Approximately 5 percent of young people consider themselves lesbian, gay or bisexual, and many adolescents know a friend, classmate, neighbor or relative who is nonheterosexual. Pediatricians are being asked with increasing frequency about sexual behavior and sexual orientation. In a newly revised clinical report entitled, "Sexual Orientation and Adolescents," the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises pediatricians to be attentive to the needs of patients who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered, or who may be confused over their sexual orientation.
The report states that pediatricians are not responsible for identifying gay and lesbian youth, but they should create a clinical environment where adolescents feel safe to discuss sensitive personal issues, including sexuality and sexual orientation.
According to the report, sexual orientation is not synonymous with sexual activity or sexual behavior. Especially during adolescence, individuals may participate in a variety of sexual behaviors. Many youths label themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual if they are attracted to someone of the same sex....
And only 25 years ago, homosexuality was considered a psychological disorder. How times have changed.
That said, how many adolescents would be comfortable discussing sexual orientation with their pediatrician? For many, it would be preferable to discussing it with their parents, to be sure. But .... well. Perhaps one is projecting, just a bit. My first pediatrician was older than god, or so I thought, and he was this kindly avuncular sort. The concept of discussing anything sexual with him would never have occurred to me. The last doctor I had in my adolescence was a family practicioner ... and I would sooner have flapped my arms and flown than to have discussed anything sexual with her, either.
All THAT said ... I don't imagine that most adolescents would trust their doctors to keep information confidential. After all, their parents are paying for the service; why wouldn't they get a full report from the person?
Still and all: a much needed policy statement. There are undoubtedly doctors who will take advantage of it, and adolescents who will discover that they need some adult who is not their parent to talk to.Posted by iain at June 09, 2004 02:07 PM