Thursday, July 21, 2005

We Get Nice Letters

We received an especially gratifying letter this week. This is the kind of thing that keeps us going.
Hi there,

I am a graduate of Montgomery County Public Schools (Richard Montgomery High School class of 1992) and have been very saddened by the sex-ed debate there that has grabbed national headlines. I would really hope that Montgomery County, which has a reputation for being fairly progressive, would do the right thing by giving students the information they need to make safe, self-affirming choices whenever they are ready to become sexually active.

I am living in Massachusetts now, and while we are happy to have civil marriage here, I am more than aware that even this gain is tenuous given the raging national culture wars over equality. Please know that I support your efforts at, and let me know whether there is some way I could help from afar. Would it be useful for me and other alums to write letters to our former teachers and administrators with a message along the lines of "as a gay student at MCPS, I would have benefited greatly by recognition and discussion of homosexuality as a normal human sexual variation"?

Keep up the good fight!

****** **********

(In giving us permission to use his letter, the author didn't ask us to remove his name.)

Let's say that two percent of the population is gay -- the number is certainly higher than that, but this is what the holier-than-thou crowd likes to say. If the proportion is even two percent, that means that there is more than a fifty percent chance that one student in a classroom of thirty is gay.

This letter reminds us that MCPS has an obligation to those students, to give them some explanation about what's happening that makes them different from the others, and we have an obligation to the others, to give them some understanding about what's happening with their classmate and friend.

And yes, it is a good idea to write, especially to the Board of Education, but also administrators and teachers at the school level. If you don't tell them you're out there, they'll never guess.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

JimK writes,
Let's say that two percent of the population is gay -- the number is certainly higher than that, but this is what the holier-than-thou crowd likes to say.

Orin Ryssman responds,
Ok, you say that number is "certainly higher"...well, what is the number then? And of course, given that we are concerned with having a scientific, fact based dialogue here, you will also be able to cite where you came up with that figure...err, number...that is "certainly higher".

Rather than cast aspersions on the holier than thou crowd, perhaps you would address the history of the now completely discredited figure that homosexual activists used for many years, that figure being 10%?

Jim? Aunt Bea? Anyone?

Orin Ryssman
Fort Collins, CO

July 23, 2005 7:35 AM  
Blogger JimK said...


There is no "actual" number because the concept is so poorly defined. Many people have homosexual experiences, especially earlier in their lives, but are inclined the other way. So ... having had a homosexual encounter or affair -- you count that as "gay" or not? Many people have homosexual fantasies or are attracted to members of their same sex, but never act on it -- gay or not? Some people only count those who self-report that they are homosexual, and exclude those who practice homosexual behaviors , even exclusively, but don't think of themselves as gay. And so on.

On the other hand, what do you think these "ex-gay" guys report? You count them as gay? There sexual orientation is homosexual, even though their behavior is heterosexual. Does that count in the percentage, or not?

I am using the number that the Family Research Council guys use, just so we don't have to argue about that part of it. It is sure to be a low estimate, used by them because it serves their purpose.

And that ten percent, I don't know where it came from, but I wouldn't be entirely surprised that if you counted everybody I mentioned, you'd reach that proportion. The percentage is going to depend entirely on how you define the term.

Besides, why would it matter? I'm sure you'd agree that right and wrong don't depend on the popularity of a behavior, or how common it is.


July 23, 2005 11:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 10% figure? In a word: Kinsey.

Jim writes,
I am using the number that the Family Research Council guys use, just so we don't have to argue about that part of it. It is sure to be a low estimate, used by them because it serves their purpose.

Orin replies,
There you go again say it is "sure to be a low estimate" and then you dance about answering the question, all the while attempting to muddle it all up just enough so that the casual observer will throw their hands up in the air and figure that nobody is telling it straight (pun semi intended).

Yes, the low figure does serve the Family Research Councils agenda...and what of the long and oft quoted (until completely and thoroughly discredited) figure of 10%? Surely you won't assert that such a figure was not pressed into service of the homosexualist agenda...will you?

Orin Ryssman
Fort Collins, CO

Orin Ryssman

July 25, 2005 8:23 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Orin, I think this is interesting that you choose to argue about something I never said. The way I understand this, Kinsey said that 10 percent of the population is homosexual. I don't know if it's a fact that he said that, but conservatives say it all the time, and I don't care enough to look it up. OK, so let's say the ten percent comes from Kinsey.

Now, I have talked to enough people about these things to realize that there is a major jerk of the right knee whenever Kinsey is mentioned. So to associate the ten percent with him is to make it evil by association, and then you can discount it. I have been writing about this associative process here, as you have no-doubt noted; you have provided me with an excellent example.

Now, I used the Family Research Council's self-serving estimate. I have never read Kinsey, and don't know anything about the ten percent number, and did not use it, refer to it obliquely, or anything else. I said, let's say two percent, because I saw Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council say that, and I figured we could avoid fighting about what the actual number is.

And my point was that even at 2 percent, there is, more likely than not, at least one gay kid in every classroom. If the percent is higher, the probability goes up, but I'm not even saying that. I did acknowledge that the FRC number is probably unrealistically low, and I think even you agreed to that.

It appears that your idea is to somehow use the association to Kinsey to discount what I am saying, even though there is no link between what I said and whatever Kinsey said.

And Orin, maybe you can explain just why the proportion matters.

Like, you could say that less than one tenth of one percent of the population has an IQ over 150. Is that an argument against being real smart?

July 25, 2005 12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The explanation about how to define a sample (gays) of a population (humans) is not a "dance about answering a question" or an attempt to "muddle it all up." For decades researchers have grappled with what constitutes a valid sample of a given population for research purposes.

A simple google search for "sampling, validity, and research" yields over 800 thousand hits, including this one:

This Colorado State University reference page defines sample, sampling frame, population, validity, internal validity, external validity and a host of other terms related to research sampling. Questions about such a complex concept are not easily answered with a simple yes or no.

The number of people in a population who are identified as being a member of a subgroup of that population will depend on which variables are included and excluded in the definition the subgroup.

And what difference does it make if only 1% or if 20% of the population is gay? Have you got a quota for how many gays must exist before they deserve to be mentioned in health class?

Aunt Bea

July 25, 2005 2:13 PM  

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