UPDATED: It is the position of the American Psychological Association that homosexuality is not a choice or a mental illness, but rather a normal variant of sexual orientation for a certain percentage of society. They came to this stand based upon scientific research that showed no connection between homosexuality and psychopathology. In addition to considering homosexuality a normally occurring human behavior, the APA does not support therapies to change sexual orientation and points out that there is no reliable science to suggest such therapies are effective. The APA also issued a resolution opposing discriminatory legislation and initiatives aimed at LGBT people.
In addition, geneticists have also found a link between genes and sexual orientation. While the ongoing studies have not been definitive is establishing genetics as the sole determining factor in human sexual orientation, they do indicate that both genes and environmental factors do play a role in determining sexual orientation. This comports with the research upon which the APA used to set their policies.
The stance of the country’s most recognized psychological professional association and the psychological, sociological and genetic research goes right to the heart of what’s going on in Anoka, Minnesota. Suicide, like sexual orientation, has environmental components influencing the behavior. Research has shown that ambient temperature and duration of sunlight are the dominant environmental influences on suicide, but that social cohesion, socioeconomic status, and social support are also important influences. The situation in Anoka involves students, teachers, school policies, religiously based politics and the suicides and attempted suicides of teenagers. It is not a pretty story.
Over a little less than the last two years, the Anoka-Hennepin school district has had seven student suicides, four of which involved students that were either gay or perceived to be gay and two of those cases involved direct anti-homosexual bullying. Since January of this year, seven Anoka Middle School students have been hospitalized for attempting or threatening suicide. Considering that studies since the 1990’s indicate that homosexual teens have a suicide rate at least twice that of heterosexual teens, this becomes a greater concern when the Anoka-Hennepin school district has been identified by Minnesota public health officials as a “suicide contagion” area due to their abnormally high numbers of suicides and attempted suicides.
Without question, Minnesota is a region with a higher risk for suicides given that it is in a high enough latitude to experience lower average ambient temperatures as well as shorter days on average than regions closer to the equator. But what about the other factors that influence suicide; social cohesion, socioeconomic status, and social support? Anoka is a fairly well to do suburb of Minneapolis, so socioeconomic influences aren’t likely contributors to the abnormally high suicide rate. Social cohesion and support are another matter all together.
Over the last two years, students in the Anoka-Hennepin school district have faced a concerted campaign degrading homosexuals that is driven by local religious and political leaders, but the issue dates back to the mid-90’s when the district instituted a policy known as “no pro homo”. Under this policy, teachers were forbidden to discuss homosexuality, even in the health terms of HIV/AIDS education, and told they could not teach that homosexuality was a “normal, valid lifestyle.” Later the policy was amended to order teachers to remain neutral on the issue of homosexuality. A policy change that only created confusion in the staff by contributing to their uncertainty on how to address bullying and reasonable questions students might have had. Both of these policies were driven by religious conservative activist groups like the Minnesota Family Council (MFC), and its local affiliate, the Parents Action League (PAL). These groups went so far as lobbying to put discredited “reparative therapy” materials in schools. The MFC is also behind a seven year battle to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to ban gay marriage. The amendment comes up for vote next year.
If all of this sounds vaguely familiar, these are the kinds of “therapy” discredited and disapproved of by the APA, but are reportedly practiced by Marcus Bachmann (husband of politician Michelle Bachmann) at his Bachmann & Associates mental health clinics. That is not the only connection the Bachmann’s have to the MFC. Before entering politics, Michelle Bachmann served as a consultant to the MFC. She continues in this role today. Last May, she headlined an MFC Annual Dinner along with Newt Gingrich. As far back as 2004, Bachmann was a proponent of creating an intentionally hostile environment for teen homosexuals in Minnesota schools. As a state representative, Bachmann joined demonstrators seeking the amendment to ban gay marriage, telling the crowd in her now infamous “irrational leaps in logic” style that “In our public schools, whether they want to or not, they’ll be forced to start teaching that same-sex marriage is equal, that it is normal and that children should try it.” Michelle Bachmann, like a lot of people, obviously doesn’t understand what a false equivalence is. Teaching that homosexuality is a normal variant in human sexuality is just good science, teaching that homosexual pairs deserve the same respect as heterosexual pairs is just good civics if you believe that all people are created equal, and nobody is saying that schools should endorse any kind of relationships – heterosexual or homosexual. Endorsement and education about are not the same things. Education is about providing information (and logical skills) so that people can make informed decisions. Endorsement is about pushing a specific agenda; whether it be “buy this product”, “choose this God” or “hate people for no other reason than they are different”. Endorsement of any kind has no place in education. If you think it does, you are free to send your children to religious or other indoctrination based private schools. The drive to oppress homosexuals is not scientifically or legally valid in its basis. The drive to oppress homosexuals is a religious doctrine, specifically a right-wing Christian conservative doctrine. The answer is simple: If you don’t like homosexuality, don’t be one, but you cannot force your religious beliefs on others via state run institutions like public schools without running afoul of the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment.
Since the revelation of the higher than normal rate of suicides within the school district, Michelle Bachmann has been curiously silent on the matter. She is, however, on record as opposing anti-bullying legislation. Addressing the state legislature, she said “I think for all us our experience in public schools is there have always been bullies, always have been, always will be. I just don’t know how we’re ever going to get to point of zero tolerance and what does it mean?…What will be our definition of bullying? Will it get to the point where we are completely stifling free speech and expression? Will it mean that what form of behavior will there be—will we be expecting boys to be girls?” Her indifference if not outright hostility to a problem that is related to the unusual number of suicides in her home school district is enough to make one question Bachmann’s willingness to serve all the people of her district and not just the heterosexual conservative Christians she has associated herself with both past and present.
Do we need another state politician that doesn’t represent all of their constituents? Do we need a possible Presidential candidate that has telegraphed that she has no interest in representing the needs of constituents that don’t meet her personal religious standards? When politicians contribute to an environment of intolerance and hatred and this intolerance has a measurable effect on our youth, no matter its basis, should they be held accountable for their misdeeds at the ballot box? Are stronger measures such as Sen. Al Franken’s (D – MN) push for legislation that protects LGBT students necessary? Are the facts of science ever enough to discourage the bad behavior of zealots? What can and should be done to help the youth of Anoka, Minnesota? Bullied and bullies alike?
What do you think?
UPDATE: Civil rights groups the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights plan to sue the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Federal court over their neutrality policy and the Department of Justice and the Department of Education investigating the bullying incidents. CNN will air a special report this Sunday, August 7, at 8PM EST. The following is a CNN story leading up to that special report.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and is considering suicide call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Trevor Project Lifeline for LGBT youth at 1-866-488-7386.
The hotlines are free, confidential, and run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Kudos: Liberty and justice for some and Elaine M.
~Submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger