ACP: Schools should not affirm students' perceived sexual orientation

In a recent letter sent to school superintendents throughout the country, the American College of Pediatricians (ACP) cautioned that it is “not a school’s role to 'affirm' a student’s perceived personal sexual orientation.” The ACP also said that “rigorous studies” show that children and adolescents who initially experience gender confusion or same sex attraction no longer do so by the age of 25.

On March 31, ACP president Dr. Tom Benton wrote to schools across the U.S., saying that he and his staff are “increasingly concerned” that “many cases and efforts to help students who exhibit same sex attractions and/or gender confusion are based on incomplete or inaccurate information.”

“Adolescence is a time of upheaval and impermanence,” Benton wrote. “Adolescents experience confusion about many things, including sexual orientation and gender identity, and they are particularly vulnerable to environmental influences.”

“Rigorous studies demonstrate that most adolescents who initially experience same-sex attraction, or are sexually confused, no longer experience such attractions by age 25,” he added. In one study, Benton said as many as 26% of 12-year-olds reported being unsure of their sexual orientation but only 2-3% of adults actually identify themselves as homosexual. “Therefore, the majority of sexually-questioning youth ultimately adopt a heterosexual identity,” Benton deduced.

“Even children with Gender Identity Disorder (when a child desires to be the opposite sex) will typically lose this desire by puberty, if the behavior is not reinforced,” he told the school superintendents.

Benton wrote that researchers “also maintain that when parents or others allow or encourage a child to behave and be treated as the opposite sex, the confusion is reinforced and the child is conditioned for a life of unnecessary pain and suffering. Even when motivated by noble intentions, schools can ironically play a detrimental role if they reinforce this disorder.”

Furthermore, “in dealing with adolescents experiencing same-sex attraction,” Benton advised, “it is essential to understand there is no scientific evidence that an individual is born 'gay' or 'transgender.' Instead, the best available research points to multiple factors - primarily social and familial – that predispose children and adolescents to homosexual attraction and/or gender confusion. It is also critical to understand that these conditions can respond well to therapy.”

Benton cited a recently released “landmark” survey by the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) which compiled analysis of 125 years of scientific studies and clinical experience dealing with homosexuality.

According to Benton, the NARTH report, titled “What Research Shows,” makes three significant observations. The first is that “individuals with unwanted same sex attraction often can be successfully treated,” and the second is that “there is no undue risk to patients from embarking on such therapy.” The third observation, wrote the ACP president, is that “as a group, homosexual experience significantly higher levels of mental and physical health problems compared to heterosexuals.”

“Among adolescents who claim a 'gay' identity,” Benton noted, “the health risks include higher rates of sexually transmitted infections, alcoholism, substance abuse, anxiety, depression and suicide. Encouragingly, the longer students delay self-labeling as 'gay,' the less likely they are to experience these health risks. In fact, for each year an adolescent delays, the risk of suicide alone decreases by 20%.”

“In light of these facts,” he warned, “it is clear that when well-intentioned but misinformed school personnel encourage students to 'comeout as gay' and be 'affirmed,' there is a serious risk of erroneously labeling students (who may merely be experiencing transient sexual confusion and/or engaging in sexual experimentation).”

“Premature labeling may then lead some adolescents into harmful homosexual behaviors that they otherwise would not pursue.”

Drawing his letter to a close, the ACP president said, it “is the school’s legitimate role to provide a safe environment for respectful self-expression for all students.” However, it “is not the school’s role to diagnose and attempt to treat any student’s medical condition, and certainly not a school’s role to 'affirm' a student’s perceived personal sexual orientation,” he added. “It is critical to the health of your students that you and your staff rely on accurate information regarding sexual orientation and gender confusion issues.”

Welcoming the facts cited in the letter, Christine de Vollmer, president of Alliance for the Family, said on Friday that it “is wonderful to have this made absolutely clear, and so much well-meaning but ill-placed ‘acceptance’ put into proper perspective.”

De Vollmer serves as leader of ALAFA (Alianza Latino Americano para la Familia), which has created a 12-year curriculum for students called Alive to the World to provide “clear guidelines for understanding and accompanying children and adolescents through the various psychological stages to maturity.”

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