Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Sex Ed Needs to Include Gay, Lesbian Teens

(Link) By categorizing homosexuality as a "values" issue, gay and lesbian kids are being slammed again by the faith-based abstinence-only school of sex ed -- which is still pushing reparative therapy.

1 comment:

LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:
Washington Blade

Casting sexual orientation into the realm of values does a disservice to all students, education and medical experts said during a forum regarding sex education curriculum standards for Montgomery County schools.

The public forum was held on Sunday at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and attended by about 100 community members. Teach The Facts, a group of Montgomery County parents who support inclusive health education, played host to the forum.

“Sexual orientation is not a matter of truth,” said Christine Grewell, co-founder of Teach The Facts. “To state that some people are homosexual does not promote it — it states a fact.”

Teach The Facts was organized in support of the sex education curriculum approved by the county’s board of education in 2004. Teach The Facts officials said they considered the proposed curriculum to be comprehensive and inclusive.

Two other groups, Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum and Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays, thought the proposed curriculum “affirmed” homosexuality and disparaged religious views on it. Those two groups brought a lawsuit against the board of education. The case was settled out of court.

The board has now scrapped the former curriculum and is starting anew with an advisory committee to offer advice on what the new curriculum should contain. The two sides are currently scuffling mightily to have their views represented during sex education classes.

Sunday’s panel included presentations by Roger Rigby, a former ex-gay, and Paul Wertsch, a physician and chair of the American Medical Association Advisory committee on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues.

Wertsch outlined the medical community’s current understanding of sexual orientation, which he said began to change after the Alfred Kinsey studies of human sexuality in the 1940s.

Kinsey was a vanguard in studying the sexual behavior of Americans by surveying thousands of people regarding their bedroom habits. Wertsch said Kinsey notated the occurrence of homosexual behavior and found it to be common and evenly spread among rural and urban areas.

“He tried to find people who had changed their sexual orientation, and could find none,” Wertsch said. Wertsch also said there was no evidence to suggest that sexual attraction could be changed.

“Genetics strongly influences if you’re going to be gay,” Wertsch said.

Wertsch referred to biological distinctions between gay men and lesbians and their straight counterparts that various studies have discovered over the years, which suggest that sexual orientation is innate.

He also discussed Dr. Robert Spitzer’s 2001 study on ex-gays, which seemed to show that some ex-gays could develop hetereosexual functioning within an opposite-sex relationship. The study was particularly surprising to the medical community because Spitzer was essential in getting the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality as a disease in 1973, Wertsch said. Wertsch also said that Spitzer’s study was flawed because of its methodology, which did not include asking the ex-gays’ spouses about their sexual behavior.

“There is no good scientific data to suggest that homosexuality can be changed,” Wertsch said.

Rigby, who currently works as a special education math teacher at Falls Church High School, said that he tried to live as an ex-gay from the time he was a teenager until 1998.

“During those 17 years, my life was a disaster,” Rigby said. He said that he experienced 19 visits to the hospital and two suicide attempts as he tried to grapple with the depression caused by repressing his sexual orientation.

“The reparative therapy only made this worse,” Rigby said. “It only reinforced the notion that something was fundamentally wrong with me.”

Rigby said that he wanted to become ex-gay because he thought being gay was wrong.

“I sincerely thought they were a bunch of perverts and sinners and wanted nothing to do with them,” Rigby said.

Rigby said he finally came out after beings suggested to do so in a sexual reorientation therapy session. He said the experience and effects of coming out has changed his life.

“My life has become remarkably stable and happy,” Rigby said.

Wanting to change

Regina Griggs, executive director of Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays, said that she remained doubtful that if an ex-gay, such as Rigby, really wanted to change, that he or she couldn’t.

“I feel sorry for him and I would feel sorry for anybody if they were truly working at whatever, some kind of a plan, and weren’t getting any better, why wouldn’t you change it?” Griggs said. “Why wouldn’t you go elsewhere?”

Griggs, who did attend the forum, said that the organizers of the forum were not tolerant of people who identify as ex-gay.

“To me, these are parents that cannot accept the fact that for some people, they develop these same-sex attractions and others can overcome them,” Griggs said.

Griggs said that Teach The Facts should respect others’ decision to become ex-gay. She referred to a new study by Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor at Grove City College, which is a liberal arts Christian college in Pennsylvania. The study of 28 ex-gays, which will be published in the Winter 2005 issue of the Journal of Psychology and Christianity, suggests that clients seeking sexual orientation therapy prefer therapists who agree to assist with their sexual reorientation goals.

She also said that not every doctor agrees with the American Medical Association’s understanding of homosexuality.

“None of all of these so-called mainstream organizations have ever put to vote to their hundreds of members, ‘Do you believe homosexuals are born that way?’” Griggs said.

At the forum, David Fishback, a former member of the curriculum advisory committee, said that current medical standards were not up for review.

“More than 30 years ago, every medical and mainstream health organization said that homosexuality is not a disease,” Fishback said. “In the mainstream scientific and medical community, this is not a point of dispute.”

Deborah M. Roffman, who has written a book for parents about talking to their children about sex and a current human sexuality teacher in Baltimore for children in grades 4-12, said that gay children have the same needs as other children.

“Gay kids aren’t any different than other kids,” Roffman said. “Their No. 1 need is to be constantly affirmed.”

Refusing to affirm homosexuality or sexual orientation in the classroom, Roffman said, does not serve gay students’ needs.

“The gay kids in our school are invisible and if they’re not invisible, they’re targets,” Roffman said. “Buying into reparative therapy is unconscionable because we are there for all our students.”