to be influential.
Co-author Aaron Ponce, also a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology, said the findings are particularly interesting in light of the recent Proposition 8 decision in California. While certain frames don’t matter when it comes to public opinion about same-sex marriage, because beliefs and values tend to be strong, framing might matter when used in courts of law.
“Justice Walker framed the same-sex marriage issue as a failure of due process, that is, as the abridgment of a fundamental right for same-sex partners to marry,” Ponce said. “The way this issue has been framed may have repercussions for how the case is heard on appeal in higher courts. The question then becomes whether same-sex marriage frames function differently in the context of law and justice than they do with public opinion.”
The study, “Competing Frames and (Non) Effects on Public Support for Same-Sex Marriage,” will be presented on Monday, Aug. 16, between 8:30 a.m. and 10:10 a.m. at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. Co-authors are Hubert Izienicki and Erick Anthony Grollman, Department of Sociology, IU College of Arts and Sciences.
Newswise — Should the sexual orientation of prospective adoptive parents be considered when placing children in adoptive homes?
According to the results of a new University of Virginia study, the answer may be “no.”
In a sample of 106 adoptive children living in different parts of the United States, youngsters were developing well regardless of whether they were living with lesbian, gay or heterosexual parenting couples. The study found that whether or not adoptive children were developing in positive ways was unrelated to the sexual orientation of their adoptive parents.
The finding appears in the August issue of the journal Applied Developmental Science.
“We found that children adopted by lesbian and gay couples are thriving,” said U.Va. psychology professor Charlotte J. Patterson, who led the study. “Our results provide no justification for denying lesbian or gay prospective adoptive parents the opportunity to adopt children. With thousands of children in need of permanent homes in the United States alone, our findings suggest that outreach to lesbian and gay prospective adoptive parents might benefit children who are in need.”
The research assessed adjustment and development among preschool-aged children adopted at birth by lesbian, gay or heterosexual couples. Using standardized assessment procedures, researchers found that parents and teachers agreed, on average, that the children were developing in typical ways. Measures of children’s adjustment, as well as parenting practices and stress, were found to be unassociated with the parents’ sexual orientation. And, regardless of their parents’ sexual orientation, how well children were adjusted was significantly associated with how warmly their parents were oriented to them.
Adoption of minor children by same-sex couples has been a controversial topic. Same-sex couples are prohibited by law from adopting children in Florida, Mississippi and Utah. Voters in Arkansas passed a ban on adoptions by same- and opposite-sex unmarried couples in 2008, only to have it overturned by the courts. That case is currently on appeal.
In the last few years, legislatures in a number of other states have also debated proposals to prohibit adoptions by same-sex couples. On the other hand, joint adoptions by same-sex couples are permitted in many states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Vermont.
The study was authored by Patterson, who also is a faculty member and research scientist at the Fenway Institute’s Center for Population Research in LGBT Health in Boston; Rachel H. Farr, a U.Va. doctoral candidate; and Stephen L. Forssell, a faculty member in psychology at George Washington University. It was funded by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.
Newswise — The American Psychological Association hailed Wednesday’s ruling overturning Proposition 8, in which voters had taken away the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.
“The U.S. District Court ruling today affirming the right of same-sex couples to marry in California is a victory for both science and basic human dignity,” said APA President Carol D. Goodheart, EdD. “The American Psychological Association is gratified that the court agreed that there is no justification for denying marriage equality to same-sex couples. The research shows that same-sex couples are similar to heterosexual couples in essential ways and that they are as likely as opposite-sex couples to raise mentally healthy, well-adjusted children. Thus, there is no scientific justification for denying marriage equality, when research indicates that marriage provides many important benefits.”
APA, the largest professional society representing psychology, has been a strong advocate for full equal rights for LGBT people for nearly 35 years, based on the social science research on sexual orientation. APA has supported legal benefits for same-sex couples since 1997 and civil marriage for same-sex couples since 2004. APA has adopted policy statements, lobbied Congress in opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act and the Federal Marriage Amendment, and filed amicus briefs supporting same-sex marriage in legal cases in Oregon, Washington, New Jersey, New York (three times), Maryland, Connecticut, Iowa, and California. In California, the APA brief (http://www.apa.org/about/offices/ogc/amicus/marriage.aspx) was cited by the state Supreme Court when it ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in May 2008.
APA holds its annual convention Aug. 12-15 in San Diego, where it will present a full program of sessions highlighting the latest and best research into same-sex couples and families. This research has been key in recent same-sex marriage court cases and other legal decisions supporting equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Sessions will feature the latest scientific research into same-sex couples’ relationships and family formation among lesbian, gay and bisexual people, as well as the effect of sexual stigma on individuals and families. Experts will explain how the most recent scientific evidence and legislation support same-sex marriage and adoption and counter prejudice and discrimination.
“The fact that we are meeting in California at this time has given us an unmatched opportunity to focus public attention on the scientific research into the benefits of marriage to mental health and, conversely, on the pernicious health effects of discrimination and stigma,” Goodheart said. “We hope that policymakers everywhere will avail themselves of this information as the issue of same-sex marriage continues to be considered in courts and legislatures across the country.”
The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 152,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.
Two steps forward, one step back and then waiting in the wings may best describe the next moves for Proposition 8.
U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled Aug. 4 that Prop 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional. That led to hasty predictions that the issue was fast closing in on the U.S. Supreme Court.
But both sides may have to wait years for a final decision on the matter, according to Susan Frelich Appleton, JD, the Lemma Barkeloo and Phoebe Couzins Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis.
Supporters of the ban already have requested a stay, pending the outcome of another round of arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. After a panel of three 9th Circuit judges decides the case, it could get reheard “en banc,” or by a larger group in the same circuit.
The next step after the 9th Circuit is the U.S. Supreme Court, and both sides have vowed to take Perry v. Schwarzenegger to the nation’s top judges.
But the U.S. Supreme Court may not agree to address the constitutionality of bans on same-sex marriage until the issue has been decided by one or more additional federal courts of law — which may produce different outcomes — Appleton says.
“Sometimes a division among the courts will occur, and such splits make an issue more likely to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Appleton says.
STRATEGIC SCENARIO COULD MEAN QUICKER DECISION
On the other hand, it’s possible that the high court could take the case immediately after the 9th Circuit ruling. While Gregory Magarian, JD, Professor of Law at WUSTL, agrees that the U.S. Supreme Court may very well postpone a decision until further rulings are made, he says the justices could also proceed quickly as a strategic move.
“If we assume that the justices know their minds on this issue, then the justices who believe they will prevail may vote to take the case in order to resolve the issue now, while the numbers favor their preferred outcome,” Magarian says. “Supreme Court rules require only four votes to take a case.”
Whether it comes sooner or later, the issue warrants the U.S. Supreme Court’s attention, Magarian says.
Opponents of Walker’s ruling complain his decision amounts to “judicial activism” because it overturned an action approved by the democratic process. But Magarian points out that this argument dodges the substance of the issue.
He compares the voters’ opposition to same-sex marriage to the white majority “democratically” keeping black children in segregated schools, and the male majority “democratically” denying women equal treatment under the law.
“Often, the people ‘democratically’ deny dissidents and rabble-rousers the right to express themselves,” Magarian says. “In all of those circumstances, we welcome the courts’ intervention — at least in hindsight. “
RULING BOOSTS EQUALITY IN ALL MARRIAGES
In his decision, Walker called Prop 8 “unconstitutional under both the due process and equal protection clauses” of the 14th Amendment.
While it was two same-sex couples who filed the lawsuit, arguments against it invoked gender equality as well as gay and lesbian rights.
In his opinion, Walker made more than a dozen references to changes over time regarding gender roles in marriage. Noting that marriage once served to uphold strict gender roles such as women raising children and running a household, and men providing for the family, he pointed out that the state of California has abolished marital obligations based on gender — with no harm to the institution.
“One way to analyze Proposition 8 treats it as sexual-orientation discrimination; another way considers it as gender discrimination,” Appleton says. “Under Proposition 8, a man can marry only a woman but not a man, for example, so access to marriage turns on the combined genders of the would-be spouses.
“Judge Walker’s approach promotes marriage equality and equality in marriage, for all women and men, of any sexual orientation,” she says.
LENGTHY RULING EXPLORES SINGLE SENTENCE
Proposition 8 is only 14 words long: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
The measure landed on the ballot after the California Supreme Court decided in May 2008 that same-sex couples had a right to marry. Fifty-two percent of California voters voted for the proposition in November 2008.
Its approval prompted two couples to file a lawsuit, alleging Prop 8 violates their right to due process and equal protection guaranteed under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Previous victories for same-sex marriage were decided under state constitutional provisions.
Walker’s 138-page ruling provides a comprehensive look at the federal constitutional issues involved, and is sure to be cited in cases even beyond the 9th Circuit.
“Judge Walker’s thorough review of the evidence and meticulous findings of fact leave Proposition 8 without a constitutionally permissible or legally justifiable foundation,” Appleton says.
Appleton is a nationally known expert on family law, and has written extensively about non-traditional families. Magarian has a primary focus on constitutional law in his research and teaching .
So why is sex such an enticing topic, and why is it so taboo?
Some say the West is uptight, and even European tourists to
Florida scoff at the swimwear required at US beaches. If sex
were actually taught (and practiced!) at school, would it become
as boring as algebra? This audio lecture from Alan Watts asks
such questions and explains why “Making Whoopie” makes
some people nervous.