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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Come right out and say it

"The climate is changing," Gayle Pitman said regarding the attitude toward gay marriage and support for the gay/lesbian community. Photo by || Joshua Cantu || [email protected] ||

Hundreds of research documents and studies try to add context, but one book adds another layer of depth to the research itself- “the human factor,” as psychology Professor Gayle Pitman, 40, calls it in her new book, “Backdrop: The Politics and Personalities Behind Sexual Orientation Research.”

Pitman, who has taught at City College since 2001, teaches a class on the subject “Psychology on Sexual Orientation.” When she began teaching the course five years ago, she said there was no textbook to use.

“I was kind of pulling together some articles, some book chapters, a little of this, a little of that,” Pitman said.

Her students complained, calling the articles outdated. Then a student recommended that Pitman write the textbook herself, she said.

“Nobody else has done it, so why not?” Pitman recalled.

In the beginning of writing the book, Pitman says she experienced eight weeks of writer’s block. Then, a colleague of her told her something important that brought
her out of it.

“There’s a story behind every research study,” her colleague said.

This gave Pitman the idea to write about the researchers themselves and everything that surrounds their research, such as the politics and moralities held by different researchers and the people who have strong feelings about homosexuality, such as politicians.

One of her students, Maria Pineda, also believes politics occupy research, which is limited when it comes to the transgender community.

“I think there has to be more research, so that people learn from that research,” said Pineda, who wrote a paper on the transgendered community. “I think there are a lot of politics involved.”

Pineda says that Pitman’s book does investigate that angle.

“I think it makes for a lot more interesting reading,” Pitman said.

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“We can’t totally take out the human factor,” Pitman said, referring to researchers themselves.

“There are people who have reasons for doing the research that they do,” Pitman said.

She revealed that many of these researchers are gay, but said she believed that did not create a bias in their research.

“I think the pendulum swings in the opposite direction, in that researchers are so aware that they’re likely to get criticized for being biased or not objective, so they’re overly careful,” Pitman said.

Interpretation of the research can change depending on who does the research, she said.

“The sexual orientation of the researcher seems to influence, to some degree, the public’s reaction to [the research],” Pitman said.

With all of this attention to research, Pitman said that the studies can suffer.

“There’s so much scrutiny, it can kind of straitjacket the researchers,” Pitman said.

Despite the ever-present amount of anti-gay sentiments in many religious congregations, Pitman says she sees more church groups in Sacramento supporting the gay and lesbian community. She also believes that the younger generation is more accepting.

“For the most part, students are pretty open-minded,” Pitman said.

Debate still drives many aspects of the political arena over gay rights, Pitman acknowledged. Many states still do not allow gays to marry, and many people want to keep it that way. Conditions for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are still unfriendly in many areas of the country, and young gay and lesbian kids are still subjected to bullying.

However, Pitman said things are getting better for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“The climate is changing,” Pitman said.

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