The “Trojan Couch”

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translated into projected morbidity and mortality rates (at 95% confidence intervals) such that in the U.S. one would have projected that if at age 20 a young man considered himself “gay” then the odds that he would be either HIV+ or dead of AIDS at age 30 would be just under 15% and in New Zealand his odds would be just under 4%. One would have turned out to be mistaken in these odds, since in both cases they turn out to have been severe underestimates. None – theless, given the actual instability of homosexual identity, wouldn’t it rather make greater ethical sense to emphasize that fact rather than to misrepresent it as the opposite, as has universally been done instead? In any event, in 1995 the median age of death for an HIV+ individual in the U.S. was 38; in New Zealand, the same. In Italy it is 29 for men an d 28 for women. Of additional note is the fact that an independent study performed in 2003 in New Zealand—a country already remarked upon as having an especially open -minded attitude toward homosexuality—provides evidence of a “link between increasing degrees of same-sex attraction and higher risks of self -harm in both men and women.” Men who identified themselves as homosexual were 3.1 times more likely and women 2.9 times more likely to have suicidal ideation than were those who did not. 38 2. Australia Study39: Homosexuality as a Phenomenon of the Epoch . Nearly 7,500 Australian adults . Three 5-year wide cohorts at ages 20, 40, 60 . Large, consistent declines in homosexual/bisexual identification for women but not (less marked in) men . Consistent with other Australian studies . Inconsistent with other non-Australian studies This study has a number of subtle implications when understood in the context of the other studies to which its authors compare it, namely (a) other studies on age -cohort variation in sexual orientation conducted in Australia that it confirms and (b) non -Australian studies on age cohort variation in sexual orientation from which it differs. To make a point, let me first paraphrase their findings, and then quote the research exactly: In their large study, the authors discovered a marked decline with age in homosexual/bisexual identification among women in Australia, consistent with the direct citations of the results from other non-Australian studies, for both women and men. However, the Australian researchers pointedly do not express their results so simply as I just have. They add a rather strikingly different -sounding conclusion (I emphasize “sounding”). They do so because their results were apparently found to be true with respect to women only. I have paraphrased their findings before quoting them directly for two independent reasons. First, merely as a general reminder of how much critical information can be deliberately added, removed or distorted by an entirely accurate and truthful pa raphrase; second (but more importantly), to draw attention to (at least) one specific environmental influence on sexual orientation that is necessarily implied by this differential finding (decline among women, but not men), a specificity that is obfuscate d in my otherwise correct paraphrase. I will explain how the specificity involved is likely to be “culture” (what the New Zealand researchers deemed “demographics”). Such terms must take into account not only the place one lives (and its effect on a person), but the epoch (and its effect) as well. Not only do people age over time, the era ages as well, and people age within an aging era.

Footnotes: 38 K. Skegg et al., Sexual Orientation and Self -Harm in Men and Women, Am J Psychiatry 2003; 160:541–546 39 Jorm, AF, Dear, KB, Rogers, B, Christensen, H. Cohort difference in sexual orientation: results from a large age-stratified population sample. Gerontology. 2003 Nov-Dec; 49(6)392-5