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Update: I initially used the wrong census information in the statistics near the end of this article. The figures have been corrected and updated.

It’s a revelation as shocking as news that the sun will rise tomorrow morning: bigoted Tennessee legislators misused and distorted statistics and history to make gays look as bad as humanly possible. Of course, we all know that this kind of distortion is commonplace. We’ve known this for years.

Of course, this is Tennessee, so ignorant bigots get the added privilege of being elected as state representatives and state senators that have the responsibility of writing laws. Maybe I’m living in a fantasy world filled with naivete, but is there even the chance of an antarctic shelf in right wing politics that a person who actually has a clue about reality might get elected? If we look at two of our state’s finest representatives from the Knoxville area, that antarctic shelf might want to trade places with the snowball that just got dropped into hell.

First up is birther bill co-sponsor Tennessee State Representative John Ragan, who serves the 33rd district in the eastern part of the Volunteer state, near Knoxville. Ragan recently responded to a constituent that asked him to oppose a bill that would declare that there is no real “discrimination” of gays since it’s not listed in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and that there should be no anti-bullying policies that specifically calls for training or materials that address the identity of the victim (read: the gays).

Ragan’s response is one for the books. In it, he declared that homosexuals were not “mentally healthy human beings,” that gays are “driven” or “controlled” by feelings, and of course compared those “feelings” to adulterers, child abusers, “whores,” and rapists.

After he finished painting the entire LGBT community as a bunch of weak-minded touch-feely babies who can’t help but to commit suicide, he went on to cite a few numbers to back up his claim that gays are just bad, immoral, and sickly people. First up was the HIV/AIDS connection:

According to the FDA: “[homosexual practitioner or 'gay' men] have an HIV prevalence 60 times higher than the general population, 800 times higher than first-time blood donors and 8,000 times higher than repeat blood donors.”

Since Representative Ragan is not actually interested in telling the whole story here, it’s left up to the rest of us to fill in the very large holes in his story. In recent years, an estimated 29,300 people in the United States are infected with HIV by male-to-male sexual contact.

While CDC estimates that only 4 percent of men in the United States are MSM, the rate of new HIV diagnoses among MSM in the United States is more than 44 times that of other men (range: 522 – 989 per 100,000 MSM vs. 12 per 100,000 other men).

Ragan, not satisfied with just sticking with the HIV/AIDS statistics, he tossed in a tidbit about Hepatitis B and C. Finally, he brought out his big gun:

A 2007 CDC study found that, although “gay” men comprise only 1-to-2 percent of the population, they account for an epidemic 64 percent of all syphilis cases.

All of these statistics are facts. A resulting critical thought question might be: do homosexual practitioners disproportionately contract AIDS, hepatitis, or syphilis through their own proclivities and behavior or in “reaction” to opinions of that behavior by others or someone supporting a bill?

First of all, the CDC (cited above) and the Williams Institute both indicate that the LGBT population is closer to four percent of the population, not one to two percent. And that 64% of all syphilis cases being among gay men? Well, that’s true. However, the rest of the story is a little more illuminating.

The CDC reported that the total number of reported syphilis cases in 2009 was 13,974. 62% of those were acquired from males having sex with males.

Let’s do a little math, just for fun:

  • According to the 2010 census, the total population of the United States is 245,123,696 309,000,000.
  • The total gay population at 4.1% (using the Williams Institute figure) is 10,050,07 12,669,000.
  • Total cases of new syphilis cases in 2009 among gay men: about 9,000.
  • Total cases of new HIV infections in 2009 among gay men: about 29,300.
  • Estimated total of people living with HIV in the US: about 480,000.

Those are the numbers… now let’s put them in terms that can be comprehended:

The Bridgestone Arena in Nashville has a total capacity of about 20,000 people. Let’s put about half that in there, and have all of them be gay men.

Out of 10,000 gay men:

  • 477 379 would have been living with HIV for at least a year.
  • 29 23 will get infected with HIV this year.
  • 9 7 of them will get syphilis.

In a nutshell, Representative Ragan is judging the entire gay community by the one-third of 1% of its population that gets a sexually transmitted disease in any given year.

Let’s be perfectly clear. To all you gay men out there: These diseases are spread by high-risk sexual activity. If you decide to engage in promiscuous male-to-male sex, or sex without a condom, you’re taking your life in your own hands. The English word for this kind of behavior is “stupid.” Protect yourself. Don’t sleep around. And for God’s sake, use your brain. And a condom.

Finally, the fact that gay teens commit suicide at a rate of more than three times their straight peers, should give us all pause. We have major institutions tracking, treating, and working to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, and yes, even syphilis. But now, Representative Ragan wants to sweep those said, feely teens under the rug and prevent them from getting any protection whatsoever. Real classy.

Ragan isn’t the only one to make an ass of himself this week. State Senator Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) is well into the competition with comments he made during an interview with Sirius OutQ radio show host, Michelangelo Signorile. Listen for yourself — but don’t do it on a full stomach.

“Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community — it was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men. It was an airline pilot, if I recall.”

“My understanding is that it is virtually — not completely, but virtually — impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex…

[...]

“What is the average lifespan of a homosexual? It’s very short … Anybody out there who’s listening – your twelve listeners on your show, you have them Google ‘average homosexual lifespan.’ It’s very short.”

Each of these points is completely, totally, wrong. The Commercial Appeal reported on the “one guy screwing a monkey” thing:

[Dr. Jacques] Pepin said that it is generally accepted that the initial transmission of AIDS from chimpanzees to humans occurred in Central Africa, probably 1921, when a hunter who killed a chimp contracted the virus while butchering the animal for food.

The theory of a “patient zero” being responsible for much of AIDS transition is advanced by “And the Band Played On,” Pepin said, but is now generally discredited.

“It’s, of course, in retrospect a bit ridiculous,” said Pepin. “As I explained, the virus had been spreading in Africa and elsewhere for probably 50 or 60 years before this man got infected.”

Campfield’s assertion that it’s “virtually impossible” to transmit the virus through heterosexual sex is laughable — especially since HIV/AIDS is a widespread epidemic through the African continent. An estimated 22.9 Million people are infected with HIV in Africa. That’s more than 46 times the number of total cases in the US. Nearly all of those were infected by heterosexual activity.

And the “short lifespan” among gay men? Great job quoting a widely-discredited piece of junk “science” by a man who has as much contempt for gays as he does for real science, Senator.

With these two men representing their East Tennessee constituents, it’s obvious that they managed to get support from voters. Sadly, these are just more examples of bad legislation written by people who have a clear bias against their LGBT residents.

If there’s ever a time for LGBT residents to speak out and VOTE, it’s now. Your silence is killing the rest of us. We need you. We need your support, and we need you to be out. While these earlier statistics might be difficult to deal with, we know of another: People who know someone — a friend, co-worker, or family member — who’s LGBT is more likely to not support bigoted politics.

Tennessee, we deserve better. We really do. Now if we could get the folks in Knox and Anderson Counties to actually vote in some sane representatives, we might get somewhere.

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5 Responses to Two Tennessee legislators trying to out-bigot each other [UPDATED]

  1. Whittier Strong says:

    Excellent piece. Your numbers are off, though, in that, according the 2010 Census, the US population is nearly 309,000,000. ( http://2010.census.gov/news/releases/operations/cb10-cn93.html ).

  2. And now we wait to see which one will be the first to get caught on his knees with his pants down around his ankles giving head to some rough trade in a men's room somewhere.

  3. Robert Foran says:

    I simply don't know what to say… I mean, what CAN you say? I am glad though that the sheer stupidity of the Republican Party isn't just restricted to the Northern States. You all have these idiotic politicians in the South too. It must be some sort of strange contagion… wow… they're all catching a case of the stupids! UGH!

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