WASHINGTON, D.C., August 1, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – If you’re a physician who sees children and adolescents on a regular basis, there is a lot you can do to encourage young patients and their families to view homosexuality as normal and healthy, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The AAP recently issued an updated policy statement concerning homosexuality to its 60,000 members. The new guidelines say pediatricians should strive to “provide the context that being LGBTQ is normal, just different.”

According to the AAP, homosexuality “should not be considered abnormal.” While the organization acknowledges that “LGBTQ” teens as a whole engage in riskier behaviors and report higher rates of substance abuse, promiscuity, depression, self-harm, and even teen pregnancy, they blame that on “the presence of stigma from homophobia and heterosexism,” which “often leads to psychological distress [and] an increase in risk behaviors.”

As a result, the organization says doctors should make every effort to eliminate heterosexism in their practices.

Heterosexism is defined as “the societal expectation that heterosexuality is the expected norm and that, somehow, LGBTQ individuals are abnormal.” The AAP calls heterosexism “insidious and damaging.”

The organization recommends doctors display brochures and images featuring same-sex couples as well as straight ones, and affix rainbow decals throughout their offices to show they embrace homosexuality.

Doctors are urged to ensure that all office forms are gender neutral and do not presume heterosexuality; for example, forms should refer to “parent(s) or guardian(s),” not “mother and father.”

The group also warns doctors to never assume that a young patient is heterosexual. If a child tells her doctor she is having sex, the first question the AAP recommends physicians ask is, “Are you having sex with males, females, or both?”

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According to the AAP, doctors should make it clear to their underage patients that they will never discuss their sex lives with their parents.

“Pediatricians and their office staff should encourage teenagers to feel comfortable talking with them about their emerging sexual identities and concerns about their sexual activities,” say the guidelines. “Care should be confidential, and it is not the role of the pediatrician to inform parents/guardians about the teenager’s sexual identity or behavior; doing so could expose the youth to harm.

Additionally, the AAP recommends pediatricians take an active role in promoting acceptance of homosexual behavior in their schools and communities.

“Pediatricians should support or create gay-straight alliances at schools,” the guidelines state, “and support the development and enforcement of zero-tolerance policies for homophobic teasing, bullying, harassment, and violence.”

The group also recommends physicians keep a list of homosexual advocacy groups and their websites handy to give to children who express confusion about their sexuality.