Statement by David Fishback on PFOX Flyers
This guest blog is presented by David S. Fishback, Advocacy Chair of the Metro DC Chapter of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG):
In February, the interestingly-named group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) distributed fliers in some Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) high schools telling students that people can change their sexual orientation from gay to straight by “therapies.” PFOX was able to distribute these fliers because a federal court decision several years ago required that MCPS not discriminate based on viewpoint in what the court viewed as a “public forum.” The same court also made it clear that MCPS, when speaking for itself, need not present all viewpoints. That is why PFOX lost in its lawsuit in 2007 and 2008 to block the health education curriculum revisions dealing with matters of sexual orientation unless its “viewpoint” was also presented.
The PFOX flyer is dangerous to children’s health.
On April 12, I wrote a letter to the Montgomery County Board of Education on behalf of the Metro DC Chapter of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians (PFLAG), excerpts of which are copied here:
As you aware, last February, fliers from Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) recently were distributed to Montgomery County high school students. See “Potomac high-schoolers get note saying therapy can turn gays straight”. At that time, PFOX announced that it would distribute more such fliers in April. The PFOX fliers tell students that gay people can become straight through "therapies.”
We know that the PFOX fliers are dangerous to the health of students who are gay. Because the "therapies" advocated by PFOX do not, in fact, change sexual orientation and create enormous -- and sometimes fatal -- emotional difficulties for those who are subjected to them, every American mainstream medical and mental health professional association, including the American Medical Association, has condemned them.
Because MCPS has chosen to continue the flyer distribution program, we believe that it has a heightened responsibility to deal with the PFOX misrepresentations. While the 2007 revised MCPS 8th and 10th Grade Health Education Curriculum includes an excellent discussion of sexual orientation, it does not deal with the "reparative" therapy issue. This is not an issue that MCPS has ignored; indeed, since the revised curriculum was implemented, MCPS has provided to Guidance Counselors and School Psychologists information from the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics explaining that these so-called therapies are dangerous.
On April 14, fliers submitted by the Metro DC Chapter of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gay will be distributed to all high school students in MCPS. Those fliers show that the medical community rejects these so-called therapies. However, under appropriate MCPS rules, the fliers contain the disclaimer that the contents do not represent the views of MCPS. (“These materials are neither sponsored nor endorsed by the Board of Education of Montgomery County, the Superintendent, or this school.”). So what students are receiving are contending views, even though MCPS itself understands that the PFOX “viewpoint” is dangerous.
There is a way to begin to resolve this problem.
In 2006, your Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development recommended that the 8th and 10th Grade Health Education Curriculum include the following statements, which are the positions of the mainstream health professional associations:
- Homosexuality is not a disease or a mental illness.
- Sexual orientation is not a choice and the American Medical Association opposes "therapies" that seek to change sexual orientation that are premised on the assumption that people can or should change their sexual orientation.
- Children raised by same-sex couples do just as well as those raised by heterosexuals, and are no more likely to be homosexual.
- Children who have fleeting same-sex attractions may assume incorrectly that they are gay or lesbian. Mere fleeting attraction does not prove orientation.
- Homosexuals can live happy, successful lives; they can be successful parents.
In January 2007, the Superintendent proposed curriculum changes which, while very good, failed to contain any of these recommendations. On June 6, 2007, the Citizens Advisory Committee, believing that the above statements should have been in included, sent a report urging their inclusion. Later that month, the Superintendent proposed to include the first statement -- that being gay is not an illness -- but only if it were in response to a student's question. None of the other statements -- including the second, which deals squarely with the issue raised in the PFOX fliers -- were placed in the curriculum.
Consequently, we urge that the Board and the Superintendent take steps to include your Citizens Advisory Committee’s recommendations from June 2007 in the curriculum. Again, those recommendations comport with material that is already in MCPS Guidance offices.
On April 15, following the PFLAG flyer distribution, I testified before the Board of Education. Below is that testimony.Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) has been pleased with how MCPS has handled matters of sexual orientation in recent years. The Board’s 2007 health education curriculum explains that it is important “to be educated about homosexuality [because such education] . . . is likely to diminish anti-gay prejudice. Accurate information . . . is especially important to young people who are first discovering and seeking to understand their sexuality.”
In 2007, your Citizens Advisory Committee strongly urged that the curriculum include the fact that “sexual orientation is not a choice and the American Medical Association opposes ‘therapies’ that seek to change sexual orientation that are premised on the assumption that people can or should change.” Unfortunately, that information – which is contained in materials provided for use by MCPS Guidance Offices – was not included in the curriculum.
The need for this information was made strikingly clear by the recent flyer distribution in several high schools by PFOX, telling students that gay people can change their sexual orientation through “therapies.” This assertion is not just hurtful to gay students and their families, but is rejected by every mainstream American medical and mental health professional association. These “therapies” are dangerous and have led to terrible outcomes, including depression and suicide.
Yesterday, PFLAG distributed fliers in every high school, setting forth the mainstream medical view. Per MCPS regulation our fliers stated that they “are neither sponsored nor endorsed” by MCPS. Thus, we believe that MCPS has a responsibility to provide accurate medical information on this issue. (More details are provided in the letter I recently sent to the Board which is attached to the written version of my testimony).
This is not merely a disagreement between PFOX and PFLAG. It is a disagreement between PFOX and the entire mainstream health community. We urge you to begin the process for including this accurate medical information in the health education curriculum: it could save lives.
Also testifying at the April 15 Board of Education meeting was Peter Sprigg, Vice President of James Dobson’s Family Research Council. Mr. Sprigg stated on the Chris Matthews program Hardball last winter that he believed that same sex activity should be criminalized. He did not mention this to the Board, but asked the Board to consider material from the American College of Pediatricians (ACP), which he attached to his testimony and which states that “sexual reorientation therapy has proven effective for those with unwanted homosexual attractions.” The American College of Pediatricians is a front for the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), a notorious anti-gay organization. Indeed, the same day Mr. Sprigg testified, Dr. Francis Collins, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, issued a statement condemning the ACP for supporting “an ideology that can cause unnecessary anguish and encourage prejudice. The information they present is misleading and incorrect, and it is particularly troubling that they are distributing it in a way that will confuse school children and their parents." See http://www.nih.gov/about/director/04152010_statement_ACP.htm
It is imperative that the Board include material, recommended by its own Advisory Committee, specifically stating that mainstream medical and mental health community recognizes that being gay is not a choice and that so-called therapies to change sexual orientation are opposed by the mainstream health professionals as dangerous. Please contact the Board at firstname.lastname@example.org to urge MCPS to provide this needed improvement to the health education curriculum.