- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 16, 2005

Recently, “Dear Abby” posted a letter from a mother whose 14-year-old daughter disclosed her attraction to girls. Thinking this made her a lesbian, the girl was not shy about telling people her feelings. The mother wrote to Abby: “I keep trying to make her understand that this is her business, and it’s not something she should make public.” And the mom asked, “Am I wrong in telling her that?”

Here Abby had an opportunity to educate the public and help this mom, but she blew it. She told the mom, “It is not uncommon for the parents of a gay child to feel guilt or shame, when in truth, it has nothing to do with the quality of their parenting and everything to do with genetics.” She then directed her to organizations that perpetuate the belief homosexuality is an inborn identity with no words of caution about the flexibility of identity in adolescence.

I will admit I have read Jeanne Phillips’ (a k a “Dear Abby”) column occasionally but have never seen the point of writing a letter to her — until now. Though I am unlikely to see my letter in her column, I have reproduced it here.

“Dear Abby:

“You are often right on target regarding issues of human behavior. However, it amazes me that you are so far off the mark concerning homosexuality and sexual orientation. I am writing specifically concerning the advice you gave in a recent column to a mother of a 14-year-old girl who believed she was a lesbian. As one who researches sexual orientation, I have three serious concerns about your advice.

“First, many, if not most, 14-year-olds who think they might be gay eventually determine that they are straight. Youth surveys demonstrate this. In one large survey of youth about sexuality, just more than 12 percent of 14-year-olds were unsure of their sexual orientation. However, by adulthood, only between 2 percent and 4 percent say they are gay, lesbian or bisexual.

“According to a major sexuality survey by Edward Laumann and colleagues, published by the University of Chicago Press, many people experience same-sex attractions and engage in same-sex behaviors as teens but never do so when they are adults.

“Have you never heard of LUGs (Lesbians Until Graduation) describing girls who engage in same-sex relationships until they are young adults? In other words, you should not indicate to a teen that sexual attractions at 14 reliably indicate what they might be at 24. The mother’s caution on this was wise.

“Second, your statement homosexuality has ‘everything due to genetics’ is unsupportable with research evidence. You are partly correct to minimize the role of parenting on developing same-sex attractions. However, there is much more to environment than parenting. You really should examine the work of Daryl Bem at Cornell University regarding the interaction of environment and biological factors on sexual attractions. Further, the research on possible genetic/biological factors in sexual orientation has been summarized by the American Psychiatric Association as follows: ‘There are no replicated scientific studies supporting any specific biological etiology for homosexuality.’

“The most recent identical twin studies found fewer than 25 percent of homosexuals with an identical share their sexual orientation with that twin. The best and most recent research demonstrates sexual orientation does not have ‘everything to do with genetics.’

“Third, your recommendation of PFLAG and the DC — Children’s Hospital programs as resources for parents is woefully one-sided. Parents should understand these resources provide one narrow perspective. They should also examine information at http://www.freetobeme.com and www.drthrockmorton.com which examines multiple viewpoints and controversies on this subject in a respectful manner.

“You present a false picture that science has settled all questions and controversies on sexual orientation, gender differences and children. Nothing is further from the truth.

“More than 110 million readers rely on you for sound information and advice. Most often, you provide just that. In this case, however, your encouragement of a young teen and her mother to think her feelings irreversibly determined by genetics is incredibly simplistic and misleading.

“Thousands, perhaps millions of teens seeking accurate information concerning this matter read your columns hoping to get common-sense answers to tough questions. Please open your mind to all of the evidence and research concerning sexual orientation. I would be privileged to provide you with the articles I have described in my letter and much, much more.”

With advice such as given by “Dear Abby,” it is no wonder many people think we are one study away from locating the homosexual-spot in the brain. My advice to her is to do a little research. I would be glad to help her get started.

If you want to write “Dear Abby” concerning this column, go to www.dearabby.com.

WARREN THROCKMORTON

Associate professor of psychology,

Director of counseling

Grove City College (Pa.)

www.drthrockmorton.com.

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