No, Being Gay Doesn’t Take Years Off Your Life

A Missouri House of Representatives candidate is claiming that being gay takes 20-30 years off your life, and he might just win.

The candidate, 65-year-old Hardy Billington, is running to represent Poplar Bluff, a city in Butler County. This area voted heavily for Trump, and because Billington is the only Republican candidate, he looks likely to do well.

Among many of his questionable positions, Billington reportedly ran a number of ads in a local newspaper calling for a “Don’t Say Gay” ban in schools.

Advocating ”tough love” to help people leave the “gay lifestyle” Billington reportedly  claims, “‘Study after study reveals that homosexuality, whether male or female, can take anywhere from 10, 20 to 30 years off of someone’s lifespan. With all the attention on smoking, which the National Cancer Institute says takes from seven to 10 years off someone’s life, why not the same human outcry on homosexuality?“

He adds, “Here’s a behavior that’s killing people two to three times the rate of smoking, yet nobody seems to care.”

Looking at the Facts About Gay and Lesbian Lifespans

Billington’s opinions are obviously discriminatory and wrong-headed, but what about  Billington’s specific claims that “study after study” shows homosexuality shortens a person’s lifespan by up to 30 years? In this age of quickly-distributed Fake News it’s important to interrogate every claim that something is true and see where the evidence lays.

Interestingly, Billington’s claim does have a semblance of truth to it, in that there are studies which show homosexuality did overlap with a reduced lifespan, but his claim that this is the direct result of homosexuality isn’t just spurious, it’s flat-out wrong.

Research published in 1998 concluded that “the four lines of evidence were consistent with previous findings suggesting that homosexual activity may be associated with a lifespan shortened by 20 to 30 years.”

Indeed, research from the late 80s through into the early 2000s does reflect that gay men tended to die far earlier than their straight counterparts. The historical data on homosexual women is far less clear on this, simply because they weren’t the focus of data-gathering and retrospectives.

But why were gay men dying earlier? Well, it wasn’t by virtue of their being gay.

There were a number of factors at play, but one of the leading causes was the AIDS crisis. We see a direct downward trend in early mortality among men who have sex with men that tracks alongside effective HIV treatment and monitoring being deployed.

It would be baffling to call that a coincidence, when we see time and time again how HIV medication works and helps people have near-normal lifespans.

We now know there are direct links between anti-LGBT discrimination and LGBT people succumbing to illicit substance abuse, mental health problems, poverty and homelessness. We can safely infer, based on the wealth of data, that this likely increased the risk of early mortality for all LGBT people.

There are also some important technical things to consider when looking at studies from the 90s and early 2000s. For one thing, homosexuality wasn’t a specific part of national statistic gathering for much of the 90s. Instead, homosexuality was usually flagged as part of interactions with medical staff or via other less neat routes, like obituary studies.

This means that the data pool came with a number of biases that are not found today.

For example, one study that replicated this “early death” statistic pulled, in part, from the National Household Survey of Drug Abuse, something that is obviously going to give a snapshot that is not necessarily reflective of the wider gay population. Some studies did this because it was the only data open to them, and that is understandable for emerging populations.

Other studies were done by groups who appear to have known that their convenience samples proved their biases. The latter variety tend to be the ones used by anti-LGBT groups.

This leads us on to the key factor: What are reputable scientists saying now? Does being gay really shorten your life by 10, 20, or even 30 years?

Put simply, no.

It is also something that scientists who conducted studies during the AIDS crisis take great exception to.

Julio Montaner, a co-author of a study often cited by religious conservatives as proof of their claim, told Politificat in 2012 after Virginia’s Bob Marshall repeated this untruth that it was a “gross misrepresentation” of the data. “To use my report to support the notion that gay and bisexual sex is somehow the reason why people die early is misusing the data.”

There has never been a study that has proved a direct link between being gay, lesbian or bisexual and that, of itself, leading to an early death. While being LGBT does predispose people to some risk factors that the heterosexual and cis gender population does not have, often as a result of discrimination at the hands of said peers, that does not make an early death an inevitable fact of being LGBT.

If Billington is going to be a lawmaker come the November election results, here’s hoping he does a better job of leading with facts and not anti-gay fictions.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

56 comments

Marie W
Marie W1 months ago

Thanks for posting

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mmmm w
mmmm w7 months ago

alive, queer and doing very well, thanks

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Thomas M
Past Member 7 months ago

Thanks

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Janis K
Janis K7 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Gino C
Past Member 7 months ago

thank you

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Mary F
Mary Frances B8 months ago

Bet he spent his entire life just waiting to exhibit his homophobic attitudes in public!

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Tania N
Tania N8 months ago

Thank you.

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Tania N
Tania N8 months ago

Thank you.

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Tania N
Tania N8 months ago

Thank you.

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Leo C
Leo C8 months ago

thank you for sharing!

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