Thursday, September 10, 2009

City Paper Looks for Ex-Gays, Finds Almost None

Amanda Hess at the DC City Paper has the current issue's cover story, called The Ex-Gay Movement that Wasn't -- Meet the city's tiniest demographic. She honestly wants to find some "ex-gays," she has twice advertised on her blog The Sexist. Like, yesterday, she had a post that said:
Do You Know Any Ex-Gays? PFOX Doesn’t, Either - If you do, pick up the phone right now and CALL ME (202-332-2100). If you don’t, read my cover story this week on why a dearth of local ex-gays poses a logistical problem for the area’s biggest ex-gay advocacy organization. BONUS: A discussion of fun new sexual orientation term, “everstraight”! Do You Know Any Ex-Gays? PFOX Doesn’t, Either

She had a similar ad a couple of weeks ago. Apparently got no takers.

Her City Paper piece looks at Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), an anti-gay organization that ostensibly exists to defend the rights of "ex-gays." I'm selecting text here, to read the entire article you should follow the link below or pick up the paper in the rack somewhere. Here's how she starts:
Last month, Robert Rigby approached a booth at the Arlington County Fair staffed by volunteers with Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), a group dedicated to the rights of recovering homosexuals. Rigby was already familiar with the message the ex-gays were peddling. As an ex-ex-gay, he had considered the PFOX position for 17 years before deciding to live openly as a gay man.

Rigby didn’t stick around long enough to dispute the fine points of sexual orientation with the PFOX volunteers. All he wanted was the brochures, to make sure he was up to date on the ex-gay movement’s latest obsessions. “I didn’t discuss ex-gay anything. I talked to them about Latin,” says Rigby, 46, who for the past decade has taught the language to Fairfax County high schoolers. “The kids think I teach too much grammar, not enough mythology,” he announced to the PFOX volunteers as he discretely collected the organization’s pamphlets for further review. The Ex-Gay Movement that Wasn't -- Meet the city's tiniest demographic

This reporter talked to a lot of people and seems to have honestly tried to find some "ex-gay" individuals for her story.

The inspiration for this article seems to have been PFOX's recent press release, where they claimed victory in a lawsuit that they lost, when a judge said that it appeared to him that "ex-gays" should be covered under DC's Human Rights Act (HRA), the same as gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. It does seem reasonable, if you can't discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation you shouldn't be able to discriminate on the basis of changing sexual orientation, I guess, even though an "ex-gay" person would be heterosexual and probably not much in need of special legal protection.

We talked about the lawsuit and press release HERE. PFOX had wanted to set up a booth at a teacher's convention, and the teachers (NEA) wouldn't let them. PFOX argued that they were being discriminated for being ex-gay, and a judge ruled against them. He said (quoting the City Paper now):
“In NEA’s judgment, PFOX is a conversion group hostile toward gays and lesbians,” Ross wrote. “Indeed, the HRA would not require NEA to accept an application from the Ku Klux Klan or a group viewed by the NEA as anti-labor union or racist.”

PFOX’s celebratory press release about the ruling didn’t mention that the judge saw fit to make an analogy to the KKK. The embrace of D.C.’s sexual-orientation law was a bit of a departure for PFOX, which has spent most of its history rallying against anti-discrimination protections for gays, lesbians, and transgender people.

The reporter entertainingly describes her search for an ex-gay in the DC area.
If there are any ex-gays left in Washington, D.C., they are tucked discretely back into the closet. “There is a large population of ex-gays, but they dare not speak as I speak about being ex-gay,” says Harley. “They dare not associate too openly with me because then people may think they are ex-gay. They’re just going to church, living normal lives with their husbands, like happily ever after.”

In 1999, Rigby almost raised the local ex-gay population by one—but not quite. Rigby was fresh out of the ex-gay movement and a lapsed member of PFOX’s ex-gay Listserv when he moved to Fairfax for a teaching job. Rigby, who serves as a mentor to the county school district’s Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA), says he hasn’t encountered an openly ex-gay kid in a decade of teaching—though he’s met many who flitted in and out of the closet in their high school years. “It’s called the coming-out process,” says Rigby. “We all go through that.” In 2005, PFOX attempted to drum adolescent ex-gays out of hiding by offering up an antidote to the GSA. PFOX’s version, dubbed “Ex-Gays and Everstraights”—that would be heterosexuals who have never identified as gay—never really caught on. “Not one group started up in the entire country,” Rigby says. “I just don’t think an ex-gay student was interested.”

PFOX has always had a hard time getting ex-gays to join the club. PFOX’s board of directors includes a surplus of everstraights but few former homosexuals. Parents of openly ex-gay children are also in short supply. The closest the group comes to fulfilling its name is Griggs, who speaks publicly about her loving—and disapproving—relationship with her openly gay son.

In our county, the public school district passes flyers to students four times a year promoting PFOX's message, telling gay students they can "change."

The City Paper reporter did some interesting background checking:
Beyond the one hopeful parent of a future ex-gay, PFOX’s directors are more fit to provide political influence than ex-gay support. Paul Rondeau, the group’s president, is not ex-gay. Estella Salvatierra, vice president, is a civil rights attorney and is not ex-gay. If Scott Strachan, the group’s secretary, is ex-gay, he’s not talking about it. Michelle Hoffman, the treasurer, once told the Montgomery County School Board that “I know many former homosexuals and am proud to call them my friends.” Peter Sprigg, a director, is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and has publicly identified as everstraight. Retta Brown, a director, is not ex-gay. Robert Knight, a former director of Concerned Women for America, is not a woman and is not ex-gay. Barber, a director, works at Liberty University Law School and is not ex-gay. Quinlan, a director, is ex-gay.

Thanks to Quinlan, the closest ex-gay connection that most PFOX members claim is that they are the “friends” of an ex-gay. They better be. The organization’s ex-gays are stuck with the dirty work: fighting off homosexual urges, inserting themselves into possibly discriminatory scenarios, and never, ever accomplishing the full heterosexuality of the everstraights. Ex-gays aren’t even welcome in PFOX meetings. In an e-mail posted on one ex-gay message board, a PFOX rep made the group’s target audience clear: “PFOX meetings are for families and friends of strugglers only, and not for ex-gays.”

An organization of "ex-gays" would be pretty small, I'd have to say.
How has PFOX managed to build the local ex-gay movement with the participation of so few actual ex-gays? Through the clever use of a smokescreen. The group claims to represent relatives and friends of ex-gays, which is code for the true constituency—Christian conservatives. Accordingly, PFOX does not deal in ex-gay counseling, therapy, or support groups; PFOX sues people. For that, it requires access to lawyers and lobbyists, not guys who can grant interviews about the decades they spent giving head in gay bathhouses. Never mind that Washington, D.C., is too liberal and gay to support any real ex-gay population—it provides the ideal base for an ex-gay front organization. For the past 14 years, PFOX has courted the attention of national conservative groups and legal funds in D.C. while waging its local turf wars across Maryland and Virginia—all the while quietly ignoring the interests of ex-gays.

I get quoted somewhere in this piece, not the important part.

Here's the wrap-up.
The visibility of ex-gays is necessary to PFOX’s survival, but the ex-gay reality is often too strange, off-message, or gay to sit well with the everstraight conservatives who make up PFOX’s inner sanctum. PFOX’s new legal strategy, however, actually encourages ex-gay public embarrassment—by attempting to coax gays and ex-ex-gays into harassing them, much as a defender in basketball strains to draw a charging foul. In Quinlan, who has a history of alleging physical and verbal attacks at the hands of gays, PFOX may have finally found a fitting ex-gay poster boy for PFOX’s political cause. He may be the only one. “They’re using ex-gay people in public venues as bait,” says Rigby. “But I don’t think they have enough ex-gay people to pursue that as a strategy. They just don’t know enough people who identify as ex-gay who would be willing to file such suits.”

PFOX has been a minor annoyance in Montgomery County, where they have joined in on lawsuits against the school district and otherwise attempted to derogate gay and transgender people through various means. It is a subtle trick, you can use the term "ex-gay" over and over again, and unsuspicious people will automatically assume that such people exist. Then you can argue that those people are constantly discriminated against, and again unsuspicious people will tend to believe you. They're never seen it happen, but it sounds vaguely plausible. They file lawsuits and put out press releases proclaiming that "ex-gays" have rights, too, and railing against those who discriminate against them, as if such behavior actually existed. It's a good trick, you have to give them credit for that. They allege that the rest of us say they "don't exist," as if that were a horrible prejudiced thing to say, but in fact ... where are they? The City Paper has done a service here, exposing the fact that there are almost no "ex-gays" for PFOX to represent.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did this reporter try advertising for sane members of TTF?

Be interesting to see if she came up with anything.

Odd the comparison of PFOX to the KKK. I had no idea the KKK was trying to help blacks become whites. It's amazing what you can learn on this blog if you're willing to suspend your grasp of reality.

Wow! They quoted Robert lot. It almost qualified as an interview with him. Strange that they are calling him an ex-ex-gay. According to what he's said here, he never identified himself as ex-gay. I thought he said he went to some programs to try to become one but that it never worked.

Robert is curious about a lot of things, as regular readers of the blog know.

September 10, 2009 12:26 PM  
Anonymous PasserBy said...

Anon, I figure you know some ex-gays that could get in touch with this reporter, right? I mean, you must know a lot of them, you know so much about this. Tell them to do their patriotic duty and call that number.

September 10, 2009 12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrea- not anon
I daresay that TTF members would score higher on sanity and intelligence tests than Anon. Anon's positive reality is a world of birthers, bigots and Joe Wilsons.

September 10, 2009 1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

as opposed to that of Jeremiah Wright, Van Jones, Bill Ayers and Barry Obama?

did Squeaky Fromme submit her application for membership to TTF yet?

September 10, 2009 1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would any ex-gay call a hostile reporter? It would be like asking an unborn baby to call Planned Parenthood!

September 10, 2009 3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PFOX discriminates against ex-gays by not allowing ex-gays to attend PFOX meetings!

September 10, 2009 3:35 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Be careful not to slander me dear. You may be an anonymous troll, but your IP address is recorded.

For the record, I identified as ex-gay for many years, though I was not a poster child for the movement.


September 11, 2009 5:09 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

As I understand it, PFOX's leadership declined to answer requests for interviews for the article.

I myself have declined requests to respond to some of the right-wing anti-gay "news" websites, so I guess I can understand not wanting to talk to reporters who do not necessarily have one's agenda in their hearts. There was a period in which my public statments fostered angry letter to the NOVA Journal (now the Examiner) from Ms. Griggs.

I read your quote in the article Jim. It was great.

I remember one time PFOX sent out some sort of press release with the theme "Robert Rigby admits ex-gays exist," because I'd said something at a school board meeting. It's worth noting that I am careful to use the phrase "people who identify as ex-gay." PFOX didn't catch the not-so-subtle distinction.

I wonder if PFOX/CRC will react to this article publicly. They are not so much friends of mine or TTF's.

September 11, 2009 5:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Be careful not to slander me dear."

I don't slander anybody, darling. If I've said anything false please let us know.

I don't remember you discussing your ex-gay period before.

So for years you thought you weren't gay anymore but you were? How could that be?

"I wonder if PFOX/CRC will react to this article publicly."

Doubtful. People who read City Paper don't read those kind of articles. I'm sure more people read it here than anywhere else.

September 11, 2009 7:35 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

You're a relative Johnny come lately, dear. When TTF started I went on at grim length about my ex-gay experiences. It turns out not to be my topic to talk about, since I am largely embarrassed that I essentially bought the Brooklyn Bridge, repeatedly and at length. I think it makes me look stupid.

September 11, 2009 9:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your use of the royal "we" ("us") reveals a lot about you and your ego-identity ("I don't slander anybody, darling. If I've said anything false please let us know.") Or else it reveals somthing more about you...the use of "us" meaning that you are a shill for some organization (in all liklihood the ridiculous PFOX hoax organization).
C'mon...fess up!
Harvey Milk

September 11, 2009 10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr Milk

You appear to have gone sour.

We are distinctly displeased with your attitude!

September 11, 2009 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

The ancient Romans often used the
first person plural in place of the singular, in speeches and in poetry.

Perhaps anonymous is channelling Cicero, or maybe even Catullus.

We are amused.

September 11, 2009 4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and, as a bonus, you're am amusing comedian

the whole slapstick verbal vaudeville is priceless

September 11, 2009 4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yuk, yuk, yuk "Anonymous". Your sophisticated comedic style should get you a job on Rush Limbaugh's writer's staff. Now that would be funny!!

September 12, 2009 11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robert...perhaps "Anonymous" has a deep desire to channel Cato the Elder ("Carthago delenda est") as evidenced by his unendable broadsides to save this country from the evils of a black President and his so-called "socialist" ideas?

September 12, 2009 11:46 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Perhaps he is channeling Cato. It was he who, as Censor, removed a senator from the house, for having kissed his wife openly in front of their daughter. Cato asserted that he himself only embraced his wife when it thundered, adding that he was a happy man whenever it thundered

September 12, 2009 1:39 PM  

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