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since June 19, 2001


Dale's Web Pages

Safe schools


By Dale O'Leary

Prevention and treatment of gender non-conformity will protect children. "Safe schools" programs which discourage teasing but label at-risk children, may actually put children at risk.

The latest campaign to promote homosexuality as normal involves the creation of "safe schools" in which gender non-conforming children are protected from teasing and violence and counseled to accept a homosexual self-identity at an early age. There is nothing wrong with prevention of teasing and violence within the school community. And it is certainly true that children who are perceived as not conforming to gender norms are at risk. It is also true that children experiencing same-sex attraction or engaging in same-sex behavior are far more likely to be involved in drugs and abuse alcohol, more likely to experience sexual violence or be involved in prostitution, more likely to attempt suicide or have psychological problems, and more likely to contract a sexually transmitted diseases. These children need help. We need to protect children and prevent violence.

The question is how do we best protect children.

I can find no evidence that "safe schools" programs or "gay/straight student alliances" will actually prevent the negative outcomes and there is some evidence that "coming out" early or engaging in same-sex behavior while still in adolescense may actually increase negative outcomes. There is also evidence that a substantial number of adolescents who are not psychologically at risk for adult homosexuality, may be confused about their sexual feelings in early adolescence and that promotion of homosexuality as the "in thing" may encourage these children to experiment -- with extremely negative consequences. A boy who discovers after a few years of "experimentation" that he is not really homosexual, but only nervous with girls, may also discover that he is HIV positive.  

What can we do to protect youth?

Promote prevention of homosexual attraction by recognizing the symptoms and encouraging intervention before puberty.

Children go through a serious of development stages in the first three years of life. Boys attach to the mother, then around 8 months begin to separate and recognize themselves as individuals. At about 18 months, they identify with the father and identify themselves as male. They then go on to identify with the male peers and eventually to experience sexual attractions to girls. If these developmental stages are not accomplished, unmet needs persist; the person strives to repair the childhood wounds and various psychological problems can occur depending on the gravity of the developmental failure.

Reviewing the literature on homosexuality, I find that the homosexual condition might be best described as a failure to identify with one's own sex. The person recognizes that he is male or she is female, but feels "different." Since proper same-sex identification, which should have occurred at age 18 months, never happens, homosexually attracted adults rightly express their perception that they have "always been this way."

The case histories demonstrate that there is always a reason for this failure to identify, but the reasons may be very different. The child has four chances to make the identification. In the case of boys, the boy interacts with the father in a positive way and identifies with the father or other male. If this doesn't happen, the mother can positively encourage her son's masculine identity by promoting and rewarding masculine identification. The boy has another chance when he begins to play with male peers to identify himself as boy among boys. And lastly if sexual attraction first occurs in the context of a positive boy/girl relation, the boy will feel confident of his masculine identity.

However, if the boy does not "catch the train" to masculinity at the first stop, it becomes progressively more difficult. A boy who doesn't identify with the father, will need more than a "good" mother, he will need a mother who goes out of her way to encourage his masculinity. A boy who does not have the confidence of father identification or who has identified with his mother and adopted feminine mannerism is often rejected by other children because children demand gender conformity. And rejected boys are targeted by pedophiles or older boys and subjected to sexual abusive situations.

Many people are reticent to talk about the ways in which family situations lead to same-sex attractions because they know many "good" people with homosexual children. While in some cases the failure to same-sex identify can be directly linked to parental neglect and abuse, in other cases "good" parents unintentionally failed to foster same-sex identification. For example, one of the ways in which a boy identifies with the father is through rough-and-tumble play during the first two years of life. The father tosses the baby up in the air or tickles him roughly and the child has four experiences simultaneously. First, terror; second, excitement; third, the smile of the father which tells him he should be enjoying this and that his father loves him; and fourth, a sense that father (male) is different from mother (female). This experience gives the child a confidence in his ability to engage in rough-and-tumble play and to face fearful situations, combined with a healthy sense of masculinity. These appear to be essential elements in same-sex peer group play. Without these the boy stands on the sidelines. A number of studies show that the lack of rough-and-tumble of play distinguishes the childhood of homosexual boys from that of heterosexual boys.

If the father did not engage in this kind of play with a particular child because the father was absent from the home during the critical period, because the child was sick and being tended by the mother, because the father was engaged in activities with older sons, or because the father was temperamentally uncomfortable with physical interaction with children, the son has a development deficit. If this deficit is not repaired, this boy will be at risk.

For girls, the pattern is somewhat different because the girl must separate from the mother and identify with her and must experience the father as trustworthy. If the mother is depressed during the critical period of identification, the daughter may not properly identify.  

Good News

The good news is that symptoms of the failure to identify are, in many cases, obvious. The child who failed to same-sex identify often exhibits symptoms of gender non-conformity as early as 3 years of age. If treatment is initiated immediately, the prognosis is excellent. If a child reaches school age and is still exhibiting gender non-conforming behaviors, that child needs therapeutic intervention. The intervention will reduce the behaviors which trigger the teasing and eliminate the sources of the child's unhappiness. These children often suffer from other problems in addition to the failure to same-sex identify, such as phobias and anxiety. They need to have their legitimate needs appropriately met. They should not be labeled as "pre-homosexual" and turned over to homosexual activists. The bad news is that homosexual activists want to prevent treatment of at-risk children.

While teachers and parents need to discourage cruelty, violence and teasing, they also need to recognize that children are not simply mean. Children intuitively sense when another child is acting inappropriately and try to tease that child into conforming to the developmental norms. These developmental norms are not arbitrary social constructions, but a path to healthy psychological growth. Case histories of gender non-conforming children do not reveal confident, healthy youngsters rejecting narrow stereotypes, but fearful, rigid, anxious, phobic children. Encouraging healthy, early, same-sex identification will not trap the child into narrow stereotypes, indeed it will have the opposite effect. Once same-sex identification is firmly established, the child will be ready to move on to a more expansive self-identity which can incorporate a wide variety of activities and interests. Healthy same-sex identification is one of the foundation stones for psychological development.

We need to inform parents, teachers, pastors and pediatricians about the importance of same-sex identification, the symptoms and risks of failure to same-sex identify, and the importance of early intervention and treatment.

For those who like more information or the references for the studies referred to, email me at : heartbeatnews@compuserve.com.

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From Dale's Disk, safescho.rtf - Nov. 1999
Formatted in HTML 2000 11 02 —WHS