May 6, 2010 at 9:26 am EDT | by Lane Hudson
Fenty must rescind, condemn award to anti-gay group

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.

  • Well said! Blaming it on a low level staff error and calling it a day is not a good response from the Mayor.

    I thought Fenty was an ally, but his response to this has been terrible and insensitive.

  • The main issue here is that PFOX is using the certificate as leverage to raise money and validate their perspective. Every major psychology and education group has refuted reparative therapy. So Fenty should move from apology, which is great, to a full retraction. Otherwise, PFOX will continue to use it to work against the gay community,on Fenty’s back.

  • The letter is *still* on the PFOX website saying they received an award from the DC Government!

    Fenty should really say it is retracted and then maybe they will take it down!

  • Well written. Fenty should not be at the Capital Pride in my opinion as this action truly shows hypocrisy at its best. He either supports our community or does not. He needs to make it clear one way or another. PFOX is very damaging to youth and does not foster a healthy environment for the LGBTQ youth. His apology is not enough as PFOX is still touting their letter of praise to the public in an effort to raise money for their organization which is leading people down a harmful path.

  • This article is deceptive. Have any of you read PFOX’s website? They are all about antidiscrimination in all forms. If you have the right to parade around, touting your “Gay Pride”, then those who choose not to be gay have the same right without being stoned by the gay community. The LGBT community, for the most part, is extraordinarily hypocritical. You are not interested in promoting equality for everyone. You simply want recognition and rights for yourselves, even at the expense of everyone else. Whether or not Fenty meant to issue the certificate to PFOX, it is well-deserved. PFOX has the same first amendment rights as anyone else, and should be honored for defending those rights. Shame on you for your bigotry and intolerance.

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