Adolescence is a time of upheaval and impermanence. Adolescents experience confusion about many things, including sexual orientation and gender identity, and they are particularly vulnerable to environmental influences.

Rigorous studies demonstrate that most adolescents who initially experience same-sex attraction, or are sexually confused, no longer experience such attractions by age 25. In one study, as many as 26% of 12-year-olds reported being uncertain of their sexual orientation1, yet only 2-3% of adults actually identify themselves as homosexual.2 Therefore, the majority of sexually-questioning youth ultimately adopt a heterosexual identity.

Even children with Gender Identity Disorder (when a child desires to be the opposite sex) will typically lose this desire by puberty, if the behavior is not reinforced.3 Researchers, Zucker and Bradley, also maintain that when parents or others allow or encourage a child to behave and be treated as the opposite sex, the confusion is reinforced and the child is conditioned for a life of unnecessary pain and suffering. Even when motivated by noble intentions, schools can ironically play a detrimental role if they reinforce this disorder.

In light of these facts, it is clear that if 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 condition, especially by “affirming” a student’s perceived personal sexual orientation.

References

[1] Laumann, et.al. (1994). The social organization of sexuality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

[2] Remafedi, et.al. (1992). Demography of sexual orientation in adolescents. Pediatrics, 89 (4) pt. 2, 74-721.

[3] Zucker, K.J. (2006) Gender Identity Disorder, p. 535-562. In David Wolfe & Eric Mash (eds.), Behavioral and Emotional Disorders in Adolescents (pp.535-562). New York: Guilford.