The business of sexual "orientation'' and gender "identity'' is dangerous nonsense, Glenn Hardesty writes.
Contrary to your correspondent Andy Dunlap (25.2.16), I think the ODT ought to be more careful about publicising the lifestyle choices of seriously confused young people, and the views of older people who would exploit them (20.2.16).
Adolescence and the courtship/dating time of life are always confusing.
They're confusing even if you're normal: if, for instance, you know that you're a boy, and that you find girls attractive and disturbing.
You have to meet girls, figure out which particular girls you're most compatible with, get to know them, find out if they like you, deal with the mind-altering effects of being in love, negotiate tactfully how far to go with them sexually (in accordance with your value system, if any), and decide together whether you want to get married.
This can take 10 years or more.
And you can still make mistakes.
Imagine how much more confusing and difficult to be told at a tender age - implicitly or explicitly - that your nervous interest in the opposite sex may indicate not that you're attracted to them but that you're attracted sexually to your own sex - and that that's OK!
And perhaps now to be told furthermore - by a school teacher or counsellor - that despite anatomical evidence, you may not "really'' be a boy (or a girl) after all.
That you can make up your own mind!
And that you should try everything before deciding!
In our highly sexualised society and media environment, children have no choice but to be prematurely sexually aware, and as a result are under appalling pressure from an early age to "have'' a sexual and gender "identity'' and to be sexually active.
Now, I think that this whole business of sexual "orientation'' and gender "identity'' is a) nonsense, and b) dangerous nonsense.
Human sexual preferences are obviously not carved in stone (or our DNA): why otherwise are we seeing now such an historically unprecedented increase in non-normative sexual behaviours?
These matters are obviously very malleable.
In the past they have been supported by convention and religion (pretty much every religion) and common sense.
Now they are subject to nothing more than fashion, and the one doctrine all postmodernists believe in: radical pluralism.
No doubt there are people who are genuinely entitled to be confused, and for whom the rest of us should have nothing but compassion.
Hermaphrodites have been observed throughout history but they are pretty rare: 1 in 10,000 or 1 in 20,000.
But equally, there are now people using the fashionable banners of tolerance and choice and anti-bullying and political correctness and pluralism to prey on emotionally vulnerable adolescents, to confuse them, and give themselves greater sexual range and opportunity.
When these strategies are applied to paedophile, it is called grooming.
There is, furthermore, an increasing range of professionals - sociologists, arts festival organisers, media commentators, counsellors in schools, gender lobbyists - whose employment opportunities will boom if more people are not counselled out of confusion but further into it.
I went to school with two chaps who were, in the view of the rest of us (it was a boys' school), somewhat effeminate.
On reflection, they were bullied - though only slightly (nothing physical, and we didn't have cellphones).
Neither of them in later years pursued homosexual lifestyles, nor sought gender re-assignment.
Not only were those "options'' not then acceptable, they were, more importantly, not then fashionable.
Indeed, most people were hardly aware of them.
That's not a bad thing.
We don't have to be aware of everything.
Sorry, postmodernists: we don't get to choose what era we are born into, what nation, what social class.
The trick in life is to make the best of what we've got.
I just think it's not good for more people than absolutely necessary to be very confused about fundamental things.
It's not good for them, obviously.
Confused people get resentful that reality doesn't co-operate with their imaginations.
They will waste inordinate time and energy on navel-gazing, be a great anxiety to their families and a nuisance to others, and spend vast sums (often of public money) on counselling or even surgery.
Many of course will engage in fashionable self-destructive activities, like cutting themselves with knives.
Their narcissism will distract them from contributing usefully to society or the lives of others.
But also, it's also not good for society to have in it lots of confused people.
There are already plenty of people who are confused because of drugs, too much mass media, mental disorders, moral disorientation, intellectual inactivity, and sheer stupidity.
It costs society a great deal to keep these people out of trouble or clean up after them.
If you're going to choose, why not choose some thing easy and conventional, that is sanctioned by history, that is more psychically challenging and interesting than hooking up with your own gender, and will likely produce a family without technological intervention?
The LGB label gets extended every couple of weeks (LGBT, LGBTI, LGBTQ, LGBTIQ) as people develop new modes of sensual experimentation.
Counsellors do not do these people, especially if they are children or adolescents, any favours by encouraging them in "identities'' that have no basis in history, biology, psychology, and which are therefore always going to be difficult and confusing.
Meantime, I woke up feeling like a 16-year-old this morning, so I think that today I'll "identify'' as one and see if I can get half-fare on the bus.
● Glenn Hardesty is a Dunedin writer and retired teacher.