Anti-Gay Pediatrician Group Condemns School Support of GLBT Youth

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday April 8, 2010

A group of pediatricians with religious objections to gays have founded their own organization and have sent a letter and "fact sheet" about youth sexuality to each of the nation's school superintendents--nearly 15,000 in all.

The group's 15 members call their organization American College of Pediatricians. The stance taken by the group contradicts the official position of the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics, in that it claims that GLBT youth are simply passing through a "transient phase," and that homosexuality can be reversed or "cured." Although it is not uncommon for heterosexual adolescents to experiment, their sexuality becomes clear soon enough; gay and lesbian youth go through the same process.

There is no evidence, however, that "confused" youths can be "converted" in homosexuals--or that gay teens can be "cured." So-called "ex gays" claim that they have been "converted" to heterosexuality, but many of them also say that they continue to "struggle" with homosexual feelings and impulses, and others say that they have suppressed their same-sex urges--but only at the cost of suppressing their sexual desire completely.

A few do report that they have switched from homosexuality to heterosexuality, but what is unclear is whether those individuals might be naturally bisexual--or whether they were ever anything other than heterosexual to begin with.

"It would be accurate to describe this organization as a vehicle through which a small minority of anti-gay doctors advocate in opposition to gay rights, abortion rights, and euthanasia," an April 5 Box Turtle Bulletin article said of the newly formed 15-member organization. The article also traced the group's origins: "In 2002, the American Academy of Pediatrics, an association of 60,000 pediatricians, voted to adopt a position in support of gay parents. Six pediatricians who opposed this policy on religious grounds rallied like-minded friends and, on October 19th, about 15 people founded the American College of Pediatricians."

Text at the group's official website seems innocuous enough, with statements such as, "An Objective of the College is to cultivate and encourage parental responsibility for and involvement in the child's life," and "Pediatricians and other health professionals caring for children need reliable information to deliver the best care for children." But one section of the site is dedicated to drawing the attention of "Policy Makers," and the group's "Pediatric Psychosocial Development Committee" includes an array of individuals closely associated with anti-group NARTH, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality--including NARTH's founder, Joe Nicolosi, and Dean Byrd, who has served as a NARTH president as well as being associated with Evergreen, a group for "ex-gay" Mormons, Box Turtle Bulletin reported.

Another member, Arthur Goldberg, also served on NARTH's board--but even that organization would not have him once it was revealed that Goldman had a felony record. Two others have ties to Paul Cameron, an anti-gay activist and the founder of the Scientific Investigation of Sexuality, the forerunner of the anti-gay Family Research Institute. Cameron, who claims to be a researcher, was expelled from the ranks of the American Psychological Association in 1983 in connection with an ethics probe. Cameron's research has attempted to show that gays are prone to earlier deaths, though his methodology has drawn criticism from epidemiologists; among other research methods, Cameron relied upon a survey of obituaries in gay newspapers. Cameron has also asserted, in contradiction to statistical fact, that child sexual abuse is typically committed by gays when, in fact, over 90% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are heterosexual.

Anti-Gay Fruit Falls Near the Tree

"With connections this deep to an organization whose primary function is to generate anti-gay propaganda masquerading as scientific research, it should not be too surprising that the American College of Pediatrics [sic] uses the same tactics," the Box Turtle Bulletin article said. "Their letter to the schools is rife with lies, misrepresentations, distortions and outright fraud. In fact, there is little there that has any distant relationship to truth."

But the anti-gay Liberty Counsel, in an April 7 posting to the group's website, hailed the outreach made by the American College of Pediatricians to the nation's school district superintendents.

"There is no scientific evidence that anyone is born homosexual," the Liberty Counsel website's posting declares. "Therefore, the College further advises that schools should not teach or imply to students that homosexual attraction is innate, always life-long, and unchangeable. To the contrary, research has shown that therapy to restore heterosexual attraction can be effective for many people."

The posting went on to criticize, albeit obliquely, efforts by safe schools groups to promote tolerance and acceptance of GLBT youth in the nation's educational system. "It is not the school's role to diagnose or attempt to treat any student's medical condition, and certainly not the school's role to 'affirm' a student's perceived personal sexual orientation," the text stated. "The [College's] 'Facts About Youth' website counters the propaganda published by the pro-homosexual pamphlet called 'Just the Facts,' which is riddled with inaccuracies."

The pamphlet in question, Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth, is intended as "A Primer for Principals, Educators, and School Personnel." It is endorsed by a long list of credible professional organizations, including The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Education Association, among more than half a dozen others.

On page 2, Just the Facts noted, "Typically, sexual orientation conversion therapy is promoted by providers who have close ties to religious institutions and organizations." Science, however, suggests that attempts to "cure" gays are not helpful and may be harmful. The American Medical Association has adopted a resolution to "oppose any psychiatric treatment, such as 'reparative' or 'conversion' therapy," and other professional health groups--including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Counseling Association, have similarly rejected such therapies. Moreover, the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973.

Moreover, the American Academy of Pediatrics provides a lengthy list of peer-reviewed publications that address issues of sexual orientation in youth; the publications encourage that adults, such as parents, listen to, understand, and accept a young person's own perspective on his or her sexual orientation and gender identity.

Even so, the founder of Liberty Counsel, Matthew Staver, was quoted in the text as saying, "Public schools can harm students by suggesting that same-sex attractions are natural and unchangeable. Research shows that youth who experience sexual confusion often do so only for a temporary period. To suggest to a student that temporary sexual confusion means the person is homosexual can be damaging and harmful."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.