When parents in the Philadelphia School District received an official calendar recently marking October as Gay and Lesbian History Month, they were confronted with a trend that is gathering momentum in many countries. In Victoria, Australia, family groups are up in arms over instructions to celebrate homosexuality in the classroom to counteract “homophobic bullying”. Something similar is happening in England, where new sexual orientation laws may force primary school teachers to make books such as Hello Sailor and Daddy's Roommate available in class.
Challenges to these moves are occurring in forums ranging from school board meetings to the courts, but parents are losing ground. And yet, says a psychiatrist who specialises in this field, the health and even the lives of their children may be at stake. In this interview with MercatorNet, Richard P Fitzgibbons MD explains why — and what can really help children vulnerable to same-sex attraction.
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MercatorNet: Any health intervention these days requires informed consent. Does this apply to the promotion of homosexuality in schools?
Rick Fitzgibbons: It's a matter of great concern that educators are presenting homosexuality and same sex attraction to young people as a healthy lifestyle when the medical literature shows it is not. Numerous studies show an inability to maintain a commitment, rampant promiscuity and resultant serious depressive illness. In his book, The Sexual Organisation of the City, E. Laumann reported that among homosexuals in five urban areas the average length of a relationship was six months. M. Xiridou in 2003 reported that a long-term relationship among those he studied was 18 months, and overall they had an average of 18 to 26 partners per year. Consequently, due to AIDS and other diseases sexually active homosexual and bisexual males can lose up to 20 years of life expectancy.
The inability to maintain commitment and promiscuity contribute to sadness, anger and mistrust leading to hopelessness and suicidal ideation. Many studies also demonstrate that these conflicts lead to a high prevalence of abuse in same sex relationships which is not communicated to students. In 1999 three very well-designed studies were published in the Archives of General Psychiatry — one from New Zealand, one from the Netherlands and one on twins. These showed there is a much greater prevalence of psychiatric disorders among homosexual population — more than six times the general risk of suicide among young adults.
Dr John Diggs has assembled overwhelming medical evidence on the serious health risks of the lifestyle in his article, “The Risks of Gay Sex”. And yet young people are not being informed about this. They are being denied the truth. Instead, they are told being homosexual is as normal as the heterosexual lifestyle. It really seems that educators are teaching bad science and that political correctness is trumping science here.
Now, it's not clear whether teachers are bound by informed consent principles legally, but school psychologists certainly are. I would say the schools, particularly school psychologists, are very vulnerable to litigation if they don't inform young people, as well as principals and school superintendants, about the serious health risks associated with the homosexual lifestyle. Some people are working to warn national organisations of school psychologists of their liability if they fail to provide informed consent to students.
MercatorNet: Are teachers the best group to be dealing with this subject?
Dr Fitzgibbons: Evidently not. Dr Charol Shakeshaft of Hofstra University, the leading expert on public school sexual misconduct in the United States, has testified that 7 per cent of students nationally report being victims of sexual abuse by an employee of a public school. In 1998 the US Department of Justice reported 103,000 credible cases of sexual abuse by public school employees against children. This is a higher rate than any other professional group, and much higher, by the way, than that of the Catholic clergy. So it should be of the greatest concern to parents, school boards, school superintendents and elected officials that this profession is the one leading the homosexual agenda against children.
Again, if these educators knew the medical and psychological studies of the serious health risks associated with homosexuality one would hope that they would stop teaching that the lifestyle is equal with heterosexuality. My own view is that among educators much of the homosexual agenda is driven by a hostility towards Judaeo-Christian morality. Many believe a similar dynamic of secular fundamentalism is present among health professionals, members of the media, as well as those in the legislative and judicial branches of government. They may all be using this issue to attempt to undermine Judaeo-Christian morality in the culture and particularly among the young.
MercatorNet: Is there a problem with a young person's identifying as gay or lesbian while still in high school? Can same-sex attraction be a phase or a fad at this age?
Dr Fitzgibbons: Yes, there is a fair amount of research showing that same-sex attraction (SSA) is not something that is locked in at a certain stage, but it can be fluid and actually change over the course of a person's life. But young people are being told by educators, the media and health professionals that SSA is genetic so they will be that way for the rest of their lives. In fact, there is no proof that it's genetic. If it were, then all identical twins should be completely concordant for homosexuality, and no study has shown more than 50 per cent concordance. Last year the first genome scan of male sexual orientation was published in Human Genetics (No. 116) and the conclusion was there is no genetic basis.
The thing that troubles me greatly is that in asking young people to embrace a particular identity at an early age they're denying that child the right to self-knowledge. It's easier to think, “Oh, I have same sex attractions,” rather than, “I was deeply lonely for a male friend when I was growing up,” or, “I was too afraid to trust men, to trust my father.”
Another issue is the danger of entering a relationship where you use another human being as a sexual object. A utilitarian sexual philosophy permeates the homosexual lifestyle, as evidenced by numerous studies which document a high level of promiscuity, and it can be very traumatic for a young person to be repeatedly used sexually by another person. Ultimately this trauma can lead to severe depressive illness and even suicidal ideation and excessive anger with abuse of others in the lifestyle.
MercatorNet: One reads various claims about the prevalence of homosexuality in the population. A Philadelphia group said 5 to 6 per cent. What does the research show?
Dr Fitzgibbons: Numerous international studies put it at 1-3 per cent. In a study of 5,898 adults in the Netherlands by T. Sandfort only 2.1 identified themselves as homosexual. Among 15,705 adults with a median age of 35, B. Cochran found less than one per cent were homosexual: 0.99 per cent of males and 0.75 of females.
MercatorNet: What factors prepare the ground for same sex attraction in an adolescent?
Dr Fitzgibbons: There are a number — weak confidence in one's masculinity, poor body image, being sexually abused, father conflicts, mother conflicts… Many people with SSA report significant same sex peer rejection. The major issue we've found among adolescent males is a terrible loneliness because of lack of male friendships, and this may sound strange, but it's usually because of a lack of eye-hand co-ordination. It's referred to as the sports wound. If a little boy by age 3 or 4 doesn't have eye-hand co-ordination, by age 7 most of his friends are females; he doesn't feel confident to enter into the male world and fears being rejected. And then by age 10 or 12 they begin to be attracted to males who have the body and the physical abilities they so desperately want.
As an aside, my personal belief is that there may be a series of genes that influence eye-hand co-ordination, because there are some males who really try to learn it and they just can't seem to develop it.
At national meetings of Courage or PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays) where there are several hundred men (and some women) who are struggling with same sex attractions, I've asked how many played sports as boys. In some cases no more than five men in the audience raised their hands.
A father conflict may develop here. If a boy is not good at sports, many fathers simply don't know how to bond with the boy. So we coach fathers to do other things with their son — go fishing, spend time doing the things he enjoys, always affirming his masculinity and getting him to realise that his masculinity is not determined by his body or by sports ability but by virtue — courage, wanting to protect others and so on.
It's wonderful when fathers can really bond with these boys. Every male is looking for his father's approval, and if the father lacked this from his own father then he has to transcend that somehow. If he has faith he can ask the Lord to make him more giving and affirming than his father was.
MercatorNet: What about girls?
Dr Fitzgibbons: With females it's usually different. The most common cause of SSA in females, we find, is a mistrust of male love. Their fathers may have been overly angry, alcoholics, left their mothers, were narcissistic — and they've becomeafraid of male love. Some women with SSA report the absence of a close mother relationship. There's also more fluidity between homosexual and heterosexual relationships with the women, because there is a significant amount of abuse among female SSA relationships — emotional abuse, physical abuse — and they find they feel safer with the men. And it's is easier for a woman to move out, whereas for men it has a lot more to do with their masculine identity.
In addition to all of that, there is the issue of gender identity disorder in children. I'm referring, mainly, to little boys who act feminine. In our practice we find that when fathers get very involved in the lives of these boys, teaching them how to kick a soccer ball at an early age — 4 or 5 — these children over the course of a year or two can change remarkably. They begin to feel comfortable with their masculinity, confident to fit in with other boys, and in many cases their effeminate mannerisms resolve. Not surprisingly, political correctness is leading many mental health professsionals to try to remove the GID diagnosis from the diagnostic manual (DSM IV R) in spite of the serious suffering in these children and good prognosis with effective treatment.
MercatorNet: Even in adult life can one's sexual attraction can be changed successfully?
Dr Fitzgibbons: Yes it can. The major evidence here is Robert Spitzer's study published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour, October 2004. This is very significant because Spitzer led the taskforce which removed homosexuality from the diagnostic manual of psychiatry in 1973. Thirty years later he was going to a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in Washington where there was an attempt to pass a resolution that no one should be allowed to treat patients with unwanted SSA. Outside there were people who had overcome their same sex attractions who were picketing and he walked over and talked to them. They said, “Study us.” Spitzer, a professor at Columbia University, said, “All right, I'll study you.” Among 200 men and women out of the lifestyle at least five years, he found 61 per cent of the males and 44 per cent of the females met criteria for good heterosexual functioning. His conclusion was that people have the right to pursue their heterosexual potential.
My own clinical experience is this. If there's significant self-knowledge, forgiveness of offenders in one's life and a spiritual component to the treatment, as there is in the treatment of compulsive behaviours in substance abuse disorders — in Alcoholics Anonymous, for example — we find the emotional pain that causes the SSA can be healed. A person thinks he is powerless over his emotional pain and compulsive behaviours, turns them over to God and begins to practice meditation — which is also used now in the treatment of hypertension and coronary artery disease — for 15 minutes twice daily, with the help of a spiritual director.
It's a process in which the adolescent or college student works at understanding those who have hurt or rejected him, and works at forgiving them. Then, as well, if they can grow in the sense that God is a loving Father and Christ is their friend and brother, the inner emptiness can be filled, the loneliness healed and the confidence strengthened. No longer does the person feel angry with his father or peers for not building or for damaging male confidence. Instead, he appreciates that his male gifts and identity are special, God-given and meant for a particular mission in life.
Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons is a psychiatrist and Director of Comprehensive Counselling Services in W. Conshohocken, Pennsylvania and was a major contributor to Homosexuality and Hope, published by the Catholic Medical Association of the United States.