Dear Abby — Here's Some AdviceWARREN THROCKMORTON
Recently, Dear Abby posted a letter from a mother whose 14 year old daughter disclosed that she was attracted to girls.
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Here Abby had an opportunity to educate the public and help this mom but she blew it. She told the mom that "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 that homosexuality is an inborn identity with no words of caution concerning the flexibility of identity in adolescence.
I will admit I have read Jeanne Phillips' (aka Dear Abby) column occasionally but have never seen the point of writing a letter to her until now. Although I am not likely to see my letter of advice in her column, I have reproduced it here.
"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. Surveys of youth demonstrate this. In one large survey of youth concerning sexuality, just over 12% of 14 year olds were unsure about their sexual orientation. However, by adulthood, only between 2-4% of people 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, there are many people who experience same sex attractions and engage in same sex behaviors as teens who then never do as 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 are reliable indicators of what they might be at 24. The mother's inclination to be cautious in this case was wise.
Second, your statement concerning homosexuality having "everything due to genetics" cannot be supported with research evidence. You are partly correct to minimize the role of parenting on the development of 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 concerning 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 that fewer than 25% of homosexuals with an identical share their sexual orientation with that twin. The best and most recent research demonstrates that 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 that 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 concerning this subject in a respectful manner. You present a false picture that science has settled all questions and controversies concerning sexual orientation, gender differences and children. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Over 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 that her feelings are 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 Ms. Abby, it is no wonder many people think we are one study away from figuring out where the gay-spot is 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. "Dear Abby Here's Some Advice." Dr. Throckmorton.com (March 30, 2005).
This article reprinted with permission from Warren Throckmorton.
Warren Throckmorton, PhD is Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of Counseling at Grove City College (PA). His columns have been published by over 60 newspapers and his academic works in journals of the American Psychological Association and the American Mental Health Counselors Association. In 2004, he produced the documentary, I Do Exist concerning sexual orientation change. He can be reached at email@example.com or via his website at www.drthrockmorton.com.
Copyright © 2005 Dr. Throckmorton.com
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