The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) is a professional, scientific organization that offers therapeutic assistance to those who struggle with unwanted homosexuality. As an organization, NARTH disseminates educational information, conducts and collects scientific research, promotes effective therapeutic treatment, and provides referrals to those who seek our assistance.
In keeping with NARTH’s commitment to science and education, NARTH offers the following synopsis of scientific research on homosexuality that may be helpful to the national council of the Boy Scouts of America as it deliberates a change in policy that would allow homosexually-identified youth as members.
The development of homosexuality is influenced by environment.
Homosexuality is not an unchangeable biologically determined trait like race. The American Psychological Association reports, “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles…”
The environment, including family dynamics, peer interactions and other social factors, can contribute significantly to the formation of one’s sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is not fixed at birth but rather is environmentally influenced and unfolds slowly across childhood, adolescence and even into adulthood for some individuals.
Premature sexual identity labeling comes with associated risks for youth.
Many teens experience a period of sexual identity ambiguity as a normal stage of adolescent development. The University of Minnesota Hospital & Clinics studied 35,000 students in Minnesota secondary schools. Among the more significant information provided by the survey was the following: At age twelve, 25.9% of the children were “unsure” of their sexual orientation. This figure declined to 5% by age 17, with an average “unsure” for all age groups of 10.7%. If children are encouraged to label themselves “gay,” or adults prematurely reinforce this identity before full psychosocial development has taken place there is a serious risk of erroneously labeling children who were only experiencing temporary sexual confusion.
Such premature labeling could lead some adolescents into homosexual behaviors that carry significant risk for serious health consequences, such as, higher rates of sexually transmitted infections, alcoholism, substance abuse, anxiety, depression and suicide.
While some might suggest that these heightened risky behaviors are the result of “homophobia,” social prejudice and/or discrimination cannot fully account for the elevated rates of these disorders, since equally dramatic rates are found among youth within homosexually-affirming cultures. Delaying the self-identification of youth as non-heterosexual significantly reduces these medical and psychiatric health risks. For example, researchers find that adolescents who defer “coming out as gay” decrease the risk of suicide at a rate of 20 percent for each year that they delay self-labeling as homosexual or bisexual.
Homosexual youth are sexually active significantly earlier than their heterosexual peers.
For example, in a study based on a sampling of teenagers in Massachusetts, sexual minority youth (i.e., those who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual or had any same-sex sexual contact in their lifetimes) were significantly more likely than other students to report lifetime sexual intercourse (72% vs. 44%). The same study found that sexual minority youth were more likely to report sexual intercourse before age 13 (18% vs. 4%), sexual intercourse with four or more partners in their lifetimes (32% vs. 11%), and recent sexual intercourse (55% vs. 33%).
More significantly, in 2011, the CDC released a survey of over 150,000 high school students in grades nine through twelve. Of those who had their first sexual experience under age 13 years, 19.8% identified as homosexual, and 14.6% identified as bisexual. Only a mere 4.8% of students with sexual debut under age thirteen identified as heterosexual. This survey also assessed the number of sexual partners. Of those students reporting four or more partners, 29.9% were homosexually identified, 28.2% identified as bisexual, but only 11.1% of those with 4 or more partners were heterosexually identified. Other studies have corroborated these findings as well as a significantly higher STD prevalence among homosexual and bisexual youth.
Early life trauma can lead to orientation confusion that calls for professional assistance.
While further research is needed some studies provide cautious but noteworthy evidence of a link between childhood sexual abuse and same-sex partnership among men. One example of this is the disproportionate extent of sexual abuse during the childhood of adult homosexuals. Dr. David Purcell, the Deputy Director for Behavioral and Social Science, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the CDC, has summarized the research regarding sexual abuse and homosexuality in the following manner:
“[R]egardless of the rigor of the sample selection, when comparing MSM [men who have sex with men] samples to general male population samples, and when comparing MSM and heterosexual men within one sample, MSM consistently report more CSA [childhood sexual abuse] overall and more CSA with males than heterosexual men do; and no differences are observed for reported abuse by females… These studies bolster our conclusion that a disparity exists between gay/bisexual men and heterosexual men when it comes to CSA by males. While it is possible that these differences may be an artifact of reporting biases (e.g., heterosexual men being less willing to report being victimized by a man or to report that early heterosexual contact is abuse as opposed to initiation), it seems unlikely that reporting bias would account for a difference of this consistency and magnitude across a wide range of samples.”
Clearly, youth who fall into this category need a referral for therapy for their trauma. Peers or adults that ignore or misunderstand this sexual confusion may instead prematurely label a questioning teen or suggest a “gay identity” or convey harmful misinformation such as the myth that gays are “born that way.”
The most critical question to answer regarding this proposed policy change, however, is: How will child protection be assured? If openly homosexual boys are allowed to participate, how does a Scoutmaster monitor the influence or actions that these boys may have upon others in the troop especially during overnight events? Will equal but segregated facilities be required? This certainly would be the case if the BSA were to alter its policy and admit girls.
As the BSA deliberates a potential change in its membership policy, NARTH encourages the council members to carefully consider the complexities of sexual orientation development reflected in the aforementioned research. Council members must strive to envision the short-term and long-term consequences of any potential decision.
 https://www.scouting.org/sitecore/content/MembershipStandards/Resolution/Resolution.aspx (accessed May 16, 2013).
 American Psychological Association (2008). Answers to your questions: For a better understanding of sexual orientation and homosexuality. Washington, DC: Author.
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