Tuesday, May 11, 2010

WSJ on Gay Teens

See if you can figure out what the Wall Street Journal is trying to do this morning. The article is called "What to Say When Your Teenager Says She's Gay."
What role, if any, should parents and schools play in a child's emerging sexual orientation?

Sparks have been flying around that question this spring.

Early last month, a small group called the American College of Pediatricians (ACP) sent a letter to the nearly 15,000 school superintendents in the U.S., stating that most adolescents who experience same-sex attraction at age 12 no longer do by age 25, and warning that prematurely labeling them could lead some "into harmful homosexual behaviors they otherwise would not pursue." The letter also stated that homosexual attraction and/or gender confusion "can respond well to therapy." What to Say When Your Teenager Says She's Gay

As we have been noting here, the American College of Pediatricians is a hoax group, an anti-gay organization founded by religious right radicals to promote views of sexual orientation that are unscientific and medically unsound. It's not just that they're a small group, they are a fringe group, an extremist group, and a danger. You wonder why the WSJ is quoting their opinion here -- people are ostensibly reading this article to learn what to say to their teenagers when they say they're gay.

The ACP might wish that "homosexual attraction and/or gender confusion" can respond to therapy, but there is no evidence that interventions intended to make gay people straight succeed at all, and at worst such "reparative" therapy can cause immeasurable harm.
The far larger American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) posted a statement saying it is in no way affiliated with the ACP and referred schools and parents to its own publications that urge acceptance of gay, lesbian and bisexual youth. (The ACP was founded in 2002 by pediatricians protesting the AAP's support of homosexual parenting.) The National School Boards Association also backed the AAP's position and warned schools not to be confused by the similarly named groups. And several prominent researchers, including geneticist Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, accused the ACP of distorting its research to make its case against homosexuality.

The AAP is the legitimate professional organization of pediatricians. It has 60,000 members, who are primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists. The ACP is estimated to have 200 members. Many are also members of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).

Here you go, our county gets mentioned:
Other incidents this spring: One Mississippi high school canceled its prom rather than allow one senior to bring a same-sex date; another refused to let a girl be photographed for the yearbook wearing a tuxedo rather than the customary formal drape, and a group called PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays) distributed fliers advocating sexual-reorientation therapy in some Montgomery County, Md., schools.

Montgomery County Public Schools send PFOX flyers home with children four times a year, even though the information on the flyers contradicts health curriculum content and MCPS antidiscrimination policy.

Here the WSJ does something we have seen a lot:
Behind all the incidents is the long-running dispute over when and how sexual orientation develops and whether outside influences can affect it.

This is like saying, "There is a long-running dispute over whether all contemporary living things evolved from earlier life-forms, or whether they were rescued in their current form by Noah's ark." Of course there is research into the nature of sexual orientation, but there is no "dispute" between the ACP's religious view and the AAP's scientific one.
While the development of same-sex attraction isn't completely understood, most medical and mental-health professionals have long concluded that being gay is not an illness and that people cannot choose their true sexual orientation. It seems to develop slowly in early childhood; studies show that on average, young people, gay and straight, first become aware of sexual attraction about age 10.

Experimentation is fairly common in adolescents—and sexual activity isn't the same as sexual orientation. According to the AAP, one survey of 13- to 19-year-olds found that 1 in 10 boys and 1 in 17 girls reported having at least one same-sex sexual experience; but most studies estimate that only 2% to 7% of U.S. teens consider themselves lesbian, gay or bisexual.

"By the time children are 11, 12 and 13, they have a very good sense that their sexual orientation may be different from the majority of their friends," says Ellen Perrin, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. "There is no evidence that people could become gay because of external influences," she adds.

That's a good point. You have some idea who you are by the time you get into middle school.

On the other hand ...
The ACP maintains that homosexual attraction is changeable—and dangerous. ACP President Thomas Benton, a Gainesville, Fla., pediatrician, likens homosexuality to drunken driving: "If I was aware that my teenage son was thinking about getting drunk and operating a car, I'd do everything in my power to prevent him from doing that," he says. Dr. Benton also says that schools "should provide an environment that is safe for all children, but they shouldn't promote an agenda. They shouldn't say, 'Let's have a coming-out party.' "

Being gay is nothing like drunk driving, that's the worst analogy ever.
Many researchers who have studied gay and lesbian youth agree that they face a higher risk of mental and physical problems, but they content that those problems stem mostly from social stigma and feelings of rejection.

Researchers at the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University have conducted interviews with gay and lesbian youths and their families, studying the impact of rejection or acceptance across several ethnic groups.

In a survey of 224 these young adults aged 21 to 25, published in the journal Pediatrics last year, those who reported high levels of family rejection during adolescence were more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide; nearly six times as likely to report high levels of depression; more than three times as likely to use illegal drugs and more than three times as likely to be at high risk for sexually transmitted diseases.

"Families and caregivers have a dramatic and compelling impact on their LGBT children's health, mental health and well-being," says Caitlin Ryan, director of the Family Acceptance Project. She also notes that because gender orientation starts so early, "we tell parents and families that they need to provide a supportive environment for their children before they know who they'll become." If family members make jokes and derogatory comments about people they meet or images on TV, children will internalize those messages and they can have a lasting impact on how they see themselves.

This is a point that cannot be emphasized enough. Rejecting young people because of their sexual orientation can be catastrophic for them.
In some cases, children who grow up believing that homosexuality isn't acceptable may try to deny and ignore their own feelings. "We call it going underground," says Dr. Perrin. "They live that way until they are 30 or 40 and say, 'I just can't do it anymore.' Or maybe some of them their whole life live in a pretend world of not feeling quite right but it's the best compromise they can make to feel accepted."

We have seen a few people like this. Some of them become vehemently anti-gay in order to justify their own discomfort.

And finally, this...
Groups like Narth cite research that sexual reorientation therapy can be effective, but more mainstream organizations say it can do lasting damage.

"If kids get the message that who they are in unacceptable, then they will carry that scar for the rest of their lives," says Gary Remafedi, a professor of pediatrics at University of Minnesota.

"Telling parents that this is an illness, that they should force their children to seek some cure that doesn't exist is quackery and its malpractice."

Dr. Perrin, who works with some young children with atypical gender interests and behaviors, says she advises parents to support their kids' interests, whatever they are, and try to expand them with gender-neutral activities. "I tell them to not forbid boys from playing with Barbie dolls, and don't excessively encourage playing with Barbie dolls," she says. "I say, we have no idea how your child is going to develop in terms of gender identify or sexual orientation, but in either case, your job is accept whatever your child is and support that development."

That does seem straightforward -- unconditional love for your children, what a radical idea!

The Wall Street Journal hits on some good points here, but the casual reader could get a few paragraphs into it before he or she realizes that the paper is quoting a quack and not a real expert. There is also an absurd "fair and balanced" juxtaposition of two viewpoints that exist in different worlds, a religious one and a scientific one, with the comment that there is some dispute or debate between them, and there is not. The development of sexual orientation is a hard scientific problem, and there are researchers around the world studying various aspects of it. It is a fascinating question, and many kinds of hypotheses have been proposed. No serious researcher believes it is something you choose, or something that can be changed.


Anonymous Robert said...

They seem to have summarized my experience pretty well. Nevertheless, one has to question why they even write this story.

May 12, 2010 6:44 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Leon County, Florida (Tallahassee) passes LGBT Human Rights Ordinance

I was born in Leon Memorial Hospital in June of '63. Hurray for my home town.

May 12, 2010 11:10 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

PFOX President writes letter to Post about Fenty's apology to the peeps for award to Regina Griggs:

Gregg Quinlan's letter to Post

May 12, 2010 12:57 PM  
Blogger BlackTsunami said...

And in that letter, he told a blatant lie. Par for the course for PFOX:


May 12, 2010 9:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read the actual court case (not the Box Turtle's interpretation) and you'll see that every word that Quinlan said is true.

May 12, 2010 11:55 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Read the actual court case (not the Box Turtle's interpretation) and you'll see that every word that Quinlan said is true.

Sure, read it here. PFOX sued to force the NEA to let them set up a booth, and the judge upheld the NEA's decision to NOT allow PFOX to do so.

Jim blogged about this case earlier.
PFOX Loses, Announces Great Victory:

This ruling applies to the District of Columbia only. Its Human Rights Act defines sexual orientation in terms of preference and practice, and there is nothing suggesting that the antidiscrimination law applies only to "immutable" characteristics. So this judge reversed a previous ruling by saying that it is illegal in DC to discriminate against "former homosexuals" as well as current ones.

But so what? The NEA never said that PFOX couldn't set up a booth because of their sexual orientation, they said they couldn't set up a booth because NEA doesn't approve of their bigoted message.
and cited this relevant part of the DC Superior Court Judge Maurice Ross's decision:

The Court affirms OHR's [Office of Human Rights] ultimate determination that PFOX's application was denied legally. In NEA’s judgment, PFOX is a conversion group hostile toward gays and lesbians. Thus, even though PFOX vehemently disagrees with NEA’s characterization, it is within NEA’s right to exclude PFOX’s presence at NEA’s conventions...

Furthermore, NEA persuasively argues that its rejection of PFOX's application was proper in light of the facts and Hurley. Indeed, the HRA [Human Rights Act] would not require NEA to accept an application from the Ku Klux Klan or a group viewed by the NEA as anti-labor union or racist... Similarly, military organizations and the Boy Scotts of America are excluded from renting exhibit space at the NEA Annual Meetings because of the positions those organizations take with regard to gay and lesbian rights. The analogy is persuasive because NEA rejected PFOX’s application not based on their personal traits, but rather because of PFOX’s mission and message. Certainly, other exhibitors at EXPO 2002 were homosexuals or heterosexuals, like the members of PFOX, but they were distinguishable from PFOX because the other exhibitors presented exhibits the NEA deemed to be agreement with its policies. Thus, PFOX’s arguments miss the point. The NEA did not reject its application because PFOX’s members include exgays, homosexuals, heterosexuals, or members of any other sexual orientation. Rather, NEA rejected PFOX’s application because PFOX’s message and policies were, in NEA’s opinion, contrary to NEA’s policies regarding sexual orientation.

May 14, 2010 9:53 AM  
Blogger BlackTsunami said...

Thanks Aunt Bea.

And one more thing - I don't think it's mentioned in the post - but a member of the ACP and NARTH is our favorite seeker of luggage lifters, George Rekers. Rekers has resigned from NARTH and subsequently from the ACP.

May 16, 2010 5:47 PM  

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