Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays
Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) is a non-profit organization providing outreach, education, and public awareness in support of the ex-gay community. PFOX advocates the view that homosexuality is not a product of biological determination although research has shown that homosexuality is an example of a normal and natural variation in human sexuality and is not in and of itself a source of negative psychological effects.
PFOX was created in 1996 by Anthony Falzarano as a project of the Family Research Council (FRC), "a Fundamentalist Christian group who oppose societal acceptance of homosexual orientation as normal and natural." PFOX was created to "counter the effectiveness of PFLAG, formerly known as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays" which has been successful in getting family members of LGBT people and politicians to understand and support LGBT rights. FRC continued to support activities and campaigns of PFOX including the annual conferences. PFOX has had dozens of chapters in the U.S. but their activities have lessened with the growing acceptance of LGBT people. PFOX held their 2014 Washington D.C. conference in October where they encouraged attendees to lobby policymakers and government officials to not ban conversion therapy, efforts to change sexual orientation, specifically to minors.
PFOX, founded in 1998, is headquartered in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Richard Cohen, who describes himself as ex-gay, was the president of PFOX for a period of time. After Cohen was interviewed by Jason Jones on the March 19, 2007, episode of The Daily Show, PFOX systematically removed all references to Cohen from their website.
Greg Quinlan is described by PFOX as a former homosexual who came out at the age of 23. He has stated that he "departed from homosexuality" in 1993, and went on to found the Pro-Family Network, an organization describes itself as advocates for conservative values, including opposition to same-sex marriage.
PFOX is a signatory organization of Positive Alternatives to Homosexuality (PATH), which is "a non-profit coalition of organizations that help people with unwanted same-sex attractions (SSA) realize their personal goals for change -- whether by developing their innate heterosexual potential or by embracing a lifestyle as a single, non-sexually active man or woman." As a member, PFOX has adopted PATH's statement of principles. PFOX was originally a project of the Family Research Council, and they regularly helped fund campaigns and activities.
The PFOX website states: "We must seek the facts and love our children unconditionally without having to affirm their homosexual behavior." PFOX also advocates acceptance of people who identify as ex-gay. The group is known for promoting views that transsexual people are biologically appropriate at birth. Their proposed solution is opposed to the widely accepted[need quotation to verify] method of sexual reassignment surgery. They propose counseling to deal with the problem. They also believe being gay is a political identity. PFOX neither provides nor renders therapeutic services.
In December 2007, when the Washington, D.C. Board of Education approved new health and physical education guidelines, PFOX voiced opposition to the "grade-specific sex education and information about HIV/AIDS" on the basis that "the standards are not age-appropriate and would undermine abstinence-only messages." PFOX opposed legislation to protect transgender people from discrimination, stating their concern that it gave "male cross-dressers access to women's restrooms".
On October 16, 2008, PFOX sued the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR) for failing to protect former homosexuals under its sexual orientation anti-discrimination law. This was after the OHR stood with the National Education Association (NEA) in its refusal to provide public accommodations to ex-gays. The court ruled in favour of the NEA, and also stated that ex-gays are a protected class that must be recognized under sexual orientation non-discrimination laws.
In December 2014 PFOX got national exposure for putting up a billboard next to highway I-95 in Richmond, Virginia. The billboard featured the text "Identical twins: One gay. One not. We believe twin research studies show nobody is born gay", in between photos of two men, seemingly identical twins. Both images on the billboard were stock photos of one man who identified himself as being "openly gay and happy my entire life", and criticized PFOX and their billboard.
Many of PFOX's views on the developmental causes of homosexuality and gender identity are in the minority of popular opinion. PFOX's assertion that being gay is a choice relies heavily on two scientific studies which deny the existence of a "gay gene." The results of one of the studies, which was conducted in 2000, was later disputed by its main researcher. The American Psychological Association has studied the efforts of people seeking to change their sexual orientation, resulting in a 2009 resolution concluding, ’’there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation,’’ and recommending that mental health professionals should avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments.
PFOX was described in the Washington City Paper as "ignoring the interests of ex-gays", and having almost no ex-gay members. The organization is composed almost entirely of people who state they have always been straight; of the ten people who make up the groups board of directors, only one states they are ex-gay. A PFOX representative has stated that PFOX meetings are "for families and friends of strugglers only, and not for ex-gays.”
In 2004, the National Mental Health Association declined PFOX's application for booth space at their annual convention, calling the group’s principles a divergence from the association's core mission. In 2005, PFOX was barred from presenting a workshop at the National Parent-Teacher Association (NPTA) Convention, due to the NPTA objecting to PFOX's views of sexuality. They have also been denied participation at events held by the American Association of University Women. Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)—which participated in 2004 and 2005 at the NPTA convention—has responded to PFOX:
- PFLAG and others also find the basic premise of PFOX's rationale confusing. If someone is not gay or bisexual, they are heterosexual. "Since this is the case," says PFLAG's executive director Jody Huckaby, "PFOX should have no concerns."
In 2010, gay rights advocate Wayne Besen described PFOX as being "as sickening as it is scandalous", saying that the PFOX group had been tied to "an eliminationist campaign, worldwide, against gay people" including the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
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