Is the gay bullying plague in schools a myth?
An open letter to the Australian Education Minister
The Hon Christopher Pyne
Minister for Education
Dear Mr Pyne,
I trust you, or your advisors, will give serious consideration to the medical evidence below and reconsider your decision to fund the so-called Safe Schools programme throughout Australia.
The political justification for 'Safe Schools' programmes, or the associated 'Gay-Straight Alliances', is that there is a plague of gay-based bullying in our schools, and the only way to counter that is through celebrating homosexuality. That justification, however, is doubtful.
In one large study comparing a thousand homosexual and heterosexual adults in the UK, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2003, the researchers found no increase in bullying of gay men compared to heterosexual men, whether at school or subsequently, whether verbally or physically. "Reports that gay and lesbian people are vulnerable to such experiences because of their sexuality are often taken at face value", these researchers noted, with other studies failing to draw a comparison to heterosexual students.
In other words, there are many reasons to be bullied at school – for being too smart, too dumb; too fat, too weak; or for being "gay" even when you are not gay. A report in the news only last week finds one-third of 10-year-olds in Australia report being bullied for various reasons. That is something many young people go through, and the claim that homosexual people suffer disproportionate bullying appears to be "taken at face value".
Another contentious claim of the gay lobby used to justify the 'normalisation' of homosexual relationships and behaviour in schools (as well as the goal of normalising homosexual 'marriage') is that depression and suicide among gay men is the fault of homophobic society, so that if society rejects gay marriage and does not celebrate homosexuality in schools, it is responsible for the despair and death of homosexual citizens. This same British study was more circumspect:
"It may be that prejudice in society against gay men and lesbians leads to greater psychological distress… Conversely, gay men and lesbians may have lifestyles that make them vulnerable to psychological disorder. Such lifestyles may include increased use of drugs and alcohol."
The Australian Institute of Health and welfare in 2010 found the prevalence of illicit drug use by homosexuals to be more than double that of heterosexuals (34 percent to 14 percent) while the rate of excessive alcohol intake was 25 percent to 16 percent. Such behaviours are certainly risk factors for depression and suicide, but are they somebody else's fault? In Canada, where gay marriage was legalised in 2005, homosexual lobbyists in 2009 still cited drug and alcohol abuse as several times higher amongst gays.
So are we to understand that substance abuse by heterosexuals is their own fault, but the elevated rate of intoxication in the gay scene, with its consequences for depression and suicide, is the fault of homophobic society?
From my observations as a family doctor, the pressures that depress a young gay man are more intrinsic than extrinsic: the sense that something has gone wrong deep inside; the depressing and degrading effect of his compulsive sexual encounters; the unresolved anger at what he sees to be the cause of his sexual confusion, such as childhood abuse by a male.
Psychiatrist Dr Jeffrey Satinover brings a sense of proportion to this multi-factorial suffering:
"Some of this is in fact, as activists claim, because all-too-often he experiences from others a cold lack of sympathy or even open hostility. But it is not true, as activists claim, that these are the only or even the major stresses. Much distress is caused simply by his way of life - for example, the medical consequences, AIDS being just one of many (if also the worst). He also lives with the guilt and shame that he inevitably feels over his compulsive, promiscuous behavior; and too, over the knowledge that he cannot relate effectively to the opposite sex and is less likely to have a family."
It trivialises a homosexual person's suffering to blame it primarily on the external environment – or alleged excess of bullying at schools. There are less insidious means to address the perennial problem of bullying -- for all students -- than by normalising homosexual behaviour in the curriculum.
Yes, the Australian Education Union's 2006 gender identity policy declares that: "Homosexuality, bisexuality, transgenderism and intersex need to be normalised." (Section 3.3.3). But two questions arise: first, why is the Coalition implementing AEU policy? Second, and more profound: if same-sex attraction is correctly understood as a complex irregularity of sexual development that causes deep grief to many of those affected, is "normalising" that irregularity only going to cause more grief?
The American College of Pediatricians, a conservative medical group represented across 47 states, makes the following observations "on the promotion of homosexuality in the schools":
Consider: confusion over sexual feelings is quite common among teens but it is usually a passing phase. The extensive National Health and Social Life Survey across the USA in 1994 found that some 8 percent of sixteen year olds identified as gay – but, significantly, the number halved within two years to just over 4 percent, and halved again by age 25 so that only 2.8 percent still thought they were gay. What that means is that most sexual confusion in adolescence – a full three-quarters in this study -- clears away if left to itself.
The American College of Paediatricians comments on some more recent large studies that also show some two thirds to three quarters of young people who thought they might be 'gay' subsequently change and go 'straight':
"Adolescence is well recognized for its sexual fluidity and instability of homosexual attractions. In 2007, Savin-Williams and Ream conducted a large longitudinal study that documented changes in attraction so great between the ages of 16 and 17 that they questioned whether the concept of sexual orientation had any meaning for adolescents with homosexual attractions. Seventy-five percent of adolescents who had some initial homosexual attraction between the ages of 17-21 changed to experience heterosexual attraction only.
"This is in stark contrast to the stability they found among adolescents experiencing heterosexual attractions. Among these adolescents, fully 98 percent retained their heterosexual-only attractions into adulthood. Another study demonstrating significant change away from homosexual attractions in adolescence involved 13,840 youth. Of those initially 'unsure' of their sexual orientation, 66 percent became exclusively heterosexual. "
Initiatives to "celebrate gay identity" among confused adolescents would, in my view, be likely to encourage some young men to "come out" at school when, left alone, they might have got over their confusion and avoided the harm of a homosexual lifestyle.
Even using the simplest, most objective measure of harm - the burden of venereal disease (and in Australia it remains the case now, as for the last 25 years, that around 85 percent of new cases of HIV/AIDS are in "men who have sex with men") – it is obviously harmful to lock a young man into a lifestyle that he might have avoided, were it not for the assertion of homosexual normalcy, by programmes such as 'Safe Schools'.
I ask you to reconsider the sincerely held but erroneous premises that are justifying a Coalition government using public funds to further the agenda of normalising homosexual behaviour to our children. On behalf of many parents and grandparents, I express my dismay and strongest objection.
Dr David van Gend
David van Gend is a family doctor and head of the Australian Marriage Forum.