Monday, February 07, 2005

The Gazette on the Billboard Protest

The Gazette does it again. They have a very nice story online about the protests over the PFOX billboard on 355 near the MCPS offices: Rockville billboard generates discrimination debate. They interview both sides, that is, they talk to members of PFOX -- Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays -- who support the billboard, and they talk to some of the protestors and citizens.
The billboard features a handsome man whose smile borders a caption that reads: "Ex-Gays prove that change is possible."

The towering advertisement is sponsored by Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), a national group based in Virginia that advocates the idea that homosexuals are not born gay and can choose, with counseling, their sexuality.

Really, if they were "friends of gays," too, wouldn't it be PFOXGAG? <Understatement>It is my impression that gay people don't feel very befriended by that crowd.</Understatement>
No one is bashing gays over the head, PFOX Executive Director Regina Griggs said: PFOX is saying that those who want to go straight can.

"All we want is children to know that change is possible," Griggs said. "There is no gay gene.

This kills me. There is no gay gene. The human genome was mapped -- what? two years ago? Yes, 2003. (Right here in Rockville, by the way.) Now researchers are looking at genetic correlates of homosexuality, and finding them. The whole field is so new ... it is just too soon to say whether there's a "gay gene" or not.

And what are they going to say when a "gay gene" is found? Will they say, no, that's not really a gay gene? Or, that's not the gay gene I was talking about? Or, that gene can go straight, if it tries?

Actually (rubbing chin thoughtfully, gazing upwards), how can these fundamentalist types talk about genes at all? If you deny that evolution exists, can genes be meaningful? What do they make of the fact that the human genome is almost identical to the chimpanzee's? Somebody want to volunteer to ask one of these guys? Maybe we'll send an email to James Dobson and ask him how he explains that.

And I'm wondering, why do these people want children to know that change is possible, when they don't want them to know that some people are gay in the first place? How would that work? The teacher says, mmm, now class, not everybody is heterosexual, but they can be, if they want ...? Yeah, I don't know how that would work.

Then there's this guy:
North Bethesda resident Ananda Jacob agreed.

"I am appalled by this whole ex-gay thing," he said. "If somebody was an ex-gay, they were probably not gay in the first place.

Yes, that's a tough one. Unfortunately there's no gayometer that can tell you for sure, is there?
Griggs would not identify the man pictured on the poster, saying he has received death threats.

OK, I have promised not to make fun of this claim ... but ... I am extremely incredulous regarding the existence of death threats. Does THIS GUY look like he's trying to hide his identity?

I'd like to know the story behind that claim. Who threatened whom? And when? Did it happen here in Rockville? Have the police been alerted? Has Christopher Delaney gone into hiding? Hired bodyguards? Does he carry a weapon to defend himself? Is it registered? If he's so endangered, why does he post on the Internet a list of places he'll be? Why does Regina Griggs keep telling newspapers that his identity is a secret, when he's got it plastered all over the Internet?

If anybody knows more about that, please let me know. If this guy's really in danger, that's not funny, and I wouldn't want to make light of it. But the pieces just don't add up. You know what I mean?
Ex-gay advocacy groups like PFOX are "universally rejected" by all major psychological and health organizations, said Dan Furmansky, executive director of Equality Maryland, a statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization in Silver Spring. "They're free to disseminate their information. But it's so far out of the mainstream it would be ludicrous if it weren't so sad.

"What is discriminatory is they use this messaging to try to deny rights to gay individuals and their families and to prey upon young people grappling with their sexual orientation and to push them potentially one step closer to suicide," Furmansky added.

PFOX members, who failed last year in their attempt to shape the content of sex education curriculum in Montgomery County high schools more to their liking, say pro-gay advocates are the discriminatory ones.

"There's a complete intolerance on the other side," said Mignon Middleton, a self-described ex-lesbian member of the Prince George's County chapter of PFOX. "The billboard is up there and might have helped some people that need help. It's not showing hatred toward anybody.

Let me think about this. Say somebody is gay, and feels terrible about it. Maybe they go to one of those churches that thinks it's sinful and everything. So they decide to go straight. They stop hanging out with their gay friends, start dating people of the opposite sex, give it a good go. Let's say they meet somebody and settle down in a heterosexual relationship.

OK, who's against that? Not me. How about you gay folks? You against that? No, I didn't think so. I agree, let 'em do whatever makes them happy.

Now, let's say somebody does this, switches from gay to straight, and then puts up a big ol' billboard alongside the busiest street in town, telling the world that all gay people can do what they did.

Does that bother you a little bit? Yeah, me too. There's "live," and there's "let live." They go together.
The PFOX Web site holds that sexual orientation laws "legitimize intolerance against former homosexuals" by silencing the ex-gay community as bigots.

However, arguing ex-gays are discriminated against provides PFOX a sympathetic shelter of legitimacy from which to operate a veiled anti-gay program, Silver Spring resident Cliff Witt said.

Gays and their supporters contend that by denying any genetic predisposition to homosexuality, PFOX and other groups like it repudiate the very identity of the homosexual minority, undercutting the need for legal protections.

When it comes to sexuality, there is no choice, Witt said.

"And if there were, why would anyone choose to be discriminated against? That is the major flaw in their thinking. What it is that they're up to is unclear," he said.

The billboard represents one step in the Christian Right's attempt to spread a message of intolerance in Maryland, Furmansky said.

Thanks again to The Gazette for handling a complicated topic in a very fair and even-handed way. Everybody got their say, and the facts are on record.


Blogger Isabel Manuela said...

And the part I don't get is this. If they have gone straight, and feel great that way, very good for them. Way to go! But then, what's the discrimination part? As soon as they turned straight they got the blessings of all the people that previously despised them, as well as all the very material benefits of heterosexuality: marriage, health insurance with their partner and for their kids, visiting in hospitals, survivors benefits, and a long etc. So, there they go.
Why should they insist on putting the rest of the people's lives in question, and suggest that they could change if they just try? I'm not going to go into the opinions the scientific and medical community holds about homosexuals who change their behavior and start having sex with people of the opposite gender. My question goes: If you now hold all the benefits, is it actually to discriminate against you to say that your position is questionable? If it is so, why you do the same with the other side? Why you keep questioning people's sexual orientation and implying they could just change it? You feel bad because we insist that the claims to have left homosexuality behind seem dubious to us. But you don't feel bad at all by saying to others: you are gay, you are sick, you can change. You know that your claims have an impact in economical and social terms, and that not all people are as willing as you are to deny who they are. Those people want to have the same benefits you now have for "becoming" heterosexual. When you "became" heterosexual you automatically partook on the big slice of the pie. Gay people want to have a slice too. Would you share? Let's make a deal: we accept that you are a heterosexual now, and you accept that gay people are so. And we all live happily ever after.

February 07, 2005 5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

STFU. Stupid rant. Smoke Sausage and STFU.

February 23, 2005 12:27 PM  

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