A group of pediatricians that broke away from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is cautioning educators about the management of students experiencing same-sex attraction or exhibiting symptoms of gender confusion.
The American College of Pediatricians (ACPEDS) is especially reminding school superintendents that it is not uncommon for adolescents to experience transient confusion about their sexual orientation and that most students will ultimately adopt a heterosexual orientation if not otherwise encouraged.
"Adolescence is a time of upheaval and impermanence," writes ACPEDS President Dr. Tom Benton in a letter to school superintendents outlining his group's concerns. "Adolescents experience confusion about many things, including sexual orientation and gender identity, and they are particularly vulnerable to environmental influences."
For this reason, ACPEDS says schools should not seek to develop policy which "affirms" or encourages non-heterosexual attractions among students who may merely be experimenting or experiencing temporary sexual confusion.
Such premature labeling, the group adds, can lead some adolescents to engage in homosexual behaviors that carry serious physical and mental health risks.
"[I]t 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)," Benton says.
"Premature labeling may then lead some adolescents into harmful homosexual behaviors that they otherwise would not pursue," he adds.
To make his point, Benton notes one study that was published in the official journal of the AAP in 1992 that found as many as 26 percent of 12-year-olds having reported being uncertain of their sexual orientation. Notably, only 2-3 percent of adults today identify themselves as homosexual.
"Rigorous studies demonstrate that most adolescents who initially experience same-sex attraction, or are sexually confused, no longer experience such attractions by age 25," Benton writes.
Over 85 percent of students with same-sex attractions will ultimately adopt a heterosexual orientation, according to ACPEDS.
Furthermore, Benton notes the absence of scientific evidence that an individual is born "gay" or "transgender."
"Homosexuality is not a genetically-determined, unchangeable trait," the ACPEDS asserts.
Instead, Benton says the best available research points to multiple factors – primarily social and familial – that predispose children and adolescents to homosexual attraction and/or gender confusion.
"Dr. Francis Collins, former Director of the Genome Project, has stated that while homosexuality may be genetically influenced, it is '… not hardwired by DNA, and that whatever genes are involved represent predispositions, not predeterminations,'" Benton notes, citing one of the world's leading geneticists. "He (Collins) also states [that] '…the prominent role[s] of individual free will choices [has] a profound effect on us.'"
In light of these and other facts, the ACPEDS is reminding schools that its legitimate role is 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, they add.
To assist educators in establishing the optimal school environment, ACPEDS has created a website,
www.FactsAboutYouth.com, that provides information about healthy approaches to students experiencing sexual orientation and gender identity confusion.
ACPEDS was officially formed in 2002 in response to what they say was a "disturbing" shift in focus within the AAP from the needs of children to political correctness and the wants of adults.
For ACPEDS, the breaking point came when the AAP rejected a resolution calling for it to "suspend any support for homosexual or same sex (co-parent) adoption until longitudinal, well designed, case controlled studies of statistically adequate sample size exist which can confirm that such arrangements are truly in the best interests of the children involved."
Presently, the mission of ACPEDS is to enable all children to reach their optimal physical and emotional health and well-being.