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Gays, lesbians more likely to become teen parents, B.C. study says

Sexually active gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers in British Columbia are up to three times more likely to be involved in a pregnancy than their heterosexual counterparts, according to a University of British Columbia study.

Although the study did not go into why the pregnancies occurred, principal investigator Elizabeth Saewyc said one possible reason young gays and lesbians may become involved in pregnancy is negative messages they receive about their sexuality from society.

"Young people may try to avoid that stigma by reaching for an identity they can be proud of. In Canada, we have very positive things to say about motherhood and fatherhood," Dr. Saewyc said.

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Among gay males surveyed in 2003, 17 per cent said they had been involved in a pregnancy, as opposed to only 5 per cent of sexually active heterosexual males. Thirteen per cent of lesbians said they had been involved in a pregnancy, while only 5 per cent of heterosexual girls had. For bisexual teens, 17 per cent of males and 9 per cent of females had been involved in pregnancy.

"Attraction and identity don't always go hand in hand with behaviour. That is, people end up becoming involved in sexual behaviour for a variety of reasons," Dr. Saewyc said.

Rates of pregnancy involvement for males and females of all sexual preferences are down across the board since 1992, when the McCreary Centre Society started collecting data.

The study, Not Yet Equal: The Health of Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth in B.C., was conducted by the McCreary Centre Society and UBC. It used data collected from 74,000 teens between Grades 7 and 12 who filled out surveys in 1992, 1998 and 2003. It's believed to be the first study of its scope in Canada that takes sexual orientation into account.

Dr. Saewyc also said that sexual assaults can lead to pregnancies for lesbian teenagers. Sexual abuse was reported by 29 per cent of lesbians in 2003. That number dropped from 43 per cent in 1992.

What Dr. Saewyc said disturbed her most from the study were rising rates of physical abuse toward young lesbians. In 1992, 27 per cent of lesbians said they had experienced physical abuse. That rose to 45 per cent in 2003.

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