Ads by the Nonprofit Group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays
Ads by the Nonprofit Group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays
Date: October 30, 2003
Source: The Associated Press
Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) is an organization advocating the view that homosexuality is not an innate condition but a chosen or curable pathological condition. PFOX also maintains that homosexuals are deliberately recruiting young people to be gay rather than straight; the group's website stated in 2006 that there is a "massive cultural campaign to promote homosexuality to kids." PFOX first placed ads in stations of the Washington, D.C.-area commuter rail system or "Metro" in October, 2002. The ads featured photographs of smiling, handsome individuals accompanied by text testifying that the persons pictured had made a "choice" to change from homosexuality to heterosexuality. Similar ads, including the one shown here, were placed by PFOX in about 10 Metro stations in and near Washington, D.C. in October 2003, to run for one month. "… I realized there was a choice—and I chose to change from gay to straight," reads the ad. Its text alleges that "thousands" of persons have already done so and concludes, "Please respect our choice."
Placing the ads was cost-free because at the time, the Washington Metro system had a policy of placing public service ads at no charge. The ads were highly controversial. The executive director of the local chapter of Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays, an area organization, said, "I think they're creating a false sense of hope for people who have not come to acceptance [of their own homosexuality], both the GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender] people and their families who think that this is really based on sound research, and we know it's not." The chair of the Metro board, a gay D.C. city council member, said that "we're exploring ways in which we can legally and constitutionally extricate ourselves from the dilemma of having advertising in the subway system which is open not only to substantial controversy—which is of course what the First Amendment is all about—but it's also the truth in advertising issue, the extent to which whether [sic] their claims are in fact truthful."
Shortly after the PFOX ads appeared, the Washington Metro Operations Committee voted to permanently halt free public service ads as of January 1, 2004. Under the new system, it would cost PFOX over $12,000 to run similar ads, which the group has said it cannot afford. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, which states that it is "working for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights," developed a series of counter-ads that ran for free in the Metro public-service spaces in December, 2003, immediately after the PFOX ads. "The PFOX ads were deceptive and untrue," said the organization's education director. "We know that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people cannot 'change' their identities, and the discredited techniques that purport to change them are damaging." The reply ads did not directly address the question of whether homosexuality is a "choice," but did say, "If you're gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, live your life honestly…. It's how we change hearts and minds."
PFOX's ads were not the first time public-service ads on the Metro about homosexuality had caused controversy. In 1978, the Gay Activists Alliance launched a public-service Metro ads saying "Someone In Your Life Is Gay." The ads ran only after the Alliance won a lawsuit against the Metro system, which had refused the ads.
Although the PFOX Metro ad shown here asks readers to "respect our choice" (to become heterosexual), it may be noted that PFOX explicitly rejects the legitimacy of what it believes to be the opposite choice: that is, to be homosexual. In 2006, the PFOX website asserted that there is "no doubt that homosexual activists are recruiting kids into homosexual sex and a 'gay' identity, using 'tolerance' as a ruse."
ADS BY THE NONPROFIT GROUP PARENTS AND FRIENDS OF EX-GAYS AND GAYS
See primary source image.
At the root of the controversy over the PFOX ads is the factual question of whether homosexuality is innate or a lifestyle choice. Attempts to "cure" homosexuality have been made for over a century. Nineteenth-century efforts at homosexual conversion sometimes included repeated drunken visits to female prostitutes (per doctor's orders); few if any conversions were achieved. Social and religious conservatives have in recent years been promoting a school of psychotherapy known as "conversion therapy" or "reparative therapy," which purports to be able to change the sexual orientation of a person from homosexual to heterosexual. A number of conservative Christian ministry groups are devoted to homosexual-to-heterosexual conversion, both psychotherapeutic and prayer-centered, as well as PFOX and a small group of mental health professionals, the National Association for Research and Treatment of Homosexuality. Almost all individuals associated with this school of thought are conservative Christians, who view homosexuality as a sin or illness. Modern conversion therapy may involve counseling, prayer, religious conversion, or the monitored formation of a close nonsexual relationship with an adult of one's own gender.
There is scientific evidence—including studies of identical twins raised in separate households—that support the view that homosexuality is genetically determined. Both major professional mental-health organizations have denounced conversion therapy: the American Psychiatric Association stated in 2000 that it "opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as 'reparative' or conversion therapy, which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that a patient should change his/her sexual orientation." The American Psychological Association issued a policy statement in 1997 saying that "societal ignorance about same gender sexual orientation put some gay, lesbian, bisexual, and questioning individuals at risk for presenting for 'conversion' treatment due to family or social coercion and/or lack of information" and reiterating the APA's view that homosexuality is not a "mental illness."
As of 2006, no rigorously designed scientific studies on the efficacy of efforts to convert homosexuals to heterosexuals appeared to have been performed, but what studies were available indicated success rates for conversion or reparative therapy of between 0% and 0.5%. Some higher figures have been cited, but scientific critics note that these figures are based on populations including large or unknown numbers of bisexual patients and that enabling bisexual patients to concentrate on heterosexual activity does not count as conversion of a homosexual person to heterosexuality. Persons formerly identifying themselves as homosexual but now identifying themselves as heterosexual do exist but are a very small fraction of those who have attempted to make such a transition.
Anderton, Bryan. 'Ex-Gay' Ads Reappear in Metro Stations." The Washington Blade. Oct. 24, 2003. 〈http://www.washblade.com/2003/10-24/news/localnews/exgayad.cfm〉 (accessed April 6, 2006).
American Psychiatric Association. "COPP Position Statement on Therapies Focused on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation (Reparative or Conversion Therapies)." March, 2000. 〈http://www.psych.org/psych_pract/copptherapyaddendum83100.cfm〉 (accessed April 6, 2006).
American Psychological Association. "Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation." August 14, 1997. Available at 〈http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbc/policy/appropriate.html〉 (accessed April 6, 2006).
Human Rights Council. "HRC Places Public Service Ads in Washington's Subway System to Counter Anti-Gay Messages." Press release, Dec. 12, 2003. 〈http://www. hrc.org/Template/〉 (accessed April 6, 2006).