Vas Mathur / Sun Staff Photographer

Professor Ritch Savin-Williams presented evidence to dispute modern studies linking homosexuality in young men with depression and suicidal tendencies during a lecture Thursday.

March 2, 2017

Cornell Researcher Challenges Perception of Young Gay Men

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Today, young gay men feel more accepted than ever by their families and peers, contrary to many statistics that say otherwise, said Prof. Emeritus Ritch Savin-Williams, developmental psychology, in a lecture Thursday.

Savin-Williams presented findings from a newly published book, “Becoming Who I Am: Young Men on Being Gay,” published in 2016. Throughout the course of his research, the professor conducted interviews with 206 millennial men of varying sexualities. The interviews were “structured conversations” in which the young men detailed their sexual and romantic histories.

Savin-Williams found that young gay men feel more accepted by their families and peers and lead much happier lives today than studies may suggest.

“We have hijacked gay youth,” Savin-Williams said. “We now portray them as we think that they are, based on our science.”

He specifically mentioned a government-funded CDC study which portrays gay youth as characteristically having depression, anxiety and highly suicidal tendencies, results which Savin-Williams disputed as highly inaccurate. Savin-Williams attributed these inaccuracies to the fact that the CDC’s study of “gay youth” included women who identified as bisexual for reasons other than their sexuality.

During his lecture, Savin-Williams played three recorded excerpts from interviews with young gay men, each of whom had a relatively positive experience coming out as gay to their parents.

He also pointed out other common misconceptions regarding gay youth, such as there being substantially different personality traits between gay and straight young men.

“There are few differences between gay and straight youth other than their sexual and romantic histories,” Savin-Williams insisted. “They are just as close to their parents, they have just as many friends, they have the same kinds of relationships in terms of closeness … you cannot distinguish between gay and straight.”

Savin-Williams further stated that, while his findings paint a far more positive picture of the lives of young gay men than other scientific studies, homosexuality is not the life-defining issue some think of it as.

“Most of these young people believe that their sexuality will make no difference in their lives, in terms of their future, their income, their jobs, or whatever. They just assume that their culture is going to evolve to the point where sexual orientation is a non-issue,” he said.