Dear Dr. Collins:

Facts About Youth (Facts) is a project of a coalition of pediatricians, other physicians, healthcare providers and mental health professionals with the goal of promoting what is “the best for children.”  Our training is in child and adolescent health and our concern is for all which can affect their well-being. A member of the coalition, the American College of Pediatricians (the College), enlisted the aid of its Pediatric Psychosocial Development Committee, an external sub-committee consisting of mental health professionals with expertise in the treatment of unwanted same-sex attractions in youth.  This subcommittee reviewed and assisted in the composition of the letter to which you refer on the NIH website.

The College acknowledges your distinguished academic career as a genetics research scientist but is unaware of your qualifications in adolescent health, adolescent psychology or infectious disease. It is puzzling then that you dismissed the studies presented from these and related areas as “misleading and incorrect.”  If our understanding of your professional background is incomplete, please clarify for us, by letter and on your website, your specific education and experience in the theory and practice of adolescent health, psychology or infectious disease that allows you to criticize and dismiss the work of qualified professionals in these fields.

As stated in our Facts materials, the goal of the expert coalition assembled for the March 31, 2010 mailing was to help educators and others provide the most healthful environment for students.   The reason it was essential to send our letter and create the Facts about Youth website is that in 2008 these same individuals received a biased, special-interest agenda-based mailing from others promoting a number of practices of concern, including the premature labeling of youth as same-sex oriented.

Essential to achieving the goal of a healthful environment for students is ensuring that the students themselves and all who interact with them, especially their parents and school personnel, have access to the most factual information and best resources available on these issues.  We were very careful to ensure that everything we presented in the letter and the accompanying fact sheets as well as on the Web site, meets these criteria.  This is why all our work is extensively referenced.

My colleagues and I were therefore surprised to read your broadly sweeping, imprecise and astonishingly vague statement.   As a general response, we particularly question the appropriateness of posting a statement about a book you wrote as a private individual on a taxpayer funded site.  We are also distressed that you would make such unsubstantiated and defamatory accusations without the courtesy of first contacting us concerning our efforts to promote “the best for children”, or failing that to provide the courtesy of providing even minimally detailed and specific criticisms of our mailing and the scientific studies we reference.  We further note that it also detracts from the prestige of the NIH for you as director to make such accusations and promulgate unsubstantiated opinion in the face of science based fact.

As you and other scientists are aware, no “gay gene” has been found. The American Psychological Association (APA) currently states that in its opinion “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles. …”

Do you think this APA statement is inaccurate?  If so, please provide us with a detailed critique of that statement, especially as it might apply to your area of expertise in genetics and the human genome.

In our letter to the superintendants we wrote that you stated that sexual orientation is “not hardwired by DNA, and that whatever genes are involved represent predispositions, not predeterminations.” We noted further that you acknowledged that “the prominent role[s] of individual free will choices [has] a profound effect on us.” Are these quotes accurate?  If they are accurate please publish that information on the NIH website. If no longer accurate please detail what your subsequent personal bench research has determined to be the genetic determinant of homosexuality.

We also request that you provide to the coalition your detailed concerns about some of the key points in our mailing.  Of greatest concern to us is the danger of premature labeling of adolescents by the school as same sex attracted, and the harm that can be done to children exhibiting Gender Identity Disorder by failing to recognize the research that shows the majority of them will typically lose this desire as they mature — if the behavior is not reinforced.  Do you agree or disagree with these concerns?  If you disagree, please provide us with citations to the scientific literature that support your position.

You have also stated that “It is disturbing for me to see special interest groups distort my scientific observations to make a point against homosexuality.” The letter to school superintendents does not “make a point against homosexuality.” It warns of very real and well documented risks of premature labeling and is designed to inform and protect all youth.  As pediatricians and other health professionals we have an ethical and professional responsibility to warn about the problems inherent in allowing special interest groups to encourage young people to self label their sexual orientation. The teen years, as recognized even by lay individuals, are a time of experimentation. They should not be a time of premature labeling — no matter how attractive this concept is to alternative lifestyle advocacy groups, especially when research shows that such labeling can lead to increased risk of suicide and a range of other health problems.  These health risks have been well documented by the CDC, a recognized authority.    It is for this reason that we relied heavily on their information in preparing our fact sheet and included an actual CDC risk sheet in our mailing.  Please tell us why you consider this CDC material and fact sheet to be “misleading and incorrect,” and specifically which items you have scientifically determined to be incorrect.

We also would like to know if you agree that it is appropriate for physicians to warn of risks.  For instance, we know that the NIH finds it acceptable to warn of risks for smoking and alcohol abuse. Those warnings certainly do not “make a point against such users”. Instead they satisfy your duty as a physician and head of a medical institution — which is to help save lives by warning of risks.  Please inform us if you believe otherwise.

You state that “it is particularly troubling that they {the College} are distributing it in a way that will confuse school children and their parents” Please provide an explanation for why this might be “confusing.” As we have noted, it has been particularly troubling  to witness “special interest/alternative lifestyle advocacy groups” falsely tell children and vulnerable youth that they have no choice in their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and that their genes are dictating their destiny. As another coalition published this misinformation to the schools, we are puzzled why you don’t see the need for our response.   If you find fault with this logic please so inform us by letter and on your website.  Please produce the science to prove that it is not appropriate for the coalition to inform youth, their families and the schools that they (youth) are not predestined by their genetic code to homosexuality.

If you are unable or unwilling to respond in detail and with appropriate documentation to all of the concerns we have raised in this letter about your statement, we request that you issue a written retraction of your unfounded critique and also post it on the NIH website.

Sincerely,

Tom Benton, MD, FCP
President
American College of Pediatricians