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Impact of School Curriculum Addressing Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

November 6th, 2009

By Trayce Hansen, Ph.D.

In May 2009, the Alameda Unified School Board was considering the adoption of a new curriculum for K-12 that would promote acceptance and normalization of homosexual and transgender behaviors under the guise of anti-bullying. A group of concerned parents asked me to review and comment on the proposed curriculum and its impact on children. Despite the evidence of potential harm, and over the strong objections of many parents, the board adopted the proposed curriculum.

PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND
I’m a licensed psychologist in the State of California with a clinical and forensic practice. I also sit on the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Adolescent Health for the American College of Pediatricians. Over the last decade, I’ve thoroughly surveyed the professional research literature related to sexual orientation and children. In my professional role as a psychologist, I’ve authored several articles intended to clarify complex research findings for the public, as well as testified in various courts of law regarding those same issues.

I was asked to review the proposed Alameda Unified School District curriculum addressing sexual orientation and gender identity and author a statement regarding its impact on children. The opinions I express are based on a thorough knowledge of the professional research literature as well as my experience as a licensed psychologist.

ENVIRONMENT IS PRIMARY FACTOR IN DEVELOPMENT OF SEXUAL PREFERENCE AND GENDER IDENTITY
Decades of research confirm that sexual orientation and gender identity are not inborn but are primarily shaped by environmental influences during childhood and adolescence. The proposed school curriculum will affect the sexual preference and gender identity formation of some children exposed to it because it teaches that all sexual and gender variations are equally acceptable. Sexual preference and gender identity formation are fragile developmental processes that can be disrupted and altered by environmental influences such as the lessons in the proposed school curriculum.
SEXUAL ORIENTATION IS NOT INBORN
Many people continue to believe that sexual orientation is inborn, although that is not true. Extensive, worldwide research reveals that homosexuality is predominately influenced by environmental factors. For instance, recent large-scale studies compared rates of homosexual behavior in sets of identical twins. If homosexual behavior were inborn, every time one identical twin was homosexual, the other identical twin would also be homosexual 100% of the time. But this is not what the research revealed. Rather, every time one identical twin was homosexual the other twin was homosexual only 10% or 11% of the time. Homosexual behavior is clearly not genetic.

In fact, an accumulation of extensive research utilizing millions of research subjects finds that environment, not genetics, is the main factor in the development of non-heterosexual behavior. (To review these research studies see references 1-4 listed below).

SOCIETIES WHICH ENDORSE NON-HETEROSEXUAL BEHAVIOR ELICIT MORE OF THAT BEHAVIOR
For a well-known example of the environmental effect on sexual behavior, consider ancient Greece and Rome where male homosexuality and bisexuality were nearly ubiquitous. That was not so because men in those societies were born with a “gay gene,” but because human sexual behavior is malleable and culturally influenced.

Research reveals that the more an environment (including the school environment) affirms, endorses, or normalizes homosexual or bisexual behavior the more of those behaviors there will be in that environment. The proposed curriculum would teach children that it doesn’t matter with whom one has a romantic or sexual relationship. Such a lesson will lead some children to engage in homosexual relationships they might never have considered were it not for the school’s social endorsement. In fact, we’re already seeing a general increase in non-heterosexual behavior as a result of the media’s affirmation.<>

NON-HETEROSEXUAL BEHAVIOR LEADS TO INCREASED RISK OF PSYCHOLOGICAL AND PHYSICAL DISORDERS
Sadly, the research is also clear that individuals who adopt non-heterosexual lifestyles are more likely to suffer from a host of negative outcomes including psychiatric disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, suicide attempts, domestic violence and sexual assault, and increased risk for chronic diseases, AIDS, and shortened lifespan. Schools should not affirm and thereby encourage young people to adopt lifestyles more likely to lead to such devastation. (To review these specific studies see references 5-10 below).< GENDER IDENTITY DISORDER IS A PSYCHIATRIC DISORDER THAT SHOULD NOT BE NORMALIZED TO CHILDREN
The proposed school curriculum also teaches that transgendered lifestyles are a healthy and acceptable alternative to the norm. That is not true. Many transgendered individuals suffer from a psychiatric disorder known as Gender Identity Disorder (GID) that is recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a mental disorder in need of psychological treatment. The proposed curriculum encourages transgendered behavior by teaching, for instance, that males who dress, behave, and live as females are completely normal. A boy with a strong, persistent desire to be a girl requires early intervention and psychiatric treatment, not school lessons teaching the normalcy of a transgendered lifestyle. Children should not be encouraged by their schools to question, doubt, or otherwise reject their inborn gender. Such a message is extremely detrimental to the psychological and physical well being of children. (For a thorough understanding of Gender Identity Disorder, see reference number 11 below authored by world-renowned GID experts).

PROPOSED CURRICULUM IS UNNECESSARY BECAUSE ANTI-HARASSMENT CAN BE TAUGHT IN WAYS WHICH PRECLUDE THE POTENTIAL FOR HARM
The proposed curriculum will cause sexual confusion and may disrupt the sexual preference and gender identity development of some children. And it’s also completely unnecessary. Anti-harassment, teasing, and bullying curriculums can be taught without specifically identifying every circumstance in which such behaviors are unacceptable. Children should be taught that ridiculing and harassing others for any reason is cruel and unkind and will be swiftly and appropriately punished. Schools can teach a simple message of zero tolerance toward such behaviors without harming children whose sexual preferences and gender identities are still developing.

DUE TO THE FOREGOING, I STRONGLY RECOMMEND THE BOARD REJECT THE PROPOSED CURRICULUM
The Alameda Unified School District’s proposed curriculum addressing sexual orientation and gender identity will influence impressionable children and perhaps alter their still developing sexual and gender identities. As such, it will increase confusion and the likelihood children will engage in and adopt homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered lifestyles. The sexual and gender identity development of children is fragile and vulnerable to disruption. Therefore, schools should not adopt any policy that could upset the delicate balance of routine child development.

Sexual preference and gender identity are predominately influenced by environmental factors and develop throughout childhood and adolescence. Teaching children that all sexual- and gender-related behaviors are equally desirable will increase the number of children who depart from the norm and engage in those behaviors. And it also will lead some children into lifestyles that increase the likelihood they will suffer from psychiatric disorders, physical illnesses and shortened lives. Moreover, if the goal is simply to teach non-harassing, non-bullying behavior, the proposed curriculum is not even necessary. Such tolerance can be taught with basic lessons in empathy and kindness, supported by rules and punishments for those who disregard them.
I strongly urge the Alameda Unified School District Board reject the proposed curriculum addressing sexual orientation and gender identity, as it is not in the best interest of its students.

Respectfully,
Trayce L. Hansen, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
PSY 16380

Frisch, M., & Hviid, A. (2006). Childhood family correlates of heterosexual and homosexual marriages: A national cohort study of two million Danes. Archives of Sexual behavior, 35, 533-547.

Langstrom, N., Rahman, Q., Carlstrom, E., & Lichtenstein, P. (2008). Genetic and environmental effects on same-sex sexual behavior: A population study of twins in Sweden. Archives of Sexual behavior, DOI 10.1007/s10508-008-9386-1.
Lauman, E.O., Gagnon, J.H., Michael, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Santilla, P., Sandnabba, N.K., Harlaar, N., Varjonen, M., Alanko, K., von der Pahlen, B. (2008). Potential for homosexual response is prevalent and genetic. Biological Psychology, 77, 102-105.

Udry, J.R. & Chantala, K. (2005). Risk factors differ according to same-sex and opposite-sex interest. Journal of Biosocial Science, 37, 481-497.

Silenzio, V.M.B., Pena, J.B., Duberstein, P.R., Cerel, J., & Knox, K.L. (2007). Sexual orientation and risk factors for suicidal ideation and suicide attempts among adolescents and young adults. American Journal of Public Health, 97 (11), 2017-2019.

Balsam, K.F., Rothblum, E.D., & Beauchaine, T.P. (2005). Victimization over the life span: A comparison of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and heterosexual siblings. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73 (3), 477-487.

Nurses’ Health Study II available at http://www.gaydata.org

>Hogg, R.S., Strathdee, S.A., Craib, K.J.P., OShaughnessy, M.V., Montaner, J.S.G., & Schechter, M.T. (1997). Modeling the impact of HIV disease on mortality in gay and bisexual men. International Journal of Epidemiology, 26 (3), 657-661.

Valanis, B.G., Bowen, D.J., Bassford, T., Whitlock, E., Charney, P., & Carter, R.A. (2000). Sexual orientation and health. Archives of Family Medicine, 9, 843-853.Zucker, K., & Bradley, S. (1995). Gender identity disorder and psychosexual problems in children and adolescents. New York: The Guilford Press.

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  1. Chairm
    November 8th, 2009 at 20:01 | #1

    Hi,

    Are the numbered references mentioned in the article also made available on-line by the author?

    Thanks,
    Chairm

  2. Betsy
    November 8th, 2009 at 20:11 | #2

    Here is the original site for this article. It doesn’t look like those references are posted here on-line, although there are other good sources on the right.
    http://www.drtraycehansen.com/Pages/writings_lgbt.html

  3. Chairm
    November 8th, 2009 at 21:31 | #3

    Thanks Betsy.

  4. matt jones
    November 24th, 2009 at 23:51 | #4

    this response is overly simplistic. first twin studies are poor examples of homosexuality as a genetic factor. identical twins do not carry consistent congruency, only clones have such a prospect. further more there is no understanding of how homosexuality operates genetically, and there is no understanding of what environment constitutes manipulation or fostering of homosexual tendencies. in addition, if homosexual relationships follow hearing that such relationships are acceptable, than homosexual tendencies must have existed before the fact. furthermore testimony by so called ex gays often indicate living in environments in which homosexuality was fobidden, and such individuals that did try homosexual relationships because of expierimentation did not stay in them, due to the fact that sexuality is decided at birth, most likely through many biological processes. as such unless homosexuality is genetic, or at least biologically determined, such instances would not occur. in addition ancient greco roman cultures were not engaging in homosexual behavior because it was acceptable, or for pleasure, but because it was believied that this was a good way to increase bonds between male individuals. such practices can be observed in several tribes in Africa, because they believe that homosexual relations reorients the gender/sex after contact with the opposite sex. also, consulting individuals who have already determined that transgenderism is a disease is highly inappropiate, and the classification of a anomoly as a disease is merely contigent on its capability to cause problems, which is inherent to transgenderism and transexualism because of the need to be free of genders or sex designations or to be of the opposite in this regard causes distress, not because the need is wrong. finally gender: social designations of appropiate behavior for a sex. Sex: biological and thus physical quality of an individual. do not get these mixed up. as such it is in my opinion, as an astute observer that your analyisis is incorrect.

  5. Dennis
    November 30th, 2009 at 07:49 | #5

    I am puzzled by one aspect of the identical twins data. If homosexual behavior appears in 10-11% of identical twins, how does that compare with the rate of homosexual behavior in the general population? I am guessing at this, but I doubt that 10-11% of the general population engages in homosexual behavior; therefore a significantly higher rate among identical twins points to the possibility of biological involvement. Is it not possible that both a genetic predisposition AND an appropriate environment are necessary to engender homosexual orientation and behavior?

  6. Courtney
    December 3rd, 2009 at 06:53 | #6

    @matt jones
    “if homosexual relationships follow hearing that such relationships are acceptable, than homosexual tendencies must have existed before the fact.”

    That’s not logical. Dr. Hansen’s point is that the school is introducing these ideas to children while they are still developing.

    Also, why is citing the research of experts automatically “inappropriate” simply because they have come to the conclusion that transgenderism is a result of a psychological disorder? You’re begging the question. Researchers usually come to conclusions. By your logic, any scientist who came to the opposite conclusion would also be deemed “inappropriate” to consult.

  7. Eli Rose
    December 4th, 2009 at 20:40 | #7

    Well, why do you think that gay/transgendered/bi people have so many psychiatric disorders and suicide attempts? Why do they abuse alcohol and drugs more often than the average population? BECAUSE OF THIS SAME TEASING that the policy you question would be designed to prevent.
    So your argument is this:
    1) the proposed curriculum would increase normalization and acceptance of non-hetero lifestyles (I do not agree with this at all, but let’s take it for true right now)
    2) normalization and acceptance of said non-hetero lifestyles will cause more kids to be gay (okay, whatever)
    3) being gay is bad, because it leads to AIDS, domestic violence, higher risk of suicide, and shortened lifespan (gee, I wonder if that shortened lifespan has anything to do with all that AIDS, violence and suicide). It also leads to psychiatric disorders and alcohol/drug abuse.

    Now, do you think that the quality of enjoying a different type of sex actually, in and of itself, makes you more susceptible to mental disorders and substance abuse? Assuming you don’t believe that, then we must find an alternate cause. The fact that many gay children are teased relentlessly, beaten up and ostracized may have something to do with those mental disorders and substance abuse.
    So, that problem would be what this curriculum is trying to fix. Your logic is circular.
    (Indeed your entire argument hinges upon the assumption that being gay is a bad thing. You spend comparatively little time trying to prove this than you do listing the ways this policy will make our children gay. This leads me to believe that you do not feel a need to prove “gay=bad”. You take it for granted.)

  8. jennifer
    December 8th, 2009 at 13:41 | #8

    Matt, Twin studies are very much to the point of understanding whether something is genetically determined, or whether there is a genetic predisposition to something that might or might not be expressed in actual behavior. Identical twins are for all practical purposes, clones. @matt jones

  9. jennifer
    December 8th, 2009 at 13:41 | #9

    Eli, your point seems to be that gay kids would be fine if only straight people treated them better. But that is exactly what the data does NOT show. For instance, I’m somewhat familiar with the research on suicide attempts and suicide ideation. (IN plain English, that means fantasizing about suicide.) It is true that studies of victimization show that increases in victimization, which includes teasing as well as more serious forms of victimization, do indeed explain some of the higher rates of suicide attempts and suicidal ideation. However, those same studies also show that victimization by no means accounts for ALL of the higher levels of suicidal tendencies among young adults who self-identify as gay or lesbian. See for example: Stephen Russell and Kara Joyner, “Adolescent Sexual Orientation and Suicide Risk,” American Journal of Public Health, August 2001. We also see that suicidal tendencies seem to be increasing, not decreasing, even though the public has become more accepting of same sex behavior. See for instance, Jay Paul, et.al, “Suicide Attempts Among Gay and Bisexual Men: Lifetime Prevalence and Antecedents,” in the American Journal of Public Health, in August 2002. You can also see that even in places like New Zealand, that are very accepting of same sex behavior, that gays experience the same elevated risks of suicidal thoughts and attempts. See for instance, Keren Skegg et.al, “Sexual Orientation and self-harm in Men and Women,” in the American Journal of Psychiatry in March 2003. @Eli Rose

  10. Kami
    December 9th, 2009 at 13:00 | #10

    Dennis:

    10-11% similar behavior between genetically identical twins is indeed very low. As for the fact that 10-11% is probably higher than the percentage of the overall population that practices homosexuality, we must also remember that identical twins – like fraternal twins or any other siblings – have been raised together and therefore shared much of the same environment. Same parents, same religion (at least at first), same schools, probably the same teachers at school most of the time, same nation and neighborhood and overall moral culture in those places, etc.

  11. Kami
    December 9th, 2009 at 13:12 | #11

    Matt Jones:

    “twin studies are poor examples of homosexuality as a genetic factor. identical twins do not carry consistent congruency, only clones have such a prospect.”

    First of all, researchers in many disciplines use twin studies all the time exactly because it is a good example of genetic factors. Second of all, identical twins have exactly the same DNA – meaning, in the instances when “identical twins do NOT carry consistent congruency,” it is due to environment and NOT genes. That’s the whole point of twin studies.

    “further more there is no understanding of how homosexuality operates genetically,…”

    … Which is exactly one of the points we often try to make to homosexual activists by pointing out that the few studies on the subject were poorly done if not outright manipulated …

    “…and there is no understanding of what environment constitutes manipulation or fostering of homosexual tendencies.”

    Your own examples of Greco-Roman citizens and African men would seem to point to the contrary. By your own admission, these men found being bisexual normal specifically because their culture included the belief that male-with-male sex was healthy and beneficial.

    “in addition, if homosexual relationships follow hearing that such relationships are acceptable, than homosexual tendencies must have existed before the fact.”

    First, homosexual behavior is shown by objective statistics to exist in a very, very small percentage of the population – until acceptance grows in the population, which is when the numbers of homosexuals grow. Second of all, there is a fallacy inherent in your argument: the common argument that, because some of the population behaved homosexually in the first place, it must be morally good or at least OK. If you were to make the argument in any other branch of psychology, or in any other philosophy or discipline, that the existence of a behavior automatically makes it ok and perfectly normal and healthy, then you yourself risk ending up in the loony bin.

    “furthermore testimony by so called ex gays often indicate living in environments in which homosexuality was fobidden …” (sic)

    … again, proving the point that environment matters, if anything. Furthermore, your chosen language of “so-called” ex gays shows you to be very biased and intolerant …

    and, in light of the rest of your arguments, which are largely redundant and/or make no sense whatsoever, “as such it is in my opinion, as an astute observer … your analyisis is incorrect.”

  12. Kami
    December 9th, 2009 at 13:28 | #12

    Eli Rose:

    “Well, why do you think that gay/transgendered/bi people have so many psychiatric disorders and suicide attempts? Why do they abuse alcohol and drugs more often than the average population? BECAUSE OF THIS SAME TEASING that the policy you question would be designed to prevent.”

    First of all, there are many, many people who have been teased for various reasons, and the many studies that have found a correlation between homosexuality and suicidality also found that suicidality was higher than the population at large – including other groups who had been picked on or who are seen as a minority.

    Interestingly enough, the study by Sandfort et al. (2001) found that “Homosexual men had a much larger chance of having had 12-month and lifetime bipolar disorders, and a higher chance of having had lifetime major depression …” and also found that female homosexuals had a much higher rate of substance abuse and “general mood disorders.”

    Why is this study especially significant to your point? Well, first of all, because it was a very large study (7,000 people) with only 2.8 percent of the men and 1.4 percent of the women identifying as homosexuals. Pretty close to the real percentage of the population, and there had to be a few other picked-on minority groups involved in the rest of that group of 7,000. Yet the lifetime prevalence of 2 or more psychiatric disorders for homosexual men in the study was 37.85 percent, which it was only 14.4 for heterosexual men, and 39.5 percent for homosexual women versus 21.3 percent for heterosexual women.

    Oh, and why else is this particular study significant? Because it was done in the Netherlands, THE world leader in terms of acceptance of homosexuality.

  13. Tim
    January 9th, 2010 at 15:45 | #13

    Ok people you are hearing right from the horses mouth!! Trayce Hansen,ph.D. Is beeing paid to write about such findings! She is not Gay and knows nothing about being gay! This is UNBELIEVEABLE!! Listen people There are thousands of gay people (including myself) that were not subject to anybody gay or any conversations about homosexuality,gay’s in television.I did not know what it (the feelings I had inside) was called untill later in life.The so called fact that Tracye talks about in the above artical “Many people continue to believe that sexual orientation is inborn, although that is not true. Extensive, worldwide research reveals that homosexuality is predominately influenced by environmental factors. ” Is so inncorrect and false, and is a misleading fear tactic.People, Please don’t be so gullable. How do I know this because I am gay! And nothing, let me repeat, NOTHING in my enviornment made me gay! This artical and all like it are sad attemts to instill fear into the minds of very gullable Americans.It is NOT an illness.I mentor a 10 year old boy. I take him camping,fishing,go to his sports practices and he is not gay nor will he be! Not that being gay is bad or hurts anyone! I am a Christian and so I believe that I too am one of Gods children.Anybody that judges myself and other Homosexuals as evil,sick or otherwise will some day have to get down on their knees and beg for forgiveness from the Same God that will judge them just as they are judging me.remember this so called Ph.D. is being paid to write such nonsense!! I just volunteered my time as to enlighten you with THE TRUTH. Thank You for listening.

  14. January 11th, 2010 at 14:31 | #14

    Ok people: Dr. Hansen is not being paid by anyone that I know of “to write about such findings.” Where do you get off making a statement like that? I’m not paying her for her articles. I don’t know for sure, but I would be highly surprised if anyone paid her to write that statement that she sent to the Alameda County school board. She is a psychologist in private practice who reads the professional literature. She thinks for herself and has drawn her own conclusions.
    Tim, I am prepared to believe that you aren’t aware of anything in your environment that caused you to be gay, and that you have been gay as long as you can remember. Are you certain that there is no one who was not influenced by their environment? You are arguing yourself into a pretty tight corner here.

  15. LydiaW
    January 20th, 2010 at 11:56 | #15

    Courtney :
    @matt jones
    “if homosexual relationships follow hearing that such relationships are acceptable, than homosexual tendencies must have existed before the fact.”
    That’s not logical. Dr. Hansen’s point is that the school is introducing these ideas to children while they are still developing.
    Also, why is citing the research of experts automatically “inappropriate” simply because they have come to the conclusion that transgenderism is a result of a psychological disorder? You’re begging the question. Researchers usually come to conclusions. By your logic, any scientist who came to the opposite conclusion would also be deemed “inappropriate” to consult.

    I think the “inappropriate” part is Dr. Hansen stating the conclusion that transgenderism is a disorder as if it were a universally acknowledged fact. It isn’t. Britain and France do not consider transsexualism to be a psychiatric condition, and I’m sure there are many people in the US and other locations around the world who would say the same.

  16. Glen Hopping
    January 29th, 2010 at 18:34 | #16

    Thank you Dr. Hansen. Your article has helped me solidify my contention that psychology is not a science and thus its finding are based in fiction and espoused as fact. I am certain that homosexuality is a natural occurrence and serves an evolutionary biological purpose. And that this will one day be common knowledge.

  17. February 15th, 2010 at 19:17 | #17

    Thanks Dr. Hansen……It is SO wonderful to hear from someone like yourself who paints a
    true picture of homosexuality….I am shocked by people like Tim who claim to be a
    Christian –One who you would expect to be familiar with the teachings of the Bible and if he is a true believer as he claims, then he would have to believe what he will have read
    in the 1st chapter of Romans verses 24-32…….mentioning homosexuality in verses 25-28 and ending in verse 32 saying that they which commit such things are worthy of death….
    He is right in saying that God is the Judge….He surely is and he will judge man by what he has written …What He has written is TRUTH …not what MAN claims to be Truth….
    What does or does not cause homosexuality is immaterial……What DOES matter is that
    is despicable to the God of heaven…who will have the final say … And if it is going to matter
    on the Judgement Day it better matter now.

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