Today, the New York Times examined the conflict in the Anoka-Hennepin school district over bullying prevention. The school district in Michele Bachmann’s Congressional district has lost eight students to suicide in the last two years. Critics of the district say that some of the suicides are due to anti-gay bullying and want the school district to renounce a policy of neutrality toward discussions of sexual orientation. A parent’s group, using ex-gay literature and arguments, is fighting to keep the policy in place.
Although not named in the article, the group is called the Parents Action League. They claim to disapprove of bullying for any reason; however, I believe they are a part of the problem. Their website does not do what they claim — “to…equip citizens with current and accurate information” — and in fact adds to harmful sterotyping of GLB people.
You can read what they have to say about homosexuality on their FAQs page. Most of it is outdated criticisms of old studies. I have addressed these issues in prior posts. My focus now is to point out what appears to me to be the real focus of this group. One of the questions asked and answered is:
If we don’t approve of homosexual behavior and affirm same-sex attraction, won’t we be causing depression and unhappiness for “gay” teens?
On the contrary, when a child has been deliberately misinformed about the causes of homosexuality and told that homosexual acts are normal and natural, all hope for recovery is taken away. Hopelessness can lead to depression and affect a child’s ability to be happy. If we really love someone, we’ll tell him or her the truth that change is possible.
After deliberately misinforming their readers about homosexuality, the PAL people then get to their bottom line. The depression felt by bullied kids at Anoka-Hennepin is not due to disapproval and vilification, it is due to the fact that no one has given you the ex-gay message – change is possible.
PAL claims it wants a neutrality policy but it really doesn’t. PAL people want kids told that there is hope for change. Not neutral; and mostly wrong.
As I wrote on the CNN Belief Blog last year, I believe the school should name the problem and specifically forbid bullying based on real or perceived sexual orientation. The Olweus Bullying prevention program should be implemented.
I also believe that groups like NARTH and Exodus should take some responsibility for the information they promote. Speaking directly to NARTH and Exodus: Parent’s are obstructing the well being of children because of the information you disseminate. You promote change as happening more frequently than it actually does, and I believe you know it. Many people do decide to channel their actions in alignment with their beliefs, but it is infrequent that someone goes from gay to straight in attractions, fantasies and actions. You should end your silence and communicate the real situation to these groups. Part of the reason they obstruct progress in addressing bullying is because of the distorted narrative you have helped to create.
I believe there are caring people with the PAL, but they think that being attracted to the same sex is due to deliberate choice of a lifestyle or the result of bad parenting or a wicked culture. If they knew that many same-sex attracted kids have great loving parents, attend church, live moral lives and are simply trying to understand what is happening to them, they might become part of the solution and not the problem. Why do PAL people think what they think? Many reasons probably, but the intellectual source nearly always comes back to NARTH or Exodus.
UPDATE: To be consistent, I need to add Mission America, PFOX, Focus on the Family and the American College of Pediatricians to the two groups listed above. Regarding Exodus, there is only one item (Janet Boynes’ book) directly related to an Exodus affiliate. However, the organization does offer for sale books which are listed on the PAL website, including Joseph Nicolosi’s Parents Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.
I have received several emails on this post, most supporting this call for groups to evaluate how their message is working against bullying prevention. A couple have criticized me saying that I advocate censorship of a valid point of view. I don’t see it that way. I see it as advocating responsibility. When a group like PAL is using the belief that gays are by definition disordered, depressed and the products of bad parenting and/or abuse in order to offset bullying prevention efforts, then I think it is time to re-evaluate the situation.