The American College of Pediatricians (ACP), a conservative organization that is opposed to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) rights and concerns, issued a letter on March 31, 2010 to every school district superintendent in the United States alerting them to the launch of the ACP’s new website, www.factsaboutyouth.com (FAY). Motivated by a purported “concern for the health and well-being for all youth,” the letter and “fact card” included with it advise school personnel that LGBTQ youth should not be encouraged to reveal their sexual orientation and should not be supported in the event they choose to.
The ACP was founded in 2002 by a handful of pediatricians who objected to a resolution adopted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supporting parenting by same-sex couples. In addition to opposing same-sex parenting, the ACP also objects to abortion, emergency contraception, vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV), and the affirmation of LGBTQ adolescents on the part of parents, educators, or health care professionals. The issues it promotes are similarly conservative in nature, including abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, a definition of human life as beginning at fertilization, laws allowing health care providers to withhold treatment that conflicts with their beliefs, and corporal punishment. Members are required to pledge allegiance to the ACP’s “Core Values,” including pronouncing “that there are absolutes and scientific truths that transcend relative social considerations of the day” and “that good medical science cannot exist in a moral vacuum.”[i] In addition, the ACP’s claim that it is a legitimate medical organization is belied by its links to such extremist right-wing organizations as Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, Positive Alternatives to Homosexuality, and the Medical Institute for Sexual Health.
Visitors to FAY will find numerous claims about sexual orientation in youth, so-called reparative therapy, and same-sex sexualpractices that are completely unfounded—often being drawn from deliberate mischaracterizations of scientific studies or studies that are woefully outdated—and denounced by numerous medical professionals. Educators who disseminate the advice contained on FAY risk doing serious damage to the health and well-being of their students.
The assertions that the ACP makes on FAY about sexual orientation have been refuted repeatedly by numerous experts and, in some cases, the authors of the studies cited. Primary among these erroneous claims is that sexual orientation “is not hardwired by DNA.”[ii] To support this contention, ACP cites Dr. Michael Collins, current director of the National Institutes of Health and former director of the Human Genome Project. Dr. Collins issued a statement criticizing the ACP’s characterization of his work, stating that it is “misleading and incorrect” and chastising the group for “distributing it in a way that will confuse school children and their parents,” causing “unnecessary anguish” and “encourag[ing] prejudice.”[iii] FAY also includes information on various “gender-affirming processes or change therapies” that the ACP claims can be employed safely and effectively by people experiencing homosexual urges.[iv] All methods that purport to alter sexual orientation have been denounced by major medical associations, including the American Psychological Association (APA). An APA committee concluded in 2008 that such practices are ineffective and can be detrimental, as “failure of the treatment was identified as a significant cause of distress and negative self-image.”[v]
The most disturbing aspect of FAY is the description of various sexual behaviors it alleges that LGBTQ individuals engage in, which ostensibly are included to identify their health risks but clearly are intended to shock and disgust readers. ACP includes “gay bowel syndrome” as a possible consequence of anal-oral intercourse; however, the term, which was coined in 1976, has been abandoned as outdated and potentially pejorative [sic] by a number of professional medical organizations including the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]” as “separate conditions falling under the umbrella [of gay bowel syndrome are] neither restricted to the bowel nor unique to the homosexual male patient population.”[vi] The same page includes a paragraph on sadism that contains neither examples of sadistic homosexual practices nor specific health care concerns. Finally, the ACP asserts that LGBTQ individuals, particularly gay males, are much more promiscuous than heterosexuals—purporting that a significant number have reported having up to 1,000 sexual partners in their lifetime—and cites outdated and methodologically flawed studies in an attempt to support its claim.
Perhaps the most insidious aspect of the ACP’s outreach efforts to superintendents is the “fact card” titled “What You Should Know about Sexual Orientation of Youth.” In it, ACP claims that over 85% of students with same-sex attractions “will ultimately adopt a heterosexual orientation if not otherwise encouraged,” and, regarding those who do not, “[s]exual reorientation therapy has proven effective for those with unwanted homosexual attractions.”[vii] Educators also are cautioned that diagnosing medical conditions is outside their purview and affirmation of LGBTQ students’ sexuality is potentially harmful. The “fact card” is intended to counter “Just the Facts about Sexual Orientation and Youth,” a publication endorsed by such organizations as the AAP and APA. “Just the Facts” is intended to aid educators by explaining the “nature of sexual orientation development” and the importance of providing an accepting environment . . . supportive of healthy development for all youth.”[viii] It is particularly contemptible that the “fact card” utilizes a color scheme, graphics, and font almost identical to those of “Just the Facts,” and seems designed to confuse educators seeking accurate information about adolescent sexuality. The AAP responded to the ACP’s letter by posting a statement on its website emphasizing that the ACP “is in no way affiliated” with the AAP and that the ACP’s campaign “does not acknowledge the scientific and medical evidence regarding sexual orientation, sexual identity, sexual health, or effective health education.”[ix] The statement also encouraged readers to consult several medically accurate sources regarding teenage sexuality, including “Just the Facts.”
“SIECUS condemns the American College of Pediatricians for its efforts to present its ideologically motivated claims as medical fact,” comments Jen Heitel Yakush, director of public policy at SIECUS. “We urge parents to contact superintendents and alert them to the biased and fallacious nature of www.factsaboutyouth.com in order to ensure that LGBTQ students have the healthy and supportive learning environments that they require and deserve.”
[i] “About Us,” American College of Pediatricians, accessed 19 April 2010, <http://americancollegeofpediatricians.org/About-Us/>.
[iii] Statement from NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., in Response to the American College of Pediatricians, National Institutes of Health, accessed 19 April 2010, <http://www.nih.gov/about/director/04152010_statement_ACP.htm>.
[vi] “Male Homosexual Behavior,” American College of Pediatricians, accessed 19 April 2010, <http://factsaboutyouth.com/posts/male-homosexual-behavior/>; Gay Bowel Syndrome, Biology Online, accessed 30 April 2010, <http://www.biology-online.org/dictionary/Gay_bowel_syndrome>.
[vii] “What You Should Know About Sexual Orientation of Youth,” American College of Pediatricians, What You Should Know about Sexual Orientation of Youth, accessed 19 April 2010, <http://factsaboutyouth.com/wp-content/uploads/What-You-Should-Know_fact_card_Mar-15.pdf>.
[viii] “Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth,” Just the Facts Coalition, accessed 19 April 2010, <http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/just-the-facts.pdf>, 4.