Thursday, December 16, 2010

Studying LesBians: LGBT research that wastes time and money showing the sky is blue (with a rainbow in it)

Studying LesBians is a monthly column about recent and not so recent research on lesBians and the LGBT community. This column about obvious research being done and getting media attention was published on eurOut back in July, but I forgot to post it here as well.

This month several LGBT related studies were reported in the media that had such obvious results you have to wonder why people think this is news worthy and why the research was funded to look into these things in the first place.

Before I get into describing the studies in question, I want to stress I welcome any person or institution spending time and money researching things to do with the LGBT community. But just as with any type of research, an awful lot of time and money seems to be wasted on showing the obvious.

Let me illustrate this with 3 LGBT related studies that made headlines the last few weeks:

Same-sex relationships improve self-esteem and lower internalized homophobia in gay and lesbian teens

Yesterday Pink News and several other online LGBT media outlets reported about a new study that showed that queer teens who are in a homosexual relationship feel better about themselves and about being gay than those that are single. In other words, if you are in high school and you discover you are into girls, you feel a lot better when you have a cute girlfriend than when you are all alone. Can I get a collective Duh?

Now I haven't had the chance to read the entire research report, but from what I gathered they did do a fairly extensive long term study into the link between romantic relationships and well being of straight and gay teens. Still, the results they come out with and are used as headlines in LGBT media are so obvious it makes me wonder who actually thinks this is news.

Then again, at least this is a topic worthy of mentioning. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the next headline:

Gay men are thinner than heterosexuals, but lesbians are heavier

There have been many studies in the last few years looking into determinants of lifestyle and health behaviours, the results of one of those studies was published a few weeks ago. They looked at many different health behaviours, mental states, as well as stuff like weight. Although the study had some interesting findings about some health related behaviours like smoking and drinking, all the media seemed to focus on was weight.

The study showed that on average gay men were less likely to be overweight than straight men and lesbians were more likely to be overweight than straight women. Can I get another Duh? Everyone knows that (I am totally generalising here) straight women and gay men are much more obsessed with their appearance (and their weight) than the rest of us and thus are less likely to be overweight.

Gay adults are more likely to spend a lot of time online than heterosexuals

A few times now I have seen this headline, and it continues to amaze me that people find this newsworthy. Yes, as a "minority group" we spend more time online because it's one of the best ways to get in touch with our community either indirectly by reading about news and events or directly by meeting people. Still, yet another research group thought it was worth examining.

So what do you think of the research examples I just shared with you? Do you agree this kind of research is a waste of time and money or do you think it's important to look into these issues? Or perhaps you can think of some other examples of pointless research. Let us know in the comments.

Read previous Studying LesBians columns here.

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