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03/15/2006

The considerable liberties of a PFOX press release

by Jeremy Hooper

   PFOX, the Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (though their acronym conspicuously leaves off the "and gays" part), are applauding what they perceive as the First Amendment Center's inclusion of "ex-gays" in their recently released Sexual Orientation Concensus Guidelines, as a group whose viewpoints school officials should consider when developing fair policies regarding sexual orientation. Regarding the guidelines, head PFOXer Regina Griggs says,

"As PFOX continues to work for inclusion and respect of the ex-gay viewpoint in public schools nationwide, we are assured by the consensus guidelines that the ex-gay viewpoint is protected by the First Amendment," said Regina Griggs, PFOX director. "In too many schools, the ex-gay viewpoint is censored or marginalized. Now school districts are held to a standard of respect. According to the new guidelines, actions by educators to exclude some views merely because they disagree with them constitute viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment."

But here's the thing: The guidelines -- which we've read in their entirety and clarified with someone at the First Amendment Center -- are no more "ex-gay" inclusive than they are "ex-straight," "ex-ex-gay," "extra-gay," "gay ex," or "gay for a day, now I'm straight, but tomorrow I may be gay again"-centric. They simply say that viewpoints on both sides have the right to be heard. Yes, an organization like PFOX has the RIGHT under the First Amendment to say that such a character as an "ex-gay" exists; we have the right to say their movement is a dangerous political construct intended to further the notion that gays can change, therefore giving "pro-family" folks the ability to demonize gays and not feel badly, as they are merely speaking against something gays are "doing," not something that they are. We're free to dissent. However, just because all viewpoints deserve to be heard, doesn't alter the merit of the notions. It doesn't change the fact that the concept of "reparative therapy" is refuted by every major medical and mental health organization in the United States.

Yes, saying the guidelines include "ex-gays" is technically true; so is saying they include those who think everyone should be castrated or forced to start having sex at age 12. The pro-castration and the young sex-encouraging folks would have every right to plead their case. But if a niche group dedicated to either concept claimed the guidelines included them, it would be duplicitous, at best. Presenting this information as if it specifically speaks for the cause of ex-gays, as PFOX does in their press release (with likely awareness that most will not take the time to actually see what the guidelines say), is equally as misleading.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION CONSENSUS GUIDELINES INCLUDE EX-GAYS [PFOX]
1st Consensus Guidelines for Public Schools Regarding Issues of Sexual Orientation [First Amendment Center via GLSEN]

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