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Psychologist sees pros, cons of gay-straight club

January 25, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- A Waynesboro psychologist says he sees pros and cons associated with a Gay-Straight Alliance for high school students.

On the plus side, the club could provide a connection, support and networking opportunity for same-sex students.

However, Dr. David Leaman worries the club would provide nonfactual materials designed to support an agenda for gay and lesbian rights. Those could be detrimental for students questioning their sexual identity, whereas Leaman feels many of those teenagers need professional counseling.

"You have to understand how you learn those feelings," he said.

A group of Waynesboro Area Senior High School students is asking the school board for permission to form a Gay-Straight Alliance club.

Because Leaman says solid research has found no genetic indicator or biochemical cause of homosexuality, he said being gay is psychosocially learned. Children ages 4 to 6 form stronger attachments to one sex, often when they're not valued by the parent who is the same gender as them.

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The children develop a sense that they're different from other youngsters of their gender, according to Leaman.

"In their elementary years, that gets more reinforced by their peers," he said.

Children in middle school are not defined sexually and only discover their sexual identity between ages 15 and 18, Leaman said.

"In adolescence, there's a lot of sexual exploration," Leaman said.

He said teenagers becoming open with their homosexuality benefit from support from gay teenagers and adults.

"There's a lack of good adult support for these kids struggling with their sexual identity. ... Usually the parents are the last to know," said Leaman, a former wrestling coach and teacher.

Students struggling with their sexual identity will avoid school and social settings, allow their grades to slip, be tense and lose the ability to concentrate.

Teenagers bullying homosexual classmates are the ones who will hurt other groups as well, according to Leaman.

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