One week ago, D.C.’s LGBT community awoke to the news that Mayor Adrian Fenty had issued a certificate of appreciation to the executive director of virulently anti-gay organization Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays. This is an organization that believes gays and lesbians have a mental illness that can be cured by reparative therapy.
PFOX is using this honor from Mayor Fenty to validate its views and to raise money. Recently, in Montgomery County public schools, PFOX distributed fliers telling students that they could change their sexual orientation from gay to straight by going to therapy.
Two years ago, I had the great privilege to work with gay philanthropist Mitchell Gold on a book he published called “Crisis: 40 stories revealing the personal, social, and religious pain and trauma of growing up gay in America.” It reminded me how difficult it was to be a young person struggling to understand my sexuality. Growing up is difficult enough without this added burden and PFOX works to add confusion to the process by recruiting young people to try to “cure” their gayness.
One of the stories in “Crisis” is from Jared Horsford. Struggling with his sexuality, he suffered from depression, isolated himself from friends, and began cutting himself. As a last ditch effort, he left college to enroll in an “ex-gay” program and undergo reparative therapy. There, he was told that cutting himself was a positive sign that he was fighting his desires. Jared wrote, “They seemed to think that being an ex-gay cutter was better than being a healthy, happy homosexual.”
That is the kind of scenario that PFOX’s work leads to. But far too often, that scenario has even more dire consequences, ending in suicide. This is why it is important that our community draw a line in the sand with Mayor Fenty. His silence is enabling PFOX to continue to spread these harmful policies.
The American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, among others, all oppose the policies of PFOX. Each of these organizations believes that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and that attempts to “cure” it via reparative therapy are not safe or effective.
A growing chorus of people has been asking that Mayor Fenty rescind the honor given to PFOX and to condemn the organization’s policies. So far, the mayor has failed to make it clear that PFOX is harmful to the LGBT community.
The mayor says that he is unsure that he can rescind a certificate of appreciation. I disagree. We have consistently seen this mayor exercise unprecedented executive power and he can easily invalidate the honor given to PFOX. Each day that he doesn’t, more young people are subjected to harassment and self-loathing because of the legitimacy that his recognition has given PFOX.
The history of Pride celebrations is to stand up for the dignity of our community. Until Mayor Fenty makes a public statement to rescind the honor given to PFOX and condemns its harmful policies, he is acting inconsistently with the meaning of Pride. If he is unwilling to protect the safety of and stand for the dignity of an entire community, then he should not be welcome at Capital Pride.
This effort is about sending a strong message to this mayor, future mayors, other elected officials and everyone else that hears it: disrespect to the LGBT community is unacceptable and will not be tolerated under any circumstances.