Let Us Prey : Ex-Gay Predators Target High School Youth

A story has been going around the blogs and hopefully into the mainstream press more and more about an organization disseminating literature that promotes gay to straight therapies (ex-gay) to high school students and their families.

What did some students in Maryland bring home to their families along with their report cards? Oh, just a little literature from Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, which wanted high school students to know that homosexuality can be cured through therapy. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

Unless you can convince a judge the fliers constitute “hate speech.” That’s because, based on a 2006 court ruling, public school districts are required to distribute, four times a year, any literature from a registered non-profit. Which makes PFOX’s material qualify for mandated distribution. Even if America’s leading psychological groups think such “therapy” isn’t just ineffective, but harmful.

I’ve been staying out of the ex-gay fray for over a year now as my focus has shifted to highlight and challenge the oppression of transgender, transsexual and gender non-conforming people–oppression outrageously practiced by lesbian, gay, bisexual as well as straight non-transgender (cisgender) people.  The work of countering the ex-gay claims and the many ways proponents of ex-gay theories and treatments attempt to insert themselves into society (even contributing to the anti-gay political climate in Uganda with a death penalty legislation for gays) has been expertly carried out by Jim Burroway and his writers at Box Turtle Bulletin, (who have done a stellar job of covering the Uganda story) Mike Airhart and Wayne Besen at Truth Wins Out, the writers over at Ex-Gay Watch, journalists Patrick Strudwick and Adrian Tippetts, scholars like Christine Robinson,   and many other bloggers, activists, and ex-gay survivors who speak out in multiple venues.  So many great minds and hearts have passionately taken on the ex-gay movement. After over eight years focusing on it myself and contributing to the conversation, I feel I can confidently move on to other issues.
Not that I don’t keep my eye on what’s happening and work behind the scenes consulting and working with others in the midst of their activism to help people understand that ex-gay treatment:
  1. Does NOT work (no one really changes from gay to straight–they simply alter their identity and some behavior often by suppressing whole parts of themselves)
  2. Is NOT necessary
  3. In most cases is destructive
These theories and treatments do not arise in a vacuum. We live in a world that regularly insists that it is far more valuable to be heterosexual and gender normative than to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or gender non-conforming. We see institutionalized oppression of non-heterosexuals and gender non-conforming people–oppression that affects every part of society–legal, religious, educational, neighborly oppression of a significant minority 0f the population.
That is what makes PFOX’ actions so outrageous. This is not an ex-gay movement–it is an ANTI-gay movement designed to demonize and destroy homosexuality in the world. It is militant, predatory and grounded in fear and ignorance. That the school district allows this sort of madness (supported by the legal ruling) boggles my mind. This is NOT about free speech at all. This is a matter of public health and safety. It is also a matter of using state and local funds to push religious teachings. These programs are always religious-based, even the ones that parade as secular.  These anti-gay teachings wrapped up in a thin film of love and compassion undermine young people and their sense of self. They also give faulty information and false promises to parents who may then take that information and force their child to pursue an ex-gay course.
For years anti-gay Conservative leaders warned against the Gay Agenda, a shadowy plan by militant homosexual activists designed to snatch up our unsuspecting children in order to recruit and convert them to embrace The Gay Lifestyle.  Seems the real predators are folks over a PFOX and Focus on the Family and other organizations that target youth, their parents, their teachers, their ministers in hopes of infecting them  with psychologically damaging messages and practices.
Teach the Facts has an article up which includes the copy from the PFOX flier that went out to parents along with an analysis of it.
This is not funny any more. Some students are going to get this flyer and believe, for instance, that there really are people out there who have decided not to be gay any more. Amanda Hess at the Washington City Paper advertised for weeks, trying to find one ex-gay person in the DC area, and couldn’t find one. But Montgomery County Public Schools is distributing flyers to thousands of schoolchildren, convincing them that there is an “ex-gay community” that is persecuted and treated unfairly, and making gay students believe that they can stop being gay by hooking up with this pitiful group of hucksters.

The assertions in this flyer are the exact opposite of what the district teaches in its health classes, which are based on current knowledge as it is understood by the major scientific and medical organizations.

Folks there is work to be done in Uganda, London, Washington, DC and in your own village or city.  We each have various areas where we may feel led to do work, to educate ourselves and others. It’s so easy for some of us of a certain class to be lulled to sleep with trips to Target and fun Super Bowl Parties and that project at home, and our lives should be full and rich so that we do not burn out. But we also need to engage. For you it may not be around what’s happening in Uganda, or in Montgomery County, Maryland. It may be about transgender issues or environmental issues or literacy or the disaster in Haiti or the on-going work in New Orleans. The thing is to ask ourselves, in the words of the poet Audre Lorde,
Perhaps … I am the face of one of your fears. Because I am a woman, because I am Black, because I am a lesbian, because I am myself — a Black woman warrior poet doing my work — come to ask you, are you doing yours?”
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This post has 7 Comments

  1. lowercasepaul on February 8, 2010 at 2:45 pm Reply

    The [fundamentalist] doth protest to much methinks.

    It is indeed the fundamentalist (Christians in this case) who has the “agenda” to entice and coerce children into the so called ‘christian’ “lifestyle.” They need such programs, methods and techniques in the absence of a God to support their ideas.

  2. Jane on February 10, 2010 at 12:47 pm Reply

    I am posting the Audre Lorde quote in many places. I need to be reminded of that.

    • p2son on February 10, 2010 at 3:40 pm Reply

      Quote early and often!

  3. AdrianT on February 11, 2010 at 10:47 am Reply

    Thanks Peterson for the kind comments and for your work – you’re an inspiration. Even though you are pursuing other areas of human rights work, I do hope you keep a close eye on ex-gay developments!

    One thing I am particularly impressed by, is your determination to fight other people’s causes. I think LGBT people should lead that – we know what it’s like to be downtrodden; we should be standing alongside the students of Iran (especially today), the women in Afghanistan, just as much as we should be attending pride rallies. More of us should take a leaf out of your book.

    Anyway, when you are next in London, I hope I have the opportunity to buy you a beer or two!!

  4. Mackenzie on February 11, 2010 at 7:01 pm Reply

    Odd to be reminded that people might actually believe such ridiculousness. I was thinking “what, like they’re actually going to believe the fliers? Why would anyone believe something so silly? Oh…right…”

    Find it annoying that so many of what these type of folks say could be refuted by a 4 year old saying “well that’s silly.” “Gays are bad” “well that’s silly, they’re not hurting anyone.”

  5. Valorie Zimmerman on February 13, 2010 at 3:38 am Reply

    It took a child to point out that “The Emperor has no clothes!”

    And the truth spread like wildfire. We just need to keep speaking the truth, over and over again.

    Thank you, Peterson. <3

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