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Opposition to Holsinger as Surgeon General mounts
Multiple groups sounding alarm bell

by Cindi Creager and Q-Notes staff

‘Male and female body parts fit together anatomically, but when that design is violated by gay men, injuries and diseases may occur.’
— Dr. James Holsinger,
nominee for U.S. Surgeon General
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) has jumped onto the anti-Holsinger bandwagon by annoucing its opposition to the nomination of Dr. James Holsinger for Surgeon General, based on his testimony before a Senate Committee. The nomination is also opposed by the American Public Health Association and many medical and gay rights groups.

Holsinger authored a 1991 treatise entitled “Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality” and founded a church that has an “ex-gay” ministry. The American Psychiatric Association in 1973 removed homosexuality from the accepted list of mental disorders, and, along with the American Medical Association and other mainstream health organizations, has denounced as dangerous and ineffective efforts to change sexual orientation, sometimes known as “reparative therapy.”

During a recent hearing, Sen. Edward Kennedy challenged the nominee both for ignoring studies that contradicted the conclusion that homosexuality is abnormal and for citing studies that did not support this finding, as well as for “padding” the bibliography with citations that were not referenced in the text. Holsinger responded to these criticisms by stating that the document was written for a lay audience, was not intended to be a comprehensive treatment of the subject, and referenced only articles that had been supplied to him by a medical librarian.

“A Surgeon General can only be effective insofar as people trust him or her to provide objective information based on science. Dr. Holsinger seems to be another in a long line of Bush appointees who are willing to distort or ignore scientific findings in the service of a conservative ideology,” said GLMA Executive Director Joel Ginsberg. Former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona told a Congressional panel that top Bush administration officials repeatedly tried to weaken or suppress important public health reports because of political considerations.
“This is about trust,” said Ginsberg. “Dr. Holsinger had an opportunity to retract his statement that homosexuals are abnormal and to express his opposition to reparative therapy. He chose not to do this.”

Ginsberg continued: “We need a Surgeon General who will fight stigma, not add to it. We need a Surgeon General who is not out of step with the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which oppose calling gay and lesbian people ‘abnormal.’ We need a Surgeon General who will oppose ‘abstinence only’ sex education, which not only has been proven to increase sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies for straight kids, but which also ignores lesbian and gay young people, who are being told that they should only have sex within marriage, though of course same-sex marriage is illegal almost everywhere.”

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is also weighing in on the issue, as the organization is calling on the nation’s media to carefully examine Holsinger’s past anti-gay advocacy and to scrutinize the Department of Health and Human Services’ defense of his positions.

Since President Bush announced Holsinger as his Surgeon General nominee on May 24, reports have begun to surface about Holsinger’s anti-gay writings, most notably the aforementioned document. In the paper Holsinger describes intimacy between gay men as unnatural, “Male and female body parts fit together anatomically, but when that design is violated by gay men, injuries and diseases may occur.”

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) defended Holsinger’s past statements in a June 7 Associated Press article.  HHS spokeswoman Holly Babin said Holisnger’s writings reflected scientific data from the 1980s. “It should be noted that in 1991, homosexuals were banned from the military and several years before that, homosexuality and Haitian nationality were considered risk factors for HIV/AIDS,” she said. “Over the last 20 years, a clearer understanding of these issues has been achieved. Any new compilation of scientific information on health issues facing homosexual populations would have a substantially different focus.”

Leading researchers, however, say Babin’s comments do not pass scientific muster.
“The claims Holsinger was making in 1991 were not reflective of the scientific consensus on sexual orientation in the 1990s or even in the 1980s,” said Dr. Jack Drescher, a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and former chair of its Committee on Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual issues. “You’d have to go back to the 1960s and earlier to find mainstream researchers who could, based on scientific consensus at that time, propose such inaccurate claims about gay people.”

GLAAD strongly encouraged journalists to continue reporting on and scrutinizing Holsinger’s anti-gay positions.

“We are pleased that the media are examining Holsinger’s history of inaccurate, harmful statements about the lesbian and gay community,” said GLAAD President Neil Giuliano. “However, media have an equally important responsibility to ensure that the misleading, inaccurate defense of his practices being offered by the Bush Administration is publicly assessed by credible scientific experts. American media consumers deserve better than the misinformation Holsinger’s allies are putting forward to excuse his harmful treatment of the gay community.”

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