In the United States, parents of a seven-year-old “transgender,” a boy who identifies him/herself as a girl, are suing the child’s old school after the administration stopped the child from using the girls’ toilet and directed the child to a “gender-neutral” restroom instead.
The reason officials gave for this change of policy was fear of complaints in the future when the child’s genitals would be far more obvious. Although, given the child’s age, that shouldn’t be a concern until maybe five years from now.
That isn’t even the context in which the latest flap over gender has emerged on our shores. What has generated angry and fevered commentary online is a column by TV personality Tintin Bersola-Babao (which appeared in another paper) based on an interview she conducted with psychologist Camille Garcia, about what parents should do if they suspect their child is gay.
Among other things, Garcia admonishes parents not to “encourage” the questioned behavior, reminding them that what God gave was “a girl or a boy” and that “good parenting structures the right role of a person.” She discourages “reinforcement” of the questioned behavior, as when parents “allow the thinking,” sending the message that “it is ok to be gay, we accept you.”
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Understandably, the interview—and Bersola-Babao’s comments—drew the ire of the gay community, which in turn was met with barbed commentary from some supporters who supplied quotes from the Bible.
But the column also drew commentary from the mental health community, specifically the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP) which recently issued a statement reaffirming its position “borne from scientific knowledge that being gay is not a disease or disorder.”
Like similar organizations in other countries, the PAP “recognizes that there is no inherent illness or pathology behind same-gender sexual orientations,” noting that it has been 40 years “since homosexuality was taken out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders.”
The PAP, headed by Dr. Gina Hechanova, says it “enjoins Filipino psychologists to stand by their professional and ethical commitments to affirm the rights and wellbeing of all individuals.” The PAP Code of Ethics is quite clear on its stance against discrimination, calling on psychologists “to recognize the unique worth and inherent dignity of all human beings; and to respect the diversity among persons and peoples. This means that Filipino psychologists should not discriminate against or demean persons based on actual or perceived differences in characteristics including gender identity and sexual orientation.”
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Hechanova also provided “alternative” answers to the “Q&A” published by Bersola-Babao in her original column. While this column doesn’t have enough space for both the original and alternative, here are some points raised by Hechanova:
“A child’s choice of toys does not directly reflect on a child’s sexual orientation. At age 2 or 3, there are no clear signs that will tell us the gender of the person the child will eventually be attracted to. By about 6 or 7, we may start developing crushes and discovering who we are attracted to. By the time we become adolescents, we usually already know if we are attracted to men, to women, or to both and may explore our attraction through dating and relationships.
“Sexual orientation or attraction is an aspect of our deepest self or personhood and is not necessarily reflected in one’s appearance, dress, or speech, or from the toys he or she plays with as a child. We can only truly tell if a person is gay, lesbian, or bisexual if the person shares with us his or her experiences and feelings of attraction towards others.
“The question of whether to ‘arrest’ being gay or ‘encourage’ being gay assumes that gayness is a child’s behavior that parents can—and should—control. It also assumes that there is something wrong with being gay and that gayness needs to be ‘corrected’. To be clear: Gayness is not a sickness or abnormality, but a form of human love and sexuality that is as valid and legitimate as the heterosexual form. Our best scientific knowledge has shown that sexual orientation is not a choice. Parents cannot control who we are attracted to.
“What parents can control is whether and how they will show their unconditional regard and acceptance of their child. Whether the child is gay or straight, the ingredients of good parenting are the same. Parents who are warm and affectionate, sensitive to their children’s needs and respond to these appropriately have children who are well-adjusted and confident, have positive social relationships, are competent in school, and are at low risk for behavioral and emotional problems.
“For gay children, who will undoubtedly experience confusion, isolation, even rejection in their lives, the positive regard of their parents is all the more important and can protect them. Research in family psychology shows that children who are able to ‘come out’ to parents who support them and affirm their sexualities report fewer problems of depression and self-harm, feel more confident, have lower suicide risk, and experience greater well-being. Certainly, these are outcomes parents desire for their children.”
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In fairness to Bersola-Babao, who has already tweeted her apologies to those offended by her column, she does say that while she may not encourage gay behavior, “a mother will always accept her child…in the end, being a kind human being is more important than what your gender is.”
She also says at the close that “a parent must be there to support and love [her] children all the way, no matter what. We all deserve to be happy and free.” So parents, love your children—straight, gay, lesbian, bi, trannie or still searching.