The Implications of LGBT Empirical Studies

September 17, 2014 in inQueery

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When it comes to reading scientific articles, we as a society tend to immediately presume an objective standpoint from the perspective of the scientists. Although science attempts an objective standpoint, presuming there is no bias presents a problem in furthering our understanding of the world. Science is not the answer to all of life’s questions, it is merely one part in an attempt to observe and understand the world around us. Our lack of balance in regards to science in this country presents a real problem when it comes to approaching societal and individual issues in regards to mental health or sociological problems. Black-and-white thinking cannot be how we approach something as complex and debatable as human beings. In this paper I want to discuss how these biased perspectives of science negatively affect the marginalized in this country.

I am referring to an article review on a study of conservatives and how they have a predisposition towards fear in order to exemplify how results can be relied upon [too heavily] for the answer to a question.

When I look at this scientific study and imagine the possible ignorance that it could result in, I see multiple interactions that may be happening between the individuals reading and the structure of the article. The first is the central idea of the study, which is to look at what causes the ideological standpoint of a group, instead of looking at the central philosophy or lifestyle of that group in order to understand them. This can create, or continue, stereotypical views of that group. In the case of this article, an example would be, if we know that conservatives have a tendency towards fear (or this study has shown that they do) we may write off their points of view as not being objective and being without worth because of a neurological predisposition towards fear. This is problematic simply because of the culture we live in, we seem to think of measurable proof as the only evidence worth trusting.

Many people will not see therapists or try alternative medicine that does not have a scientific backing, regardless of the first hand accounts that support these methods of treatment, unless the treatment has a measurable affect, not everyone will use it. As a result people are not learning to take science as just one method out of many that observes the human experience, making them somewhat close-minded in their approach to understanding each other.

Marginalization and stereotyping is often the result of a lack of connection to another group. When we have such a separation it makes it easier to pay attention to group differences rather than to look at group similarities. It’s as if we are attempting to find a way to explain behavior through one’s status as an out-group, instead of taking into account the different experiences that we all have both on an individual level and on a societal level. For instance, if you actually spend time within the LGBT community you will see that what separates us from each other is far outweighed by what connects us. We all go through life experience and societal treatment that causes us to act and think in different ways, and in the case of “LGBT culture” vs. “straight cis culture” being LGBT is not necessarily what is causing all viewpoints or perceived differences between the two groups. That is why using blanket generalizations such as “conservative view points are found through fear” can cause serious problems, furthering the mistake of viewing each other as group members defined by their group status, not as group members defined by their individual experience and actions.

Why are non-group members attempting to study other groups? What is it with our culture and its lack of desire to allow marginalized groups to speak for themselves? When we ask questions from the perspective of an outsider, we will almost always be imprinting our own viewpoints in the answers of our interviewee. Without a group being able to freely express and talk about itself on a public level, we will not be able to accurately understand each other. Studies such as this encourage opposing parties to assume their perceptions to be correct, encouraging selective thinking in what to use to answer one’s own questions. But once again, the scientists here are not the problem, it is the reader and those using the research within our own cultural context that are causing the problems. We need to be more critical of outsiders questioning and quantifying the culture of an insider, as well as take all results lightly and openly.

Oppression and marginalization of minority groups is not a conservative or liberal problem, it is what human beings face when engaging with each other in a patriarchal and white power structure. In order to fight against the current power structure we need to begin having open conversations about our culture and the way it works. We are not living in a time in which making laws or getting rid of laws will solve the societal issues we have at hand. We need to make sure people feel comfortable bringing up issues of racism and homophobia, only then will it be possible to point out the multitude of ways it leaks into our society. If we cannot identify the logic behind marginalization and stereotyping, and we will not allow it to be talked about, how can it be dealt with?

Connor Payne is a Guest Contributor at InQueery and a volunteer at the Pacific Center.