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Father John Harvey: Source of Same-Sex Attractions in Children: Parenting and Social Influences

1/24/2004 - 6:00 AM PST

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Father John Harvey Distinguishes the Difference

NEW YORK, JAN. 24, 2004 (Zenit) - Most children who experiment with same-sex attractions as young adults are already predisposed to homosexual behavior because of their home environment, says a pastoral specialist.

Father John Harvey, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, is founder of Courage, a Catholic apostolate for adults with same-sex attractions, and is co-editor of "Same-Sex Attraction: A Parent's Guide" (Ignatius).

He shared how parents can educate themselves about same-sex attractions and how they can teach their children about healthy human sexuality. His last interview appeared Nov. 16.

Q: You've mentioned that familial or parental situations may contribute to same-sex attractions. Is there a difference between children in these situations and youth who choose to experiment with homosexuality because of social influences?

Father Harvey: There's a significant difference between a child with same-sex attractions due to family environments rather than due to experimentation.

The difference is the youth choosing to experiment is comparatively rare, even though it seems to become "cool" at a high school and college level. Generally speaking, there's a high probability that those who are experimenting already had same-sex attractions and are expressing them in the college period.

It is not common for someone who thinks he or she is heterosexual and who is from a healthy family to move into experimentation. A trauma, such as a teen-age girl or boy being raped, may lead him or her to have same-sex attractions rather than opposite-sex attractions.

Sometimes there's a teen-age period when those who don't feel attracted to the opposite sex try a relationship with the opposite sex, and it doesn't work out. They also find out having sex with someone of the opposite sex is not a cure for same-sex attractions.

Some social influences that lead to youth engaging in homosexual behavior can be traced back to high school. Many felt alone because they had same-sex attractions and weren't fitting in well in the group. In college, they fell into a group of people with same-sex attractions, looking to each other for companionship. At this point, experimentation may happen among people who are already predisposed.

The more we study, the more we see the influence at home is early, in grade school, and even earlier.

But it's important to remember that teen-agers who think they have same-sex attractions aren't set for life. They say they're "gay," but they may not be.

When teens say they feel uncomfortable around peers of the same sex and are attracted to them, often they've also had difficulty relating to and identifying emotionally and psychologically with their same-sex parent -- it's just that the realization of this strained relationship doesn't happen until much later.

It must be noted that same-sex attractions can also be generated by the child's relationship with the parent of the opposite sex.

In my years of counseling women with same-sex attractions, I have met a number of women who believe that their same-sex attractions were mainly due to their relationship with their father. Both parents have a great influence on the child's sense of self-worth and gender identity. There can also be other traumatic experiences outside the family that contribute toward the development of same-sex attractions.

Although most cases of same-sex attractions begin in childhood, the teen-age period becomes critical -- either the teen is drawn toward acting out homosexually, or the teen gets help and learns to live a chaste lifestyle.

The teen may also be able to gradually work toward overcoming or at least minimizing homosexual attractions with the help of a good therapist and spiritual director.

Q: What can be done for children who have stable home lives but who are experimenting with homosexuality due to social influences?

Father Harvey: If the parents know that their child has experimented with homosexual acts, the child must be commanded to seek therapy from reliable Catholic doctors.

If it is a stable home life in the full sense, where the child has a good relationship with both parents, then the parents simply need to continue to develop a healthy home environment while being mindful of external influence on the family, especially on the child.

These "external influences" may surface in adolescence and early college years when young people are found in a scholastic environment where it is considered "cool" to be homosexual or bisexual. If the individual already has some degree of same-sex attractions, he may slip into homosexual acts and thus be seduced into a homosexual way of living.

A healthy ...

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