Statistics That Lie | “The Dutch Gay Marriage Study”

If you were to go a few miles east of where I live in Nevada to the legalized houses of prostitution and conduct a “sexual contacts” survey of the sex workers, would it be fair to extrapolate those findings to the general heterosexual female population?  To me? Of course not.

If you were to likewise go to an AIDS/HIV/STD clinic and conduct a “sexual contacts” survey on  gay men, would it be fair to extrapolate those findings to the general gay male population?  Again, of course not.

But, that type of irrational statistical abuse has actually occurred, and, the deception of this particular “study” is far worse .

One “fact” concerning gay men is repeated often.  It is very consistent in its repetition of the details:  committed gay male relationships/marriages last, on average, only one and a half years.  Each partner has an average of eight sexual relationships outside of that relationship/marriage. Sounds pretty damning.

I’ve heard these numbers for years. I get baffled by it; I know hundreds, maybe thousands of gay people and these findings just do not made sense to me. Why is there a vast difference between what I know and what is repeated as truth?

The origin of the 1 1/2 years/8 partners stats  is cited with several sources, most commonly: the Netherlands Study and the Dutch Gay Marriage Study. Here is how the scenario often goes: “In the Netherlands, which is among the most liberal of nations in the world, gays have been able to be married. Yet, a study conducted there found that married men are not monogamous in their marriages.”  Blah, blah. Then you get the tsk-tsking stats of 1 ½ years average duration and 8 partners per. Ergo . . . lots of things:  gay people are not able to commit, gay people should not be married, gay people, in all that instability, should not be parents.  The list goes on. And, the rapid deterioration of the rocky pairing will take us all down the slippery path to the utter destruction of marriage and family.

But, are those the results of the “Dutch Gay Marriage” study? Actually, asking what the purpose of the study is an even better place to start.

  • First, the study had nothing to do with relationships; it was conducted by Dr. Maria Xiridou to find out how AIDS was transferring in a community. The study is actually called “The contribution of steady and casual partnerships in the incidence of HIV infection among homosexual men in Amsterdam.” With the stated objective being:  “To assess the relative contribution of steady and casual partnerships to the incidence of HIV infection among homosexual men in Amsterdam, and to determine the effect of increasing sexually risky behaviours among both types of partners in the era of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).”   Hmmm, so, this was a study about sexual transmission of AIDS, not gay marriage?
  • The study was conducted over a period of time from 1984 to 1996. Gay marriage became legal in the Netherlands in 2001. Hmmm, so, there were no married partners in the test group?
  • The participants were limited to gay men under thirty years of age.  Hmmm, pretty tough to be in  a many- years relationship, marriage or not, when you are under thirty.
  • Monogamous couples were excluded from the study. Hmmm, so the participants were not even required to be in declared committed relationships?  Hardly marriage-ish.
  • The participants were taken from HIV/AIDS/STD clinic rosters. Hmmm, so the participants were already involved in risky sexual behaviors and, that was the only test group?
  • The participants lived in metropolitan Amsterdam only. So, no suburban gay people, no gay  people from rural areas?  Just young, uncommitted, sexually active, risky behavior gay men? Well, that sure is an interesting test group for a gay marriage study, isn’t it?

All this gathered info did give the researcher, Dr. Maria Xiridou, the scientific information she was seeking. The information she needed for the study she was doing on the test group for HIV/AIDS transmission in sexually active gay men.

So, back to the opening question. Would it be fair to extrapolate these findings to the general gay male population ? Please respond “No”, or even better, “Hell, no!” So, why do we? We do it because it supports our fears, phobias and biases. And, unfortunately, the practice is common and that is exactly what is being done with these statistics.

I did a quick search online or “Dr. Maria Xiridou”  to see who actually mis-uses this AIDS study to substantiate their less-than-lovely propaganda that touts  the sexual promiscuity and unworthy-to-marryness of the gay and lesbian community. Go ahead, check it out. Somewhere buried in the over 2,000 citations is her obscure actual study. Page after page, you will see the organizations that index this report in their websites as a variation of “the Dutch Gay Marriage Study” and use it to attack the notion of gay marriage.  Over and over, the “Dutch study on gay marriage” is cited.  You know the types of groups using these “facts”, I don’t need to detail them here. The gamut runs from  conservative family groups, to churches, to white supremacists organizations. It is used in the US and other countries. (Ugandans love this one.) Some preachers tell it from pulpits, from positions that inherently say “I speak for a Holy God and then they tell this lie. Often.

I accept that many Christians may not share my theological views of full inclusion for gay and trans people into Christian churches. But, I will not stay silent while lies are told and information is horribly manipulated so far beyond the scope of a study.  The twisting is used to exclude the gay community from families, churches and ultimately, equality.  And, sadly, it is not just on this study. When you see statistics that make you gasp and horrify you, they have probably been manipulated. Sad, but true.

I would hope that Christians in particular could agree that it would be completely wrong to justify a lie simply because it  bolsters a personal theology. Duct tape words from the Bible together with a lie, put the Holy God stamp on the mess and present it as a missive from the very Throne of God.  I see that too much.

The next time you hear this 1 ½ years, 8 partners garbage, forward this link along. I think most people actually just don’t know the facts. It suits their story. so they repeat it.  I intend to forward this post  to a pastor of a mega church in Dallas who spoke it on a podcast just last week. He told his congregation of over 3,000 this lie. And, the statistic never lie now, do they?

If we could get all this trash and deceit out of the way, maybe we could engage in real dialogues? People are people, no matter their sexual orientation. We might actually find some common places to appreciate rather than fear one another.


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LGBT civil rights, LGBT history, Bible and homosexuality, gay Christian, transgender Christian, advocate, advocacy, Walking the Bridgeless Canyon, Kathy Baldock, homosexuality and Bible, LGBT rights, Yvette Cantu Schneider, Sisters of Thunder