A challenge to Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays

The organization Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays is one of the more bizarre and contradictory elements of the anti-gay Christian right. Intended as a counterpart to Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, PFOX claims to conduct “public education and outreach to further individual self-determination and respect for all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation.” They also say that they’re “supporting parents in loving their homosexual children unconditionally.”

In keeping with these principles, PFOX has shown their friendship and respect toward gays by publishing flyers stating that “The homosexual lifestyle, especially for males, carries grave health risks”, that “Declaring and validating a student’s same-sex attraction during the adolescent years is premature and may be personally harmful”, that “For many youth, homosexual attraction develops due to negative or traumatic experiences, such as sexual abuse”, and that Maryland’s Marriage Protection Act is needed “to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” PFOX has repeatedly distributed these flyers at public high schools.

They’ve also cited various articles saying that gay people have a “reduced life expectancy” of “45 vs. 75 years” compared to straight people, that “as homosexuals gain more civil rights, heterosexuals are losing theirs”, that “A genuine, conspicuous display of Christian love quickly and decisively eclipses the counterfeit love found in homosexuality”, that “America’s black gay and lesbian community needs to come home to God”, and even “I’ll donate $100 to their favorite charity if anyone can show me a scientific study that proves condoms prevent the transmission of HIV.”

In response to this year’s Day of Silence in protest of anti-gay bullying, PFOX is asking students to circulate another one of their flyers, which ironically states that “PFOX supports tolerance for all.” Rhetorically asking, “Why is discrimination against ex-gays wrong?”, they claim that “formerly gay men and women are discriminated against simply because they exist.” These allegations of discrimination are a recurring theme for PFOX, and they’ve often fought for the inclusion of ex-gays in sexual orientation non-discrimination policies. Yet even as they trumpet their alleged victory in a Washington, D.C. court ruling that found ex-gays to be a protected class under the D.C. Human Rights Act, they frequently inveigh against laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In one flyer, they claim that “sexual orientation laws and policies discriminate against ex-gays”, and later say that “To give sexual orientation protection to one group while excluding another is outright discrimination.” But the protected class of sexual orientation already encompasses everyone, because everyone has a sexual orientation, whether they’re gay, straight, bisexual or otherwise. If “ex-gays” actually are heterosexual, they’re still covered by this.

Elsewhere, PFOX has republished newsletters from the anti-gay group MassResistance which describe the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as “the homosexualization of the Armed Forces”. They also quoted a column from Ann Coulter where she argued that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell should remain in place because Private Bradley Manning was gay. The policy of requiring only gay servicemembers to remain closeted is practically the textbook definition of “giving sexual orientation protection to one group while excluding another”, which PFOX has said is “outright discrimination”. Is that what they call “tolerance for all”?

PFOX has also consistently opposed the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, suggesting that it would “hurt children” and complaining that it “includes transvestites, but not ex-gays” and would “force – under penalty of law – Christian, Jewish or Muslim business owners to adopt a secular-humanist viewpoint, ignoring all matters surrounding sexual morality”. They especially focus on invalidating transgender identities, falsely claiming that the medically accepted standards of care for transitioning are ineffective and that psychotherapy alone is sufficient to treat gender identity disorder. As an “ex-gay” organization, you might think they would fully support transgender people, given that plenty of them could be considered “ex-gay”. If someone who’s attracted to men was assigned male at birth, and later transitioned, she would have previously been considered gay – but not anymore. Are they not ex-gay enough for PFOX? These might be the only actual ex-gay people they’ll ever find – their same-sex attractions really have become opposite-sex attractions! Yet PFOX seems to have very little respect for their “individual self-determination”.

So here’s my challenge to PFOX: If you’re so concerned about discrimination against ex-gays, will you support sexual orientation and gender identity non-discrimination laws covering employment, housing, public accommodations, and military service? If you’re truly ex-gay, and even if you’re not, these laws would still apply to you. So will you stand up for these crucial protections for ex-gays, including transgender ex-gays? Or is it unacceptable to you that this would also protect current-gays? If you’re serious about “individual self-determination and respect for all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation”, then this is what your stance requires: ensuring that equal participation in society is possible for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. That is what you’re looking for – isn’t it?

A challenge to Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays

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