Kids at Rockville’s Albert Einstein High School, Maryland, on February 1 took home their report cards, but some parents were shocked to find that alongside their kids’ grades there was also a leaflet telling their kids how being gay is a choice and that it is possible to change.
The flyer is from a group called PFOX, Parents And Friends Of Ex-Gays And Gays. In the one-page message, the group tells teenagers that no one is “born gay”, and people can choose their sexual orientation.
Karen Yount-Merrell, a licensed, clinical social worker, got one of the flyers when her son came home with his report card from Einstein High School.
“I don’t like it,” Yount-Merrell declared. “Everything in this flyer make its sound like the goal is to be [an] EX-gay, [or an EX]-lesbian. It is not embracing of a different orientation. It reiterates a societal view that there’s something ‘wrong’ with you, if you’re not in the norm. If you aren’t heterosexual. And teenagers have a hard enough time dealing with who they are and feeling good about themselves.”
How and why is this happening? School authorities point out that the Montgomery County district must allow any registered nonprofits to send home fliers with students per a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruling that Montgomery County’s previous refusal to allow an evangelical organization to send home leaflets was discriminatory. Routinely, and as in this case, schools add a disclaimer: “These materials are neither sponsored by nor endorsed by the Board of Education of Montgomery County, the superintendent, or this school.”
So what is the content of the leaflet that has so annoyed parents? Fox has a copy, but it reads in part:
Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) promotes diversity for the ex-gay community. Ex-gays demonstrate that those with unwanted same-sex attractions can seek help and information on overcoming their feelings. All individuals deserve the right to self-determination and happiness based on their own needs, and not the needs of others. PFOX supports tolerance.
Who are ex-gays?
Every year thousands of people with unwanted same-sex attractions make the personal decision to leave a gay identity through non-judgemental environment or their own own initiative. Their decision is one only they can make. However, there are those in society who refuse to respect an individual’s right to self determination. Consequently, formerly gay men and women are discriminated against simply because they dare to exist. Ex-gays and their supporters are denied equal access and support, forcing them to remain silent for fear of negative reactions and disapproval.
But aren’t some people born “gay”?
According to mainstream psychological associations, there are no replicated scientific studies to support that a person can be born “gay.” No “gay gene” or gay center of the brain has been found. No medical test exists to determine if a person is homosexual. Sexual orientation is based on feelings and is a matter of self-affirmation and public declaration. Some teens are labeled “gay” or other names even though they do not have same-sex attractions. Appearance is not a reliable means to know what another person feels. No one should be labeled based on the perception of others. Name calling is wrong because the victim may begin to believe what others tell them about themselves, which may be completely false labeling and cause gender confusion.
The leaflet goes on to weasel its way around sexual attraction not being a defining characteristic about sexuality (they’re playing parlance games with the notion that just because you are attracted to the same sex doesn’t mean you have to identify as gay) and to offer so-called help to anyone who has questions or would like support materials.
A brief rundown of the misinformation they have provided: the leaflet highlights there being no identifiable “gay gene” which profoundly misunderstands the complexity of assessing gene expression and gene-environment interaction and ignores the results of a number of studies that have pointed toward biological heredity. They also laud the lack of an identifiable gay center of the brain, which is technically true but doesn’t serve their cause because what studies have shown is there are definable differences in homosexual male and female brains when compared to their heterosexual male and female counterparts.
The leaflet then quotes mainstream psychological associations, claiming they all agree that there is no evidence for the “born gay” meme. PFOX does so without acknowledging what science actually says: that sexuality is immutable, and while that is not the same as supporting the notion of being born gay it is just as damning for the idea that one chooses to be homosexual. In addition, mainstream psychological and scientific understanding says that there is no replicated or verifiable evidence that suggests it is either possible or safe for most if not all people to try and change their sexuality, and that, in fact, being gay, lesbian or bisexual is a healthy expression of human sexuality that should be affirmed, this being the appropriate remedy to distress over sexual orientation.
Indeed, even leaders in the “ex-gay” movement have acknowledged that changing from gay to straight isn’t possible for the vast majority of people, while several have recently come out and said that they never experienced change at all.
Further to this, ex-gay cure therapies, whatever they entail, have demonstrated a propensity to subject people to deep emotional trauma.
This is perhaps why PFLAG (the LGBT-affirming organization PFOX appears to have mimicked with its choice of moniker) has reportedly hit out at the schools that are allowing this to happen, saying a simple disclaimer on responsibility isn’t enough, and that they have a duty to educate people about PFOX’s intentions. Via MetroWeekly:
”Any discussion of PFOX should include what has been its prime focus from its inception: convincing gay people that they can change their sexual orientation,” Fishback said in a related PFLAG release. ”This message is dangerous and destructive to health.”
Fishback also told Metro Weekly that promoting the idea of ”assumed willful differences” – that gay people can choose to be straight – contributes to atmospheres that are conducive to bullying, which, in turn, can lead teenagers to consider suicide.
This is not the the first time children in the district have taken home such materials.
PFOX has previously distributed its materials at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, and several others.