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Pilot columnist takes aim at LGBT youth programs

by Ethan Jacobs

Bay Windows

Thursday January 17, 2008

The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has been largely silent on the marriage issue since the defeat of the amendment to ban same-sex marriage last June, but it has by no means abandoned anti-LGBT advocacy. The Jan. 4 edition of the Archdiocese's official newspaper, The Pilot, featured a column by Dale O'Leary attacking LGBT youth programs and warning parents of the dangers of their youth getting involved with homosexuality and transsexuality. O'Leary, who last year published a book called One Man, One Woman: A Catholic's Guide to Defending Marriage, deploys some of the most well-worn arguments used by anti-gay activists, claiming that homosexuality can be cured, that it is frequently caused by a childhood gender identity disorder, and that "an extremely high percentage" of gay adults were molested as children. It also claims that transgender identity is "problematic" because "no one can change their sex." O'Leary urges parents to share these "truths" with their children when exposed to pro-LGBT messages in school.

O'Leary claims her arguments are backed up by scientific evidence, but she provides little to no information about the studies that she purports to cite. If there are any peer-reviewed studies that back up her claim that most gay people are victims of child molestation, O'Leary declines to name them. She briefly cites the work of Dr. Kenneth Zucker and Susan Bradley, who claim that many gay and lesbian people suffer from a gender identity disorder and that that disorder can be treated. She quotes John McHugh, the controversial Johns Hopkins psychiatrist who ended the medical school's practice of providing gender reassignment surgery for transgender patients. But she makes no mention of statements from mainstream medical institutions offering a more positive view of LGBT people, such as statements by professional associations including the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics that homosexuality is not a mental illness or the presence of gender identity disorder as a recognized condition in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Despite data in the state's Youth Risk Behavior Survey showing that gay, lesbian and bisexual youth are at greater risk for bullying and harassment than their straight peers, O'Leary claims there is enormous social pressure on young people to be gay.

"Some teenagers self-identify as 'gay' because they see it as a way of achieving 'status.' One boy told his teacher that it was better to be gay than to be considered a nerd," writes O'Leary. "Other teens proclaim themselves gay or lesbian as an act of rebellion against parental authority. Still others are seduced into same-sex activity by friends or adults."

O'Leary tells parents that they should encourage their children to "avoid cruel language or abusive behavior" when dealing with LGBT peers and "to pray for troubled classmates, making it clear that God loves each of us and calls us all to freedom."

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, a national organization of LGBT Catholics, said that the column continues a familiar pattern of both the Boston Archdiocese and the Vatican of accusing the LGBT community of representing a danger to children. In 2003, during the fallout from the clergy sexual abuse scandal, the Vatican released a document warning that allowing adoption by gay parents would "mean doing violence to these children." In 2006 Catholic Charities of Boston discontinued its adoption work rather than comply with state law and allow adoption by same-sex couples. Duddy-Burke called the Church's focus on LGBT youth issues in the wake of the abuse scandal "almost sinfully ironic."

"To me this comes right out of, we lost on marriage, so where can we win, and thinking wrongly that parents of youth are afraid somehow of GLBT issues," said Duddy-Burke. "I think the reality is that more and more Catholic parents, like other parents, are coming to realize that some members of their family are going to be gay. ... I think the diocese probably thinks, wrongly, that this is a winning issue for them."

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