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Gay pressure groups have accused an “ex-gay” organisation of “inviting child abuse” after claiming children with gender identity issues should be exposed to bullying.

A coalition of organisations monitoring groups claiming to convert gay people back to heterosexuality, have criticised the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuals (NARTH) after a member advocated teasing transgender children to “re-establish that necessary boundary.”

NARTH Scientific Advisory Committee member Joseph Berger said on a blog in reaction to a San Francisco Chronicle article on gender identity issues, “I suggest, indeed, letting children who wish go to school in clothes of the opposite sex – but not counselling other children to not tease them or hurt their feelings.

“On the contrary, don’t interfere, and let the other children ridicule the child who has lost that clear boundary between play-acting at home and the reality needs of the outside world.

“Maybe, in this way, the child will re-establish that necessary boundary.”

Autumn Sandeen a spokesperson for the Transgender Community Coalition of San Diego told PinkNews.co.uk: “It’s shameful that NARTH’s Dr Berger believes what children should bring with them to school is a propensity to ridicule gender variant children.”

Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, an organisation which regularly protests against gay “conversion” groups, told PinkNews.co.uk: “This is cruelty disguised as compassion and an invitation to child abuse.”

“NARTH regularly confuses self-righteous ridicule with research and this is why they are rejected by every respected medical and mental health organisation in the world.”

Daniel Gonzales of Ex-Gay Watch, a similar campaign group, was shocked at the statement, he told PinkNews.co.uk “Regardless if a child’s gender dysphoria persists into adulthood, allowing any child with a psychological condition to be harassed because of that condition is shameful.

“I’m most shocked and dismayed this position is being advocated from within a professional mental health association (American Psychological Association.)”

According to a media release issued by the National Centre for Research and Treatment of Homosexuality (NARTH), APA president Gerald Koocher, fielding questions at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention regarding unwanted homosexual attraction, affirmed a patient’s right to seek help.

“APA has no conflict with psychologists who help those distressed by unwanted homosexual attraction,” Mr Koocher said, according to NARTH’s account. “The choice to enter therapy to diminish homosexual attractions and to strengthen heterosexual potential must be respected.”

More than 50 “former” homosexuals protested outside the APA convention, holding signs that read, “Change is Possible,” “APA, We Need Your Support” and “Diversity Includes Us.”

“This recognition of an individual’s autonomy and right to self-determination is a positive step for the APA,” said Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International.

Following the protest, however, the APA issued a statement expressing concerns that homosexual conversion groups’ positions “create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.”

“For over three decades the consensus of the mental health community has been that homosexuality is not an illness and therefore not in need of a cure,” APA’s statement read.

“The APA’s concern about the positions espoused by NARTH and so-called conversion therapy is that they are not supported by the science. There is simply no sufficient scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.”

Jack Drescher, former chair of the American Psychiatric Association Committee on gay, lesbian and bisexual issues and author on the issue of gay therapy, questioned the organisation’s conscience, he said: “NARTH believes homosexuality is a “treatable” condition, however, NARTH’s position on sexuality and gender are not shared by mainstream mental health groups like the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association which stopped treating homosexuality as a disorder more than 30 years ago.

“NARTH has a long tradition of encouraging antigay social disapproval as a form of prevention, it should come as no surprise that in addition to supporting the criminalisation of homosexuality and denying gay adults full civil rights, NARTH would support teasing by other children as a way to promote gender conformity. NARTH, have you no sense of decency?”