A group of American paediatricians concerned about policies that encourage teenagers to think positively about same-sex attraction has set up the website FactsAboutYouth.com and sent a letter to the superintendents of all public schools in the United States.

This initiative of the American College of Pediatricians expressly refutes a publication — Just the Facts about Youth and Sexual Orientation — of the American Psychological Association mailed to all schools in 2008. It also differs from the position taken by the main professional body of paediatricians, the AAP, which emphasises the “normality” of same-sex attraction.

In its letter the ACP points out that confusion about sexual identity is not uncommon in adolescence, but rigorous studies show that same-sex attractions usually disappear by the age of 25. Even children with gender identity disorder (when a child desires to be the opposite sex) will typically lose this desire by puberty if the behaviour is not reinforced, says the ACP, and there is no scientific evidence that an individual is born “gay” or “transgender”.

In light of these facts, it is clear that when well-intentioned but misinformed school personnel encourage students to “come out 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.

Optimal health and respect for all students will only be achieved by first respecting the rights of students and parents to accurate information and to self-determination. It is the school’s legitimate role to provide a safe environment for respectful self-expression for all students. 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.

FactsAboutYouth.com looks like a very useful website, providing some balance in an issue which can be very divisive in school communities.

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet