The Sexist

PFOX Explains Why It Can’t Find More Ex-Gays

Virginia's leading ex-gay advocacy group, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX), has had trouble recruiting ex-gays to its cause. In a PFOX blog post published on Tuesday, the group attempts to explain why.

Quoting liberally from Neil Whitehead's book, "My Genes Made Me Do It!," PFOX argues that there are plenty of "ex-gays" living outwardly as homosexuals that don't want to identify as ex-gay—because they just want to be straight. Writes Whitehead:

At this point the natural question arises – if there are so many "ex-gays" in the population, where are they? Most readers will never have met any. It is no wonder the GLB community is very skeptical about whether real change occurs, though the best estimate of the researchers involved is that it does, and spontaneously, without clinical intervention, just in the normal course of life.

According to Whitehead, many "ex-gays" choose not to live openly as "ex-gay" because they "have some shame about their previous life," because the identity "may be destructive of a present relationship," or because "they will be relentlessly and openly attacked and crossexamined by activist members of the SSA community."

So, ex-gays don't want to identify as "ex-gay" for the same reason they want to become "ex-gay" in the first place: because people don't like gay people. For ex-gays, the solution to people not liking gay people is to (a) will their way to heterosexuality; (b) pray for divine intervention into their sex life; or (c) stop having sex entirely.

The problem of people-who-don't-like-gay-people plagues both gays and "ex-gays," of course. Gay activists have come up with a pretty good solution for this: they work to eliminate the stigma against homosexuality instead of never having good sex ever again. "Ex-gay" activist groups, like PFOX, actually work to promote "ex-gay" stigma: They encourage people to not like gay people, and to become not-gay people, which in turn makes people not like "ex-gay" people, because they used to be gay.

PFOX can't find more ex-gays because of PFOX. Since the group represents a minority of people who are driven to silence by the shame over their homosexuality and, uh, political differences with the gay community, PFOX is in the privileged position of providing a voice to the voiceless. While the gay community works to eliminate shaming its members' sexuality, the stigma against "ex-gays" actually benefits the "ex-gay" activists. When "ex-gays" aren't talking, PFOX gets to say whatever happens to serve their own interests.

Of course, PFOX's self-interest doesn't explain why individuals would choose to leave a life of shame and good sex for a life of shame and bad sex. I have to think that's another reason why I can't find any ex-gays around here.

  • Wayne Besen

    What a joke. It is amazing how they always find professional, paid lobbyist "ex-gays" to appear on Jerry Springer. But, then when the media wants to find real, live ex-gays they are suddenly worried about privacy.

    The fact is, ex-gays do not exist. It is a slick, political strategy employed to deny GLBT people equal rights. Ex-gay programs are consumer fraud and have harmed a great many people. This is why they are rejected by every respected medical and mental health organization in the nation.

  • Rick Rosendall

    I agree with Wayne. The only difference he and I have had on this subject was years ago, when WMATA had a discounted program for Public Service ads on Metro Platforms that were open to IRS 501(c)(3) non-profits, GLAA defended PFOX's right to participate in the program on the same basis as other 501(c)(3) groups. Wayne, who at the time worked for the Human Rights Campaign, opposed that because he argued PFOX's message amounted to consumer fraud, as he states above.

    We in GLAA pointed out that Metro, as a quasi-governmental body, was subject to First Amendment restrictions against establishment of religion. It was consequently barred from selectively prohibiting particular expressive content. We further stated a long-held view of ours--that the proper response to offensive speech is more speech, not censorship. Wayne would use the scientific evidence that "ex-gay" claims are bogus to justify barring such PSAs as false advertising, while we believe that First Amendment considerations require erring on the side of permissiveness.

    Naturally, GLAA got no thanks from Regina Griggs and PFOX for our troubles. Later, we defended the right of the National Education Association to refuse to rent booth space at its expo to PFOX, because NEA is a non-governmental organization and enjoys its own expressive rights, which entitle it to exclude those whose expressive purpose it deems incompatible with its own.

    For the same reason, GLAA agrees with the U.S. Supreme Court's Hurley ruling, which affirmed the right of a veteran's group in Boston with a parade permit to exclude an Irish-American gay group from its St. Patrick's Day Parade. It is sad that one has to explain to some gay people that this standard also gives us the right to exclude anti-gay crazies like Fred Phelps and family from marching in gay pride parades.

    The bottom line regarding the ex-gay fraud is that, as Wayne is excellent at pointing out, the scientific evidence is on our side. As Thomas Jefferson wrote regarding academic freedom at the University of Virginia in a letter to William Roscoe in 1820, "This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is free to combat it."

  • Rick Rosendall

    Pardon my slip. (I haven't had my coffee yet.) Regarding our old fight over the Metro PSAs, the First Amendment issue was not about the Establishment Clause but about freedom of speech. Eventually, as I understand it, Metro got out of the dilemma by discontinuing its PSA program.

  • Eric Smth

    I just want to say that people who are gay think there is no such thing as "ex gays" because they are so into being gay and have accepted it. They think they where born to be that way and accepted being gay as part of their self identity. But in reality the "gay gene" just predisposes you to be more likely to be gay, correlation does not show causation, as to the battle with the gay gene. And studies show that 24% of young boys around the age of 13 whom are going through puberty think they might be gay. Those feelings are either suppressed forever and never talked about and that individual learns by society to like females or learns how to like them. That individual never shares what he went through with fear of being labeled gay. Thus environmental factors play a role with the "gay gene" to make that person more gay and over years that person accepts being gay and believes other gays, along with himself, where always meant to be gay and born that way. After childhood and early teen years its not too late (and very common, but not spoken about) for a proclaimed gay individual as a teen to pinpoint the causes that formed his identity and to work on changing it.
    Its like math, not everyone is good at it, but you can be trained to be a pro at it and better than everyone around you. If that individual person use to "suck at math" but worked very hard to be a pro at it and secretly worked at being "good at math" everyday, does that mean he's lying and putting on a show? No. And if gays choose to try and become straight and ditch their gay feelings because they feel happier and more content, there is nothing wrong with that. After one lives a shot period of their life being gay, then yes, they would have to work very hard at being straight and pinpointing what created their problems and work probably for the rest of their life... but it they work at it and live what they believe to be a "normal life" then gay people are not to judge. Obviously, then, gay people are the weak people who've accepted their fate and have decided not to work one overcoming their problem. Gay people who do not choose to work on being gay should not ridicule and belittle people by telling them they are "fake".

  • Victor

    "gay people are the weak people who’ve accepted their fate and have decided not to work one overcoming their problem"

    So if it shows "strength" for a gay guy to work on being straight, would it be a show of "strength" for me to go off and suck some c$ck? I'm not particularly predisposed to it, but I want to make sure I'm not taking the "easy" way out by just having sex with the people I'm attracted to.


  • Lymis

    Apparently, circular reasoning is your friend.

    If you want to claim that people should be allowed to live the life they choose without being judged, how about applying it both ways?

    You clearly assume that all gay people would prefer to be straight, and the the only reasons not to knuckle down and work on overcoming it are laziness or moral weakness.

    What's actually true is that a lot of gay people don't work on overcoming it because we don't see it as anything to overcome.