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'Safe Schools' scandal: open letter to the education minister

By David van Gend - posted Tuesday, 29 July 2014


Dear Mr Pyne,

I trust you, or your advisors, will give serious consideration to the medical evidence below and reconsider this decision to fund the so-called Safe Schools programme.

The political justification for 'Safe Schools' programmes, or the associated 'Gay-Straight Alliances', is that there is a plague of gay-based bullying in our schools, and the only way to counter that is through celebrating homosexuality. That justification, however, is doubtful.

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In one large study comparing a thousand homosexual and heterosexual adults in the UK, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2003, the researchers found no increase in bullying of gay men compared to heterosexual men, whether at school or subsequently, whether verbally or physically. "Reports that gay and lesbian people are vulnerable to such experiences because of their sexuality are often taken at face value", theseresearchers noted, with other studies failing to draw a comparison to heterosexual students.

In other words, there are many reasons to be bullied at school – for being too smart, too dumb; too fat, too weak; or for being "gay" even when you are not gay. A report in the news only today (July 23rd 2014) finds one third of 10 year olds in Australia report being bullied for various reasons. That is something many young people go through, and the claim that homosexual people suffer disproportionate bullying appears to be "taken at face value".

Another contentious claim of the gay lobby used to justify the 'normalisation' of homosexual relationships and behaviour in schools (as well as the goal of normalising homosexual 'marriage') is that depression and suicide among gay men is the fault of homophobic society, so that if society rejects gay marriage and does not celebrate homosexuality in schools, it is responsible for the despair and death of homosexual citizens. This same British study was more circumspect:

It may be that prejudice in society against gay men and lesbians leads to greater psychological distress… Conversely, gay men and lesbians may have lifestyles that make them vulnerable to psychological disorder. Such lifestyles may include increased use of drugs and alcohol.

The Australian Institute of Health and welfare in 2010 found the prevalence of illicit drug use by homosexuals to be more than double that of heterosexuals (34% to 14%) while the rate of excessive alcohol intake was 25% to 16%. Such behaviours are certainly risk factors for depression and suicide, but are they somebody else's fault? In Canada, where gay marriage was legalised in 2005, homosexual lobbyists in 2009 still cited drug and alcohol abuse as several times higher amongst gays.

So are we to understand that substance abuse by heterosexuals is their own fault, but the elevated rate of intoxication in the gay scene, with its consequences for depression and suicide, is the fault of homophobic society?

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From my observations as a family doctor, the pressures that depress a young gay man are more intrinsic than extrinsic: the sense that something has gone wrong deep inside; the depressing and degrading effect of his compulsive sexual encounters; the unresolved anger at what he sees to be the cause of his sexual confusion, such as childhood abuse by a male.

Psychiatrist Dr Jeffrey Satinover brings a sense of proportion to this multi-factorial suffering:

Some of this is in fact, as activists claim, because all-too-often he experiences from others a cold lack of sympathy or even open hostility. But it is not true, as activists claim, that these are the only or even the major stresses. Much distress is caused simply by his way of life - for example, the medical consequences, AIDS being just one of many (if also the worst). He also lives with the guilt and shame that he inevitably feels over his compulsive, promiscuous behavior; and too, over the knowledge that he cannot relate effectively to the opposite sex and is less likely to have a family.

It trivialises a homosexual person's suffering to blame it primarily on the external environment – or alleged excess of bullying at schools. There are less insidious means to address the perennial problem of bullying - for all students - than by normalising homosexual behaviour in the curriculum.

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About the Author

Dr David van Gend is a Toowoomba GP and Queensland secretary for the World Federation of Doctors who Respect Human Life.

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