An excellent exposé of PFOX in the Washington City Paper, The Ex-Gay Movement that Wasn’t: Meet the city’s tiniest demographic, fleshes out their strategy – and introduces me to an amusing new word: “Everstraight.” In case you don’t know, that would refer to a straight person who has never identified as gay. I did not know we needed a word for that.
I didn’t know this, either:
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.”
PFOX doesn’t exist to support “ex-gay” people in their struggles, though. “Their strategy is to create fake hate crimes,” Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out told the paper. We saw an example of this at the Arlington County Fair, and apparently there have been other incidents following the same pattern. The same general meme (“we’re being bullied by the big powerful mean GAYS!”) is seen in the attempt by the “Fairfax Family Foundation” to “donate” a big pile of anti-gay books to the Fairfax Public Library back in October of last year, and the too-dumb-for-words “man in the ladies’ room” hoax in the Montgomery County nondiscrimination law saga (expect to see that one tried again as Congress moves toward – finally – passing a fully inclusive ENDA).
As we said at the time of the FFF stunt, “it’s just another version of the up-is-down notion that if people with anti-gay prejudice are inhibited from violating the rights of GLBT people, their own rights are being violated, or when we assert our right to live free of discrimination, we are being “intolerant” of those who wish to discriminate against us.”
The strategy does have its unintended consequences. PFOX won a big court victory back in June. How do I know this? That’s what PFOX said in their press release at the time. Pay close attention to the ruling: The D.C. Superior Court judge affirmed that a trait or characteristic does not need to be immutable in order to be protected from discrimination.
If you find it puzzling that PFOX would consider this a victory, you are not alone. After all, their previous arguments all hinge on the “fact” that sexual orientation is not an immutable characteristic, and therefore should not be accorded the “special” right of equal treatment under the law. In this case, which concerned their thwarted attempt to sponsor a booth at an National Education Association conference, PFOX asserted that they were being discriminated against on the basis of an “ex-gay” sexual orientation. While the judge didn’t agree that it gave them the right to distribute anti-gay material at a professional conference, he did find that “ex-gay” is a characteristic entitled to protection under the sexual orientation clause of the D.C. Human Rights Act. That is the big PFOX victory.
Dizzy yet? I have to agree with the judge – whether people who identify as “ex-gay” really are oriented toward opposite sex partners (in which case they are known as “straight”), or are in temporary denial that they are gay or bisexual (which turns out to be the case with the vast majority), they are entitled to equal protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation along with everyone else.
Consider the argument that PFOX is really making: The characteristic “ex-gay” isn’t so much a sexual orientation as it is a sexual preference; those who so identify are in actuality oriented to people of the same sex, but their preference is to act otherwise. PFOX and the judge are both quite correct to insist that these preferences are not immutable; in fact, most of those who identify at some point as ex-gay change their preference, choosing instead to live in accordance with their orientation.
We are delighted to learn that PFOX is slowly coming to the conclusion that we all are entitled to equal protection from discrimination – who knows, if they continue to put themselves in the position of pretending they think so, it might sink in. The question raised by the City Paper article, though, is this: Will they next argue that being the anti-gay family member or anti-gay casual acquaintance of a gay person is a protected category?