This week more than 100 human rights and other groups from around the world signed a joint statement supporting the new Russian law banning gay propaganda aimed at school children.
The signers are “highly concerned about the heavy attacks that the Russian Federation is facing due to its recent Federal Law…that protects innocence and moral formation of children…”
The signers cite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the family is the fundamental unit of society and “is entitled to protection by society and State.”
They assert the new Russian law “protects the innocence of children and the basic rights of their parents recognized in international legislation and treaties.” They also note that the concepts of “sexual orientation and gender identity” are not outlined in the existing binding international treaties and agreements.
Organizations signing the statement come mostly from Europe, but also from the United States and Latin America. Most consider themselves human rights organizations focused on the rights of children and the family.
The statement and large number of signatories challenges the assertion made by gay activists in the United States that the West stands united against the new Russian law.
At the same time that the new statement was released, the Washington Post reports on how the “Russian law isolates gay teenagers.”
Reporter Kathy Lally tells the story of 16-year-old Maxim of Moscow who came out publically as gay at 13-years-old. He says his classmates called him names and that a teacher tried to cut his “longish hair.” A 15 year-old-girl who says she is a lesbian was picked on in her class and then berated when she came out to her mother.
Advocates claim the new law puts these children in further danger since they cannot seek help from adults who could be fined for helping them. Advocates define help in only one way, helping these children continue with the notion they are gay and always will be. But is that the case?
The boy Maxim tells the reporter that he “didn’t become gay. I was born gay.” Someone must have taught him that. An adult taught him that. A child does not come to such a dubious conclusion by himself.
Dr. Paul McHugh, former long-time chief of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and an emeritus professor there now, tells a different story in an important friend-of-the-court brief he submitted in the Proposition 8/DOMA cases before the US Supreme Court.
From his own professional experience and from the scientific literature he concludes that “sexual orientation is not immutable” and is “not solely an accident of birth.” Further he says that “sexual orientation can and often does change over time.” He also makes the case that “social science experts raise serious doubts about the definability of sexual orientation.”
McHugh’s brief quotes academics friendly to gay rights. Lisa Diamond, writing in Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, says, “There is currently no scientific or popular consensus…that definitively ‘qualify’ an individual as lesbian, gay or bisexual.”
Gail S. Bernstein, who has clinical faculty appointments at the University of Denver School of Professional Psychology and the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, writes, “Much of the confusion about sexual orientation occurs because there is no single agreed upon definition of the term…there is not one universally accepted definition of sexual orientation, nor who is bisexual, lesbian or gay.”
What about immutability, the thought that someone put in Maxim’s head that he was born gay?
Letitia Anne Peplau and Linda D. Garnets, writing in the Journal of Social Issues, “Although additional research will fill in gaps in our knowledge, there is no reason to expect that biological factors play anything other than a minor and probably indirect role in women’s sexual orientation.” Rather there is “substantial indirect evidence in support of socialization model at the individual level.”
McHugh and others point out that if genetics were the cause of homosexuality then identical twins would always share the same sexual orientation as they always share the same eye color. In fact, only roughly 30% of identical twins share a gay orientation, according to Kenneth Kendler’s paper in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
McHugh cites a plethora of academic research concluding that, “…sexual orientation is influenced by a variety of factors beyond genetics or biology alone.”
And the most recent statement from the American Psychiatric Association concludes, “Currently there is renewed interest in searching for biological etiologies for homosexuality. However, to date there are no replicated studies supporting any specific biological etiology for homosexuality.”
And what about permanence? Is homosexuality life-long? Once you discover your same-sex desire, does it never change? I am not talking here about therapy to alleviate unwanted same-sex attraction. Rather, academic research shows that quite separate from any such outside influence, that homosexuality is remarkably plastic.
Writing in the Journal of Social Issues, Lisa Diamond and Ritch Savin-Williams write, “Contrary to the notion that most sexual minorities undergo a one time discovery of their true identities, 50% of respondents had changed their identity label more than once since first relinquishing their heterosexual identity.”
Writing in Developmental Psychology Lisa Diamond found “Half of the young women…relinquished the first sexual-minority they adopted.” In fact, a “10-year study of 79 non-heterosexual women reported that 67% changed their identity at least once and 36% changed their identity more than once.”
So, who is supposed to be talking to Maxim about such a complicated and thorny issue? Should it be gay advocates who have an ax to grind? Certainly, they would like to increase their tribe. And often they do this using phony science that says homosexuality is inborn and never changing.
The Russian people, supported by 100 human rights and other groups from around the world, have determined that such unscientific ideologues should be kept out of schools and out of sight of school children, and that the proper teacher for Maxim and others like him are those who love him most, his family.
Finally there is the question of the certitude of 16-year-olds. They are absolutely certain about a great many things. All of us were certain of things at 16 that seem crazy to us now. But, we grow and we change a great many things in our lives.
No doubt buoyed by sketchy adult advice, young Maxim is certain he wants to be with men and that he always will. But science shows that this question is vastly more complicated than that. Like all young people, Maxim deserves space to grow and learn and change and to be free from ideologies that may not have his best interests in mind.