Educating our children

The state-funded Massachusetts Commission on Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) Youth recently met in Brockton to plan how to present the gay activists’ view of sexual identity in public schools of the state.

Students will be exposed to pro-GLBT programs at every level from kindergarten to the graduate school. Since the programs challenge in various ways Catholic teaching, it is important for parents to be in possession of the facts necessary to answer their children’s inevitable questions.

First, persons with same-sex attraction may believe that they were born that way, but there is no scientific evidence that same-sex attraction is genetically pre-determined. If it were, one would expect that identical twins would virtually always have the same pattern of sexual attraction. In the largest study of sexual attraction patterns in identical twins (287 pairs of male identical twins), there were 24 pairs of men where only one had predominant same-sex attraction and only 3 pairs in which both did (11 percent). This precludes a purely genetic cause.

Each person with same-sex attraction has his or her own unique personal history. It is therefore unlikely that we will find a single cause for same-sex attraction. We do know that many, but not all, suffered from a gender identity disorder as children. This failure to identify with one’s own sex leads to loneliness and isolation. According to experts in the field Dr. Kenneth Zucker and Susan Bradley, these children have many other problems beside gender identity disorder. When gender identity disorder is identified early and treated, it can be resolved.

In addition, an extremely high percentage of persons who experience same-sex attraction later in life were victims of sexual molestation or abuse as children.

A large study of sexual behavior found that while many people are confused about their sexual identity and think they are gay or lesbian as adolescents, the percentage who self identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual declines sharply when these individuals reach their mid-20s.

Some teenagers self-identify as “gay” because they see it as a way of achieving “status.” One boy told his teacher that it was better to be gay than to be considered a nerd. Other teens proclaim themselves gay or lesbian as an act of rebellion against parental authority. Still others are seduced into same-sex activity by friends or adults.

All this suggests that encouraging adolescents or even younger children to “come out” is not in the child’s best interests. Rather than turning troubled adolescents over to activists who will encourage them to experiment sexually, such children could receive appropriate counseling to deal with underlying problems.

Active involvement in the gay community poses a number of risks, particularly for adolescent males. Drug and alcohol abuse are extremely common. In spite of decades of “safe” sex education, the gay male community continues to suffer from an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases. Crystal methamphetamine abuse is widespread and causing concern among health care professionals. Given the irresponsibility of adolescent boys in general, everything possible should be done to protect them from these risks.

The question of promoting “transgender” identity is even more problematic. While complicated and dangerous surgery and drug regimes can change the outward appearance of a person’s body and courts can issue altered birth certificates, no one can change their sex. Our sexual identity (male or female) is written on every cell of our bodies.

Dr. Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins University, where the so-called “sex change” operations were promoted in the past, looked into the results of such treatments when he took over. He found the claims unconvincing and discontinued the practice. He wrote:

“As for the adults who came to us claiming to have discovered their ‘true’ sexual identity and to have heard about sex-change operations, we psychiatrists have been distracted from studying the causes and natures of their mental misdirections by preparing them for surgery and for a life in the sex. We have wasted scientific and technical resources and damaged our professional credibility by collaborating with madness rather than trying to study, cure, and ultimately prevent it.”

Parents, in explaining these facts to their children, must be careful to recognize that children desire to be compassionate when presented with stories of suffering.

Persons with same-sex attraction, gender identity disorders, or a history of sexual abuse deserve compassion. They did not choose these problems and they don’t know how to change themselves, but this does not require us to turn these troubled children over to activists who would blame all problems on an oppressive society, rather than look for underlying causes and positive interventions.

Children should be admonished to avoid cruel language or abusive behavior, but compassion does not require them to accept that unscientific claims. We can encourage our children to pray for troubled classmates making it clear that God loves each of us and calls us all to freedom.

Given the current situation in Massachusetts, every parent needs to be able to respond to their children’s questions with facts, with compassion and without compromising the truth.

Dale O’Leary is an internationally recognized lecturer and author of “The Gender Agenda: Redefining Equality.”