Philip Jenkins writes in his October article (“One in Ten: A Gay Mythology“): “The construction of the ‘epidemic’ is a damning indictment of the use of social science in political debate, and the uncritical way in which tendentious statistics are accepted as fact. Briefly, gay teen suicide is an outright myth.” A few sentences later, Mr. Jenkins speaks of “a restrained and scholarly piece” in a collection on teen suicide that “noted the scholarly consensus that homosexuals were two or three times more likely to kill themselves than heterosexuals, a well substantiated finding.”
No doubt Mr. Jenkins’ two sentences can be made vaguely concordant (or at least not so obviously discordant) by some fancy footwork. He could, for example, argue that his acknowledgment that homosexuals have a much higher suicide rate does not justify the description “epidemic” (because the absolute numbers or degree of contagiousness are insufficient to meet the definition). But such arguments are not sufficient to preclude the reader’s suspicion that the moral beliefs of Mr. Jenkins (which are, being moral beliefs, inherently tendentious) play a big role in determining which statistics he will welcome and which he will reject as biased or mistaken. Indeed, they seem to me somewhat indefensibly unempathetic. You better believe that, if Jews had a suicide rate two to three times higher than non-Jews, I’d call it an “epidemic” and not give a damn that the term might be slightly hyperbolic.
None of this is to deny the correctness of Mr. Jenkins’ argument that proponents of “Gay Studies” have a purely ideological agenda, one that, as Mr. Jenkins demonstrates, is seen clearly in the continuing invocation of the ten percent myth. My point is merely that the only way to defeat the ideological emotionalism that now invests so much “research” is to demonstrate in rigorous logical and empirical ways the incorrectness of the arguments of the ideologues. The tendentiousness of the argument must be assessed on the basis of its logic and evidence, not the appeal of its conclusion. Assessing the correctness of a conclusion on the basis of the appeal of that conclusion is preciseK’ the thing we are fighting against.
Chairman, Department of Sociology
New York, NY