From The Wall Street Journal:
What role, if any, should parents and schools play in a child's emerging sexual orientation?
Sparks have been flying around that question this spring.
Early last month, a small group called the American College of Pediatricians (ACP) sent a letter to the nearly 15,000 school superintendents in the U.S., stating that most adolescents who experience same-sex attraction at age 12 no longer do by age 25, and warning that prematurely labeling them could lead some "into harmful homosexual behaviors they otherwise would not pursue." The letter also stated that homosexual attraction and/or gender confusion "can respond well to therapy."
The far larger American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) posted a statement saying it is in no way affiliated with the ACP and referred schools and parents to its own publications that urge acceptance of gay, lesbian and bisexual youth. (The ACP was founded in 2002 by pediatricians protesting the AAP's support of homosexual parenting.) The National School Boards Association also backed the AAP's position and warned schools not to be confused by the similarly named groups. And several prominent researchers, including geneticist Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, accused the ACP of distorting its research to make its case against homosexuality.
Behind all the incidents is the long-running dispute over when and how sexual orientation develops and whether outside influences can affect it.
While the development of same-sex attraction isn't completely understood, most medical and mental-health professionals have long concluded that being gay is not an illness and that people cannot choose their true sexual orientation. It seems to develop slowly in early childhood; studies show that on average, young people, gay and straight, first become aware of sexual attraction about age 10.
"By the time children are 11, 12 and 13, they have a very good sense that their sexual orientation may be different from the majority of their friends," says Ellen Perrin, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. "There is no evidence that people could become gay because of external influences," she adds.
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