Week 4
Home Up Week 3 Week 4


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Dr. Larry Morton

Presentation (Pieces of a Puzzle)
Putting Together

Puzzled Pieces

The Colloquium Philosophy: Usually, a colloquium is characterized by rough work, early drafts, tentative analyses, preliminary models, multiple theories, and so on. Various pieces of a puzzle, usually partially completed, are presented. The social support at a colloquium (in Vygotskian zones) can provide strong, painful, but constructive criticism, that ideally facilitates refinement, recursivity, and a more complete puzzle--or for many a successful dissertation, and/or publication. THUS: one way to view criticism in a colloquium is like the reminder in Solomon's proverb: "Faithful are the wounds of a friend..." If you have a piece of the puzzle in the wrong place it would be good to find out about it before you are on the firing line.
Background: In a previous Joint-PhD On-line Research Colloquium (2001) my presentation was a draft of a paper that I wanted to develop for understanding and possible publication. I had some data and the colloquium provided an opportunity to explore those data in a systematic fashion. Participants had the opportunity to watch the paper being built and to participate in its construction. After informative feedback from fellow presenters, I reworked the paper and sent it to an on-line journal to be considered for publication. I expected to get editorial feedback with a rejection notice or  further suggestions for revision which I planned to post as well.  However, it was published with only minor suggestions and thus served to illustrate the constructive value of the colloquium. The feedback was constructive. Feedback is constructive, ideally.

Last year I used another topic that generated controversy--as expected--and much interesting discussion, but I never submitted the draft to an actual journal to be considered for publication. I am still wrestling with the issues involved. I try to get as much information on the table as possible with respect to various competing theories, models and worldviews, various sets of competing empirical claims, various historical claims, various therapeutic claims, various politically charged sets of rhetoric, and so on. In spite of the fact that some organizations (e.g., the APA) have come to a "firm" opinion on the topic, I'm still wrestling with the information. I am aware of the tendency to be duped by the claims of scientific proof, so I try to apply critical thinking with respect to the total body of scholarship that is "out there." I am revisiting the paper again this year partly because it will help me formulate an informed position and partly because it has educational as well as research implications. For example, I read a newspaper article recently which hints at a potentially chilling effect on research, and teachers, in Canada with regard to politically sensitive (or politically correct) topics. The topic is politically sensitive, a topic which draws on your beliefs, your experiences, your empathy, your worldview, your moral reasoning, and your critical thinking resources.

My presentation is intended to parallel a true colloquium.
....information is presented in pieces--a rough but written form (to simulate a 30-minute block)
....pieces: some issues, concepts, and principles that relate to the context and the topic.
....pieces: some literature on the topic but selective (a few key studies--as in a colloquium)
....pieces: some methodological data to deal with....
....pieces: some tentative results to deal with...
Here's a Piece: What's the Purpose of Research? To illustrate the emotional charge that might exist in a research study consider this question: As a scholar, what takes priority in your approach to research and writing:
-gaining understanding? -community service?
-advancing freedom? -"do no harm"?
-generation of knowledge? -building equity?
-phenomenal constructions? -system change?
-social constructions? -advancing an ideology?
-defanging dogma? -play?
Are any of these objectives more volatile than others?

Here's a Piece:The Problems

Here's a Piece:In The News


Philosophical Issues Related To The Problem

Empirical Issues Related To The Problem

The Study






The Problems

The Problems:

The Political Problem: "When did the debate on homosexuality end?" The Empirical Problem: “Concerns about Sexual Orientation”
The problem question here is: Has the academic community come to a consensus on the topic of sexual orientation such that any further commentary, conflicting opinions, dissenting views, research aimed at refuting politically correct positions, critique of existing research, theory and opinion is suppressed, penalized, labelled as "hate speech," or simply not "tolerated?" In other words:  Is the debate over?

Or are there grounds for continuing to wrestle with the issues, the scholarship, the rhetoric, in order to come to a more informed position?

The problem question here is: Are there descriptive characteristics of female adolescents who express a “concern” about their sexual orientation when compared to peers who do not express this concern? If so, how do these correlates relate to the larger questions of (1) the etiology of homosexuality, (2) the use of language (vocabulary, definitions, pejoratives, and so on), (3) the existing research (empirical evidence, critique, political correctness, worldviews, and so on), (4) the sociocultural issues (media, tolerance, mental health, counseling, etc.) and Policy (governmental, board, school, and professional organization policies)?
There is a philosopher of science, Herbert Feigl, who made the claim that all scientific statements have a three-word phrase tacked onto the end of the statement, at least in principle. That three-word phrase is: "until further notice."

On The Table: Does it make sense to contend that multiple-perspective-taking is the proper approach to academic and epistemological issues? Scholars set out to examine competing theories, competing models, competing sets of empirical studies, and competing opinions. Attempts to refute conjectures is the way knowledge makes progress (Popper 1977). Popper states in his preface, "It is part of my thesis that all our knowledge grows only through the correcting of our mistakes." So, should researchers ensure that various competing positions are "on the table?"  Even unpopular positions? Multiple-perspective-taking is particularly important when the topics have social and political overtones. With respect to sexual orientation, multiple-perspective-taking ensures a variety of positions are "on the table" regarding the nature, normality, and causality of human feelings, cognitions and behaviours. Multiple-perspective-taking ensures a full range of concerns are addressed when considering any topic, even sexual orientation. With respect to children and adolescents this may be of particular importance for parents, teachers, public health nurses, and school counselors. When sensitive areas of sex education arise, how does the adult in loco parentis respond? When students are raising questions about sexual orientation, or sexual behaviour, or when students are making comments about another’s sexual opinions, or when parents are at the classroom door, where do you stand, and why? As some might ask, does your action, or reaction, align with your beliefs, or with board policy, or with social pressures, a worldview, or with…? Or, is your worldview ironically excluded in an "inclusive" environment?

The Newspaper Reports (National)

Margaret Wente published a column in the Globe and Mail (Thursday August 7th, 2003, Page A15) titled, "Is this man fit to teach?" The article was about a grade 12 teacher and counsellor, Chris Kempling, who had been handed a one-month suspension by the B.C. College of Teachers for "conduct unbecoming a member of the college."  The unbecoming conduct notes Wente was something "he wrote in a letter published in his local newspaper a few years ago." Apparently he wrote, "Homosexuality is not something to be applauded." He had also made comments about the stability of gay relationships, the risks in homosexual behaviour, and the question of morality. Empirical questions and worldview questions.

Wente writes, "Astoundingly, even the B.C. Civil Liberties Association weighed in against him -- not because of anything he's done, but because of what, it argued, he will surely do at some time in the future, which is to discriminate against gay and lesbian students."  It would surely seem that "some people find it hard to tell the difference between hate speech and speech they don't like."

The Newspaper Reports (International)

In the Jerusalem Post Mark Steyn picks up on this Canadian report and writes, Is banning the Bible next? (August 13th 2003, pg 07). He notes that in Ireland, referring to Liam Reid, "the Irish Council for Civil Liberties has warned Catholic bishops that distributing the Vatican's latest statement on homosexuality could lead to prosecution under the 1989 Incitement to Hatred Act, and a six-month jail term."  Steyn further notes, "In Sweden, meanwhile, they've passed a constitutional amendment making criticism of homosexuality a crime, punishable by up to four years in jail." Or consider, "The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix was fined by the Human Rights Commission for publishing an advertisement quoting biblical passages on homosexuality....The coerciveness of the most 'liberal' cultures in the Western world is not a pretty sight."

Steyn asks, "Whatever happened to 'live and let live?' If I can live with the occasional rustle from the undergrowth as I'm strolling through a condom-strewn park or a come-hither look from George Michael in the men's room, why can't gays live with the occasional expression of disapproval?"

One academic question is this: When did the debate end regarding the nature, incidence, correlates, history, and etiology of homosexuality? Certainly it is still alive in newspapers, on-line, in Parliament, and in scholarly publications. Why is the debate over at the politically-correct level? Why is intolerance (even bigotry) directed at a teacher/counselor like Kempling? Why is his position excluded from the table where the counseling debate is still "on the table?"

Of course, one might ask, “Why even bother to consider the characteristics of individuals who may be experiencing questions of “concern” about sexual orientation?” Well, if one of those characteristics was depression or suicidal ideation it would be something warranting attention. The rate of suicide amongst homosexual youth is often cited as an argument for tolerance. I suspect this is true but there are claims that raise questions about the existing statistics, as an on-line search will show. At the very least, one needs to get the claims and the evidence on the table and evaluate each item critically.

Other characteristics could be similarly important. If a characteristic was a lack of parental or community support, it could be addressed. If a characteristic was linked to tangential sexual activity or abuse, or peer pressure, then it might assist a counselor or teacher in understanding the development of a sexual identity and devising a reasonable proactive approach when dealing with children and adolescents.

Another might ask, “Isn’t this a topic that one should avoid because it could invite animosity, or it is just too convoluted to disentangle, or it might do harm, or it might bring harm upon me and my seeking of tenure?” Is it not the responsibility of the academic community to wade into the contemporary fray areas?

The academic question: Is anything out of bounds when it comes to research? (Journalistic Research, Historical Research, Biographical Research, Empirical Research)


The Abstract

In a study of student attitudes, beliefs, and practices, female adolescents (N=124) were seen to fall into one of two categories regarding sexual orientation (“concerned” and “not concerned”). About 10.5% of the group indicated concern, a statistic which parallels the 10.7% reported by Remafedi, Resnick, Blum, & Harris, (1992) in their sample of 34,706 adolescents. The characteristics of these two groups could be important for educators and counselors with respect to both the theoretical understanding of sexual orientation and the practice of advising adolescents.  Selecting a number of potentially relevant variables of descriptive characteristics (Extracurricular Activity, Personal Issues, Peer Issues, Physical Characteristics, and Support Issues), allowed for an examination of the profile of these two groups by means of discriminant function analyses.  Associated with sexual orientation concerns were: (1) higher ratings for “activity in sports,” (2) a higher degree of concern about peer pressure, (3) higher reports of sexual harassment, (4) a lower degree of sexual activity, and (5) a younger age. Using this model 84.5% of the sample was correctly classified. Variables not discriminating were (1) concerns about depression/suicide, (2) worry about relationships, (3) worry about appearance, (4) paternal support, (6) maternal support, (7) community support, (8) community resources, or (9) amount of TV viewing. Implications for educators are considered.






Diversity of opinions and disagreements about explanations must exist if tolerance, the dictionary definition of tolerance, is to exist. If one tolerates a person, an opinion or explanation, then by definition, he or she disagrees with the person, or the opinion, or the explanation. Tolerance extends to the ideas, positions, and people we disagree with, not to those we agree with. Thus the tolerant person, is the person who allows all ideas on the table, and challenges ideas in a scholarly fashion with tools of reason, evidence and argument, as opposed to emotion, name calling, ad hominems, silencing, shouting-down, and so on.

Does one tolerate strange people? Does one tolerate weird ideas? You might wish to reflect on the weird papers in Postmodern Pooh (Crews, 2001). (For a brief overview see below). While I found no affinity with any position in the book, I noted that some positions were more egregious than others. Same with the participants; I would likely find it easier to get along with some presenters rather than others. Does this suggest that tolerance is a continuous variable (indicating degrees of disagreement) rather than a categorical variable (yes/no)? I think so. The question then arises, when does tolerance change to intolerance or bigotry? I would contend that the boundary relates to the ethical issue of harm. For a chart framing these terms with illustrations see below.

 The ethical issue can be configured as focusing on (1) the intent in the act, (2) the deontological nature of the act, and (3) the consequence of the act. One crosses from tolerance to intolerance (or bigotry) when the “intent” of one’s action, or comment, is to hurt or harm another person (a belittling comment), and perhaps even harming another idea (by willful misrepresentation).  If someone tells me the truth and it hurts/harms me, that is not intolerance; that is the deontological nature of the truth-telling act. However, if someone tells me the truth and the intent is to hurt/harm me that is intolerance. Consequence is more complex. If my teachers failed to tell me that smoking was harmful and the consequence was lung cancer, that is not intolerance; such consequences are nebulous as are the responsibilities to announce them publicly. Intolerance is reached when one’s intent is to cause hurt or harm, not when the consequence of one's truth claims cause hurt/harm. One could do harm without intending to harm (and independent of a knowledge claim or truth claim) in which case we are dealing with ignorance, or a hypersensitivity, not intolerance. This brings us back to scholarly argument/debate to remove ignorance. But it also raises the question of multiple-perspectives again. If my claim that theory X is the best explanation of the evidence hurts you, what do I do? Take theory X off the table? Or, to reframe it: if your theory X hurts me, offends me, what do I do? One, I tolerate it. Two, I construct a better argument for my theory, theory Y, and try to show the flaws in theory X.

If you are tolerant, then by definition you disagree with the belief, behaviour or person, you are tolerating.
Main Entry: tol·er·ance (Merriam-Webster)
Pronunciation: 'tä-l&-r&n(t)s, 'täl-r&n(t)s
Function: noun
Date: 15th century
1 : capacity to endure pain or hardship : ENDURANCE, FORTITUDE, STAMINA
2 a : sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own b : the act of allowing something : TOLERATION
3 : the allowable deviation from a standard; especially : the range of variation permitted in maintaining a specified dimension in machining a piece
4 a (1) : the capacity of the body to endure or become less responsive to a substance (as a drug) or a physiological insult with repeated use or exposure <immunological tolerance to a virus> <an addict's increasing tolerance for a drug> (2) : relative capacity of an organism to grow or thrive when subjected to an unfavorable environmental factor b : the maximum amount of a pesticide residue that may lawfully remain on or in food.

Framing the Terms: Tolerance, Acceptance, Affirmation and Bigotry



Example1 (Swearing…). One goes into MacDonalds for a meal and a group of adolescents at a nearby table are using foul and offensive language.

Example 2 (Sexual Orientation) A group is claiming that a homosexual orientation and homosexual behaviour is normal.

Example 3 (Clitorodectomy) A cultural group is claiming merit for such a practice, and the right to practice it.








Contend that the behaviour is good

1. Affirm that the behaviour is good because it shows creativity or assertiveness, or courage in the face of social conventions. 2. Affirm that the behaviour is good within the culture of the group manifesting it and should be valued and affirmed rather than judged.

Affirm that the behaviour is desirable for some because it is human, it fosters diversity (viewed as valuable ethologically), or it is correlated positively with contributions to society in other domains (e.g., arts, politics, laws, etc.)

Affirmation based on (1) cultural equivalence, or (2) moral relativism, or (3) the ethological value of diverse practices…


That’s they way things are today, no judgment about the morality of the behaviour

Words that were once offensive are now considered commonplace via a process of habituation.

Behaviours that were once offensive are now considered commonplace via a process of habituation. One has no moral rationale that presents a challenge to the behaviour.

Acceptance based on adherence to an ideology of cultural equivalence, or (2) a denial of moral absolutes, or (3) a personal policy of non-interference…

Tolerance-Level 1

I disagree with the behaviour, and say nothing.

The language is viewed as personally offensive but the person says nothing because of (1) a tolerant nature, (2) discretion with respect to provoking an escalating confrontation

The behaviour is viewed as wrong but the person says nothing because of (1) a tolerant nature, (2) discretion with respect to provoking an escalating confrontation, (3) fear of being labeled (e.g.,  homophobe, bigot, etc.)

The behaviour is viewed as wrong but the person says nothing because of (1) a tolerant nature, (2) discretion with respect to provoking a confrontation if it is viewed as acceptable by the dominant culture (3) fear of being labeled (e.g.,  racist, paternalistic, etc.)

Tolerance- Level 2

I disagree with the behaviour and state my position, but there is no intent to harm

The language is viewed as personally offensive and the person asks the offensive group to desist (1) out of respect for others present who might be offended (2) a belief in a community responsibility to strive for a more wholesome environment.

The behaviour is viewed as wrong and the person says their opinion (1) out of respect for truth and knowledge and rights  (2) believing in community responsibility to strive for a more wholesome environment consistent with the dominant religious worldviews in society.

The behaviour is viewed as wrong and the person says their opinion (1) out of respect for truth and knowledge and rights  (2) believing in moral absolutes regardless of culture, and (3) striving for a wholesome environment consistent with their religious worldview.

Bigotry- Level 1

I disagree with the position, and state my position with pejoratives, sarcasm, paralinguistic tone, and ad hominems that show an intent to harm

The language is viewed as personally offensive and the person calls them boors, or Neanderthals, or thugs, silly asses, with an intent to offend them. (The intent is to harm).


The behaviour is viewed as wrong and the person expresses an opinion using language designed to offend (fag, queer, sick, etc. ) and/or a tone that communicates anger and rejection of the person (rather than the idea).

The behaviour is viewed as wrong and the person expresses an opinion using derogatory language designed to offend and/or a tone that communicates anger and rejection of the people in a group (rather than the idea).

Bigotry- Level 2 I disagree with the position, and state my position with physical force, spitting, legislative activity, silencing, police involvement, lies, and other activities that show a serious intent to harm… The language is viewed as personally offensive and the person may push the offenders, or invite a physical confrontation, or spit on them. (The intent is to harm). The behaviour is viewed as wrong and the person expresses an opinion using language, violence, ostracism, legislation, designed to deny a fellow human being their rights in a free society. The escalating harm is directed to the person. It is not a challenge directed at an opinion or idea). The behaviour is viewed as wrong and the person expresses an opinion using language, violence, ostracism, legislation, designed to deny a fellow human being their rights in a free society. Harm is directed to the person. It is not a challenge directed at an opinion, idea or practice).


I disagree with the position, and state my position with information and actions that show an intent to harm, or a recognition that harm will be a consequence.

I complain to the manager about the offensive swearing and my intent is to have the group removed or silenced (a mild form of harm).

I contact the police and lodge a complaint based on a bylaw with the intent to punish the group (a moderate form of harm).

I contend the behaviour is not normal and argue to have my position on the table. If the response is to publicly call me a bigot, or silence me, I respond by asking for the objective media or the academic community, or the courts to issue a censure.

If a person has a talk show and an agenda to push an ideology that is viewed as harmful, I could organize a boycott of the sponsors (cf. Dr. Laura).

I contend the behaviour is not moral and argue to have it stopped. If the response is to publicly call me a colonialist, or racist, or elitist, or silence me, I should respond by asking for the objective media or the scholarly community, or the courts, to issue a censure.

I could respond by asking groups to boycott commercial supporters of harmful practices (a form of harm).


In toleratry some harm may be warranted. In fact, our society functions on a principle of harm (or penalty) to ensure compliance with community standards. We sometimes hear the claim that you can't legislate morality, but it seems that that is exactly what legislation does.  So the real issue defaults to competing worldviews, with their competing truth-claims and competing moral views. When harm is involved one must distinguish between emotional-harm, or rage, and reasoned-harm which is characteristic of all societies. What is important then is the argument. In a pluralistic society, and an academic environment, there is a compelling reason to keep all worldviews on the table. Then, in response to the claim, "Who are you to force your morality down our throats?" the answer is, "I'm the one with the better argument."

When arguments, and arguers,  are silenced, shouted down, belittled, called by pejorative names, forced to undergo sensitivity training, dismissed from positions of influence, suspended from employment for a month, and so on, the motivation may be bigotry. When arguments, and arguers, are answered, explored, tested, and so on, the motivation is tolerance or toleratry. Is it not clear where scholars belong?

What is sexual orientation?
The direction of one's sexual interest toward members of the same, opposite, or both sexes. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition.  2000.  
What is homophobia?
What is


Some Empirical Issues

Biological Influence

With respect to homosexual and bisexual individuals, when considering the evidence for a biological basis for one’s sexual orientation, the evidence is weaker than popular opinion, and the popular media, would suggest. This is particularly true for a deterministic position. Nevertheless, certain biological factors do appear to be instrumental in leading to tendencies in a particular homosexual or bisexual direction.

Genetics. The studies claiming genetic influences seem to have suffered attrition in support over the years. An early study of monozygotic twins showed a 100% concordance for homosexuality (Kallman, 1952). If one identical twin was homosexual, the other was as well. But this study fell into disrepute, and apparently was later termed a statistical artifact by the author. Subsequent reports by one of the most prominent researchers in the field (Bailey, 1995; Bailey & Pillard, 1991; Bailey, Pillard, Neale, & Agyei, 1993; Bailey, Dunne, & Martin, 2000) have been supporting a heritable component but in a very tenuous fashion. Baily is a determinist claiming “…all behaviours are ‘biologically determined’ in the sense that all events are caused, and behavioural events are caused by brain states which are ‘biological’” (Bailey, 1995, p 104). Thus, his bias towards a biological explanation is clear even though his data lead in the direction of environmental influences. In the Bailey et al (1991) study of twins the concordance rate for monozygotic twins was 52%, for fraternal twins 22%, for brothers 9.2%, and for adopted brothers 11%.  A similar pattern for females was evident with a concordance rate for monozygotic twins of 48%, for fraternal twins 16%, for sisters 14%, and for adopted sisters 6%.   It looks like there is a genetic component, though dramatically less than Kallman (1952) claimed.

However, close scrutiny of the studies raises questions about the methodology, noted by Bailey himself. The sample was drawn by advertisements in a gay community where participants might be sensitive to the intent of the study and the political value of demonstrating a genetic basis. Jones and Yarhouse (2000) also note that a study of twins reared apart (four female sets) where one was homosexual did not show any concordance. The more recent study by Bailey et al (2000) also shows further attrition of the genetic effect since the concordance rate drops to 20% for male MZ twins and 24% for female MZ twins. It would seem then that the search for a genetic explanation is far less less compelling now than in 1952.

Hormones. The hypotheses that hormones are implicated in sexual orientation have an inherent logic to them. If behaviour and development are influenced by hormones one would expect such correlates to be evident.  However, the notion that homosexuals differ from heterosexuals with respect to hormones and hormonal levels has not garnered much advocacy, given the methodological problems in this research domain (Gooren, 1988). Homosexuals do not appear to differ with respect to hormone levels. The one caveat here is that there may be a subset in the lesbian population that has high levels of testosterone; however, this also could be the result of sample selection bias or physical exercise patterns (Gladue 1988; Jones & Yarhouse, 2000).

The hypothesis that prenatal hormones influence sexual behaviour, and possibly orientation, appears to be stronger than the adult hormone hypothesis. When Gunter Dörner was reporting his findings with stressed pregnant rats, and the possible impact of stress on fetal development of male homosexuals (Dörner, 1976; Dörner, Geier, Ahrens, Krell, Münx, Sieler, Kittner, & Müller, 1980; Dörner, Rohde, Stahl, Krell, & Masius, 1975; Dörner, Schenk, Schmiedel, & Ahrens, 1983), the case that was emerging had a logical coherence and elegance. It made some sense, even though the evidence was arguing for influence, not determinism. Of all biological factors which might impact sexual orientation this appears to be the strongest. The inference that there is an effect, can be drawn from the animal studies where animal fetuses are exposed to either feminizing or masculinizing hormones. In rats, particularly, effects related to brain structure differences and changes in sex-specific behaviour patterns (i.e., lordosis in males and mounting in females) is evident (Bailey, 1995). This hormonal influence on (1) certain architectural features of the brain and (2) certain sex-related, hard-wired behaviours is, at least, suggestive of a hormonal influence that can impact behaviour in humans as well. The caution, though, in making the logical leap is seen in comments like, “One must note, however, that there is no direct demonstration yet that the hormone-behaviour relationships seen in intersex individuals do, in fact, apply to the development of sexual orientation in nonintersex persons (Meyer-Bahlburg, Ehrhardt, Rosen, Gruen, Veridiano, Vann, & Neuwalder, 1995, p.13). The entire tone of the study by Meyer-Bahlburg, et al (1995) is cautious and tentative. Moreover, there is a danger in assuming an animal posture (e.g., mounting) can be extrapolated to human homosexual behaviour since (1) this would not be a defining feature of homosexual behaviour and (2) mounting may be a dominance behaviour (as often seen in castrated dogs and females) as well as a sexual behaviour.

Overall, the scholarly support for biological determination is more tenuous, more controversial, and more flawed than the popular media presents. Interestingly, researchers who operate from a position of philosophical naturalism—and are convinced that all behaviour has a biological genesis or substrate—are nevertheless, tentative. Bailey (1995), an advocate of a biological explanation, expresses it as: “Indeed, even most researchers, who are engaged in, or otherwise sympathetic to, a biological research program freely admit that neuroendocrine or genetic hypotheses about sexual orientation have not been supported to a degree of certainty that would justify their acceptance” (p.126). When referring to twin studies he acknowledges that “the high rate of discordance among MZ twins, shows that environment must exert an influence” (p. 129). Similarly, Byne and Parsons (1993) seem convinced of biological determinants, and the inadequacy of biological data. They suggest an interactionist model that involves biological determinants, along with familial, personality, social and self-constructivist activity that leads to multiple developmental pathways. If such environmental factors do exert an influence on orientation it would behoove those who influence youth (teachers, counselors, therapists, etc.) to be sensitive to such possibilities. If the media message and the research literature do not align, it may be even more incumbent that the educational community fosters a reasonable and informed understanding in students.

Environmental Influence

The evidence for strictly environmental causes of sexual orientation is also weak (Lips, 2001). However there are studies that support environmental influences (for brief descriptions see Zucker & Bradley, 1995). Parents are implicated in terms of such characteristics as depression, pathology, expectations, models, reactions to sex-typed behaviours, and so on. The child’s natural tendencies (e.g., physiological arousal, timidity, play preferences, and so on) may play a role as well. Then there are the personal history events such as sexual abuse, homosexual experiences, peer pressures, and so on.

The environment may impact an individual who is psychologically prepared for a particular response. An illustration of this is evident in one of the more intriguing theories which has been proposed (Bem, 2001) and is based on the notion that the “Exotic” becomes the “Erotic.” If males are perceived as exotic by male children, that eventually flowers as, or turns to, “perceived as erotic.”

 The basic point here is that the environment seems to play a role in influencing sexual orientation. Perhaps the best model at this time is an interactional model. A host of environmental determinants emerge as potentially influential here. Similarly, genetic and hormonal influences are factored into the mix.  Finally, constructionist practice is acknowledged. Thus, biology, environment and personal and social constructions which involve choices are seen to contribute to the construction of a sexual orientation.

Some of the correlates, or potential environmental determinants, may be considered politically controversial. For example, the homosexual community is gaining a more acceptable profile in the larger community as a result of media support (TV sitcoms, film, editorial reporting, “coming-out stories” of high profile individuals, and so on). The popular media support is powerful, and logically influential. The question that arises is this: Could this powerful media-modeling-influence itself be a potential determinant? Constructivists would likely answer in the affirmative. Thus, it would be reasonable to expect young people to question their sexual “orientation” in a favourable light, that is to say, in a contemporary “cultural” context that fails to address, or incorporate, the psychological or biological or moral context. 

The problem is the limited media position. It is probably safe to say that this compelling media influence has left the public at large, not just the adolescent, with the belief that homosexuality is “okay.” What makes it “okay” is the notion that it is biologically determined, or that our culture says it is okay, or that those in control of the information flow say it is okay, or … But does "okay" equal "normal?" (For an interesting discussion of "normal" see Goldberg, 1991). The extent of such an influence is not pervasive since a study from the early nineties suggests that more than 80% of adolescents have some “problem” with homosexuality (Pesman, 1991). But it is an influence and it does raise the question of tolerance and acceptance (discussed later).




Subjects for this study were selected from a population of female high school students in four Ontario high schools. Two hundred students were randomly selected and invited to participate, and 131 students responded (65% return rate).  


A questionnaire was used to collect data on adolescent behaviours and attitudes. The profiling questions relevant for this particular study related to (1) Demographics (age, menstruation onset), (2) Worry (Interpersonal Relationships, Peer Pressures, Physical Appearance, Thoughts of Depression and Suicide), (3) Sex (Sexual Harassment, Sexual Activity), (4) Support (Paternal, Maternal, Community Adults, Community Resources), (5) Media (Time watching TV) and (6) Sports (Activity in Sports). The dependent variable addressed whether or not participants had concerns about their sexual orientation.


            A research randomizer was used (stratified across high school grade levels) to select a pool of female students to be invited to participate in the data collection. Of 320 permission forms distributed to the randomly selected participants, 149 were returned (46.5%). Twelve forms contained a coding error reducing the sample to 137. The planning and communications were conducted in conjunction with the guidance department personnel and the public services attached to the schools. The public health nurse informed students of the details of the questionnaire implementation and parental permission was obtained for participation. The questionnaire was administered in cafeteria settings in the various high schools.

            The data collected addressed a wide range of adolescent problems and issues (e.g., school, drugs, alcohol, appearance, suicide, sexual activity, birth control, and so on). For the current study, however, the focus is upon variables that have been empirically, or theoretically, linked to the issue of sexual identity.




In the original sample of 137 adolescents 9.5% had indicated a concern about their sexual orientation. A Discriminant Function Analysis was planned to determine which variables discriminated between those who were concerned about their sexual orientation and those who were not concerned. After removing outliers from the data the remain sample (N-124) was subjected to a Discriminant Function Analysis. The means and standard deviations (z-scores) for the variables are reported in Table 1. The groups were reliably separated (Wilks’ Lambda = 0.78, Chi-square = 25.80, df = 14, p < .05) with a successful classification rate of 84.5%.  As may be seen from the univariate analyses in Table 1, it is five variables which discriminate.

Means and Standard Deviations for Variables in the Analysis (z-scores)



Not Concerned















< .05



Menstruation Onset








Worry/Peer Pressures





< .05



















Sexual Harassment








Sexual Activity





< .05



















































*Pooled within-group correlations between discriminating variables and standardized canonical Discriminant functions.

The five variables which served to discriminate between the two groups may be see in Figure 1. In effect those showing sexual orientation concerns are (1) younger, (2) sensitive to peer pressures, (3) experiencing, or have experienced, sexual harassment, (4) less likely to be sexually active, and (5) more likely to be involved in sports.

The figure shows that those adolescent females who are "concerned" about sexual orientation, when compared to those who do not express "concern" are (1) younger, (2) susceptible to peer pressure, (3) experiencing harassment, (4) less sexually active, and (5) more involved in sports.



In this study a number of correlates were seen to exist for adolescents concerned with their sexual orientation. One prominent correlate was age. In effect, younger students in this sample showed more concern with sexual orientation. Of the twelve students who indicated a concern, three were 14-years-old, six were 15-years-old, one was 16, one was 17, and one was 18. It appears that younger students (ages 14-15) are the more concerned group. This is consistent with Remafedi, Resnick, Blum, & Harris, (1992) who reported that concern or “uncertainty” diminished in older groups. While they view their data as an unfolding of sexual identity, it is also reasonable to note that the higher concern in younger adolescents parallels the immature cognitive resources they have to deal with the concern. This would be especially important if sexual orientation was not an “unfolding” but rather a “construction.”

If it is younger students who are most concerned, and if younger students lack the more mature cognitive resources to assist with decision making, then the younger students would appear logically to be particularly vulnerable to undue influence. Sources of influence that might pose a threat could be one-sided public health presentations, uninformed peers, media models, social acceptability, and so on.

Such concerns are important if sexual orientation is not biologically determined. If we acknowledge psychosocial models from Freudian implications based on the parents—for which there is evidence (see Zucker & Bradley, 1995)—to Bem’s model of “Exotic becomes Erotic” (Bem, 2001), then there are practical implications for educators with respect to policies and practices.

The genetics explanation has fallen from favour. The hormonal hypothesis is stronger, but still not deterministic. The hormonal influence on (1) certain architectural features of the brain and (2) certain sex-related, hard-wired behaviours is suggestive of a hormonal influence that can impact behaviour, but there are cautions. The caution is seen in comments like, “One must note, however, that there is no direct demonstration yet that the hormone-behaviour relationships seen in intersex individuals do, in fact, apply to the development of sexual orientation in nonintersex persons (Meyer-Bahlburg, Ehrhardt, Rosen, Gruen, Veridiano, Vann, & Neuwalder, 1995, p.13). The entire tone of the study by Meyer-Bahlburg, et al (1995) is cautious and tentative. So again, the biological influences are not considered deterministic. At best, there may be a biologically based influence related to certain predispositions, but there is no case for biological determinism at this point.

Most researchers today would acknowledge that there are biological “influences” (genetics and prenatal hormones), environmental influences (family, peers, experiences, media, psychological) and choices (personal and social constructionism) driving sexual orientation. The shift back to environmental influences is seen in Bailey’s (1995) comment that, “the high rate of discordance among the MZ twins shows that environment must exert an influence on sexual orientation” (p. 129). This becomes even more dramatic as Bailey had in mind concordance rates of 47 to 52% for males and 48% for females at the time he made this claim in 1995 (which, by the way, is a long way from Kallman’s claim in 1952 of a 100% concordance rate). Bailey’s more recent studies of twins, where several bias issues were addressed, show an even more dramatic shift to the environmental causes with concordance rates falling to 20% for male MZ twins and 24% for female MZ twins (Bailey, Dunne, & Martin, 2000). Moreover, examination of the counting technique used (i.e., counting each twin as a second subject) may be artificially inflating the concordance rates reported still more (Jones & Yarhouse, 2000).

With a shift away from biological determinism to psychosocial factors and social and personal constructionist claims, it becomes incumbent for educators and parents to be informed on the topic. Such information would involve language issues (e.g., definitions of “normal”), etiological information (biological, psychosocial, social constructionist), correlates (e.g., depression, suicide, sex-type behaviours, and so on), and trajectories (developmental paths, change options, interventions, and so on).  The informed educator hopefully realizes that the research literature advanced to support a biological basis for homosexuality is seriously limited, and thus turns to draw on additional perspectives.

            One consequence of additional perspectives is the change issue. The change issue is one that counselors need to consider. For some time the popular side of the debate held that homosexuals are “born that way” and any attempts at changes—therapeutic attempts—were unethical. More recently some prominent figures in the research community, most notably Robert Spitzer, are revisiting this issue and admitting that change may be possible for some (http://www.newdirection.ca/research/spitzer.htm). In fact, discouraging those who wish to attempt to change from seeking counseling to facilitate this change is arguably unethical (Yarhouse and Throckmorton, 2001).

            What this leads to is the importance of the notion of “want” when dealing with the issue of sexual orientation. In the adult literature it is recognized that some homosexuals “want” to change to a heterosexual orientation, and some “want” to maintain a homosexual orientation. Wanting to change might be motivated by personal religious values, worldview, parental pressures, or simply the belief that life would be easier, and so on. A mismatch between a counselor (who does not support change) and a counselee (who wants therapeutic assistance to help change) should be addressed by a broadened perspective. What is needed is an educator or counselor who adopts multiple perspectives. It is the multiple-perspective-taker who would be in a position to be tolerant of people’s “wants.”

            With respect to tolerance, a question that might arise here is this: Do you want people (educators, therapists, politicians and so on) to be tolerant (i.e., bear with what they don’t accept as reasonable or right), or do you want them to be accepting (i.e., agree with the truth claims and moral claims)? If the answer is accepting rather than tolerant then the advocate needs to change the person’s belief, which means they need a good argument. The problem then is, as Goldberg (1991) puts it:

“My suspicion is that the homosexual does not want merely the rights that should always have been his. Nor does he want merely the empathy and openness we offer (or should offer) anyone with or without physical or psychological problems. The homosexual wants social affirmation of the normality of his behavior. For the reasons we have discussed, we cannot give this affirmation unless he can give a causal factor for homosexuality that can be considered normal. If he cannot do this, he asks us to affirm as normal that which fails to meet the criteria for normality we invoke in all other cases. To do this we would have to deny truth and live a lie.”  (p. 59)

In effect, we tolerate people and ideas we disagree with; we accept people we disagree with but we do not accept ideas we disagree with.

So when is the question of “want” to be respected in our fellow human beings? The 10 year-old? The 14 and 15 year-old? If these youngsters are to be respected in terms of their “wants,” then the effects noted in this study related to susceptibility to peer pressure, and the experience of sexual harassment, are areas that are descriptively interesting only. They would apply to understanding rather than application.

Of course the data might suggest schools should implement programs to teach children and adolescents to deal with peer pressure, or sexual harassment activities. However, these agenda items would be warranted regardless of sexual orientation issues.

Similarly, the increased activity in sports would be descriptive only. It contributes to understanding, not application. It merely adds support for similar observations reported by others (see Zucker & Bradley, 1995). We do see though that it predicts “concern,” which is a milder term than orientation or identity or behaviour. Thus, this effect gives some credibility to the notion of “concern” since it parallels the literature on sex-typed activities which indicate an increased interest in sports-type activities for lesbians (Zucker & Bradley, 1995). Indeed, they note that “activity level” and “rough and tumble play” is higher for girls with gender identity disorder (and the opposite pattern is evident for boys).

On a positive note, variables which were not discriminating (depression and thoughts of suicide, and lack of paternal or maternal support) is encouraging since these variables have been associated with gender identity problems (Zucker & Bradley, 1995). Perhaps these variables are more characteristic of those who make the shift from “concern” to behaviour or identity. Thus, there is the typical request for more research. Indeed, the principal request at this point is to appeal for more research data to refine and advance the perspectives “on the table.” None of the perspectives should be “off the table” yet.




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The Questions Constructed and Posted...
1. Is sexual orientation something one constructs?

2. Tolerance--where do academics fail?

3. What’s wrong with this constructed study?



Some Philosophical Issues

Multiple-Perspective-Taking and Postmodern Pooh

The strongest evidence of Piglet’s early abuse, though, is the fact that he doesn’t have any conscious memory of it at all.

                                                                           Malatesta, 2001

The quote above is from a paper/presentation in a recent academic discussion of Winnie The Pooh. It reads as a serious quote, from an apparently serious collection. The entire collection illustrates the value, indeed the scholarly delight, of allowing multiple-perspectives “on the table.” Bizarre perspectives can facilitate the development of more reasonable perspectives; that is, perspectives that can be shown to have warrant.

Some may argue against multiple perspectives, basing their challenges on political correctness, social conventions, reason, negative social repercussions, “it hurts people,” and so on. Indeed, some perspectives are suppressed--either “shouted down” loudly, or dissolved by quiet, nuanced, and subtle uses of ad hominem arguments, fashionable name-calling, straw-man arguments, and other logical fallacies. But such is not the scholarly approach, nor should it be. 

Then there is the other extreme. Some argue that all perspectives should be “on the table” because they are all equal—the postmodern relativistic notion that all perspectives are just subjective constructions emerging from a culture or predetermined by a natural brain-state. If this is the case then is it not nonsense to defend any position? Communication, all communication, would be just “small talk,” or party-chatter--subjective opinion. The book Postmodern Pooh has this “party-chatter” flavour to it.

In a balanced multiple-perspective-taking stance there is a case for all perspectives being “on the table,” as well as a case for arguing that some positions deserve more credibility, or less, than others. This assigning of credibility, based on the use of such tools as reason, empirical evidence, common sense, logical fallacies, agendas, and so on, is the scholarly enterprise. If all positions are merely subjective constructions, with yours not being better than another’s, why argue for your position? Why should you listen to another? The only reason to listen is to determine if your position is better than theirs, or at least has some merit worth considering.

Is it ironic that those who hold to subjectivism and relativism nevertheless argue for their position? Or does their practice reveal their true belief. Diversity of opinions and disagreements about explanations, understanding, knowledge and truth exist. And some formulations are better than others. This must be the case if scholarship is to exist.

With respect to getting ideas on the table the book, Postmodern Pooh (Crews, 2001), illustrates this dramatically. Reading the postmodern positions on Pooh in such variegated forms as Deconstruction, Marxism, Radical Feminism, Post Colonialism, and some newer neologisms like “Negotiationism,” which dominated this recent compilation (Crews, 2001), gives one the opportunity to practice tolerance, and multiple-perspective-taking.  Considering the perspectives on the left, where you are likely to disagree with many, or most, or all, can be delightful. As well there were a few positions from the other end of the spectrum (Biopoetics, or the naturalism associated with E.O. Wilson, and Satanic Ritual Abuse and Pooh, even self-aggrandizement perhaps presented satirically. Also on this far end of the spectrum there was a single, traditional, marginalized-critic snuck in at the end). These, too, were positions allowed onto the “table,” tolerated, and argued against, or for. The reader is given the opportunity to judge the multiple-perspectives, the multiple arguments.

I found the Preface gave some hope for a reasonable approach to Pooh, but this was soon diffused as only two chapters made a modicum of sense.  The chapter by Orpheus Bruno (Bruno, 2001) was encouraging. His colourful expressions, “cockamamie commandoes of correctitude,” “lefties in labels,” and “postmodern claptrap” were dwarfed, however, along with the rather portly Bruno himself, by the sheer numbers of “other perspectives.” The critic too (i.e., Cravat)  was dwarfed.

The entire collection, as a barometer of academia, was disheartening, generally, but enlightening, specifically.  Of the two academia-outsiders, Malatesta and Cravat, only Cravat--the token, and apparently scorned, critic--seemed to be on to something reasonable. Malatesta was constructing (confabulating?) the case for sexual abuse and repressed memories in Pooh lore. (Thus, the quote about Piglet that opens this present commentary). Her position, while a stark contrast to reason, evidence, argument, and scholarly debate, is not too far removed from others in mortarboards. Yet it too is “on the table,” and represents a tradition.

This openness to Pooh provides a model for openness to all subjects, and especially academic subjects. If scholars can be open and diverse and inclusive with respect to the beloved bear, surely they can bear different perspectives on less volatile topics.

Let’s get multiple perspectives on the table. Let’s guard against responding to particular perspectives with diatribe, ad hominems, name-calling, silencing, pooh-poohing. The scholarly response whether constructing, or deconstructing, is argument—argument with clarity, precision, evidence, coherence, reason, balance, elegance, and so on. Even more so in the hot topic areas like sexuality and sexual orientation, race and intelligence, native studies, evolution and creation, religion and terrorism, the holocaust, tradition and transformative agendas, rich and poor, money, human nature, worldviews, and yes, even constructivism. Bottom line: No pooh-poohing!