As someone who spent years at a private school where I was constantly bombarded with "alternatives" to the "devious lifestyle" I apparently had chosen to live by being openly gay, I know firsthand how disruptive and disheartening any type of "anti-gay" program can be to an adolescent. This is a time where we seek nothing more than to be accepted by our peers and respected by our superiors. We already have to deal with the constant taunting of others, constantly degrading us for not fitting their ideas of social norms. So to have school officials legitimatize the prejudice and intolerance that LGBTQ students already face is devastating.
But that is exactly what the American College of Pediatricians (ACPEDS) is encouraging schools to do. ACPEDS is a fringe group of anti-LGBTQ doctors once advised by George Rekers, an expert witness who has defended anti-gay parenting laws in ACLU challenges to those laws in Arkansas and Florida, and who recently made headlines for allegedly hiring a young man through Rentboy.com to "carry his luggage" on a European vacation. ACPEDS, not to be confused with the 60,000 member American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), issued a letter at the end of March to every school district superintendent in the country containing misinformation about sexual orientation and gender identity and promoting unsupported and potentially dangerous "reparative therapies" for LGBTQ students. The letter refers educators to the ACPEDS' website and "fact card," which incorrectly assert, among other things, that:
- "most students (over 85 percent) with same-sex attractions will ultimately adopt a heterosexual orientation if not otherwise encouraged,"
- "sexual reorientation therapy has proven effective for those with unwanted homosexual attractions," and
- students who "claim a 'gay' identity" increase their health risks, including "higher rates of sexually transmitted infections, alcoholism, substance abuse, anxiety, depression and suicide", simply by proclaiming their sexual orientation.
The "fact card" was developed with the intention to counter a publication for educators entitled, "Just the Facts about Sexual Orientation and Youth," which was published by the American Psychological Association (APA), AAP, and 11 other national education, health, mental health and religious organizations. The APA and AAP, along with the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association and other mainstream mental health and medical groups, have denounced reparative therapy, stating that there is no evidence that reparative therapy is successful and that the practice may in fact be harmful to those who undergo it.
However there are those who are determined to propagate false information, and the possibility that some school officials may even consider implementing this potentially dangerous so-called "therapy" should drive the LGBTQ community and its allies to be vigilant. The best way to combat this misinformation is to arm yourself with the facts.
To see what other organizations are saying about the ACPEDS letter to superintendents, check out:
- "Bogus Pediatrician Organization Promotes 'Reparative Therapy' to School Superintendents," Gay & Lesbian Medical Association
- "Dubious Medical Association Encourages Educators to Consult Anti-LGBTQ Internet Site," Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States
- "Don't Be Fooled," National School Boards Association
For more information about the formation of ACPEDS, see:
- "Too High a Price: The Case Against Restricting Gay Parenting," ACLU, page 19
And for additional accurate information about appropriate policies to address the challenges facing LGBTQ youth in schools, see:
- "Strengthening the Learning Environment: A School Employee's Guide to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues," National Education Association
Adolescence is a time of great adjustment for many people and can lead to a lot of emotional turmoil. Normal day-to-day activities can be emotionally taxing as you struggle with all the changes you are confronted with. Places where you used to feel safe are now the last places you want to be. All we're striving for is some sense of stability and normality. No one wants to be ostracized or made to feel as if something is wrong with them. What ACPEDS is doing is enabling and encouraging such behavior from school officials. These "reparative therapies" can make going to school a harrowing experience that would just add to the suffering of some LGBTQ students. The fact that these are medical professionals makes this situation particularly disheartening. Going to school shouldn't feel like stepping into a psychiatric ward to be "treated" for being yourself.