Thursday, April 12, 2012

After PFOX Controversy, Pro-LGBT Groups Distribute Fliers in Maryland

Back in February, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) distributed 8,000 fliers to students at five high schools in Montgomery County, MD. According to the Washington Post and NBC Washington, the fliers claimed that no one is born gay, and that sexual orientation is based on "feelings" and "self-affirmation." Furthermore, the fliers offered help to students with "unwanted same-sex attractions." PFOX's fliers drew ire from pro-LGBT groups such as GLSEN, Truth Wins Out, and the Teaching Tolerance project, as well as Montgomery County School Superintendent Joshua Starr, who called the fliers "reprehensible and deplorable."

In an article at Alternet, Katherine Stewart observed that the school district could exercise discretion in what materials it sent home with students, until a Christian group called the Child Evangelism Fellowship successfully sued to have its fliers distributed by the school district. She cited the current PFOX flyer controversy as an example of the problems that erupt when separation of church and state blurs.

On April 11th, a coalition of pro-LGBT organizations launched a counter-offensive. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center website, the SPLC, Equality Maryland Foundation, and Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) distributed nearly 50,000 fliers to all 25 Montgomery County high school students to counter PFOX's propaganda.

Images of the fliers are available for viewing here. The PFLAG/SPLC fliers stress than sexual orientation is innate, that many religious congregations are affirming of the LGBT community, and that so-called "reparative therapy" is highly dubious.

According to the Washington Post, a Montgomery County Board of Education policy committee has recommended a ban on flier distribution in middle and high schools by outside groups. The committee is scheduled to deliver its recommendation to the Board of Education on April 30th, and a final vote is expected in June.

I'm pleased that three pro-LGBT organizations challenged PFOX's toxic messages. LGBT youth should not be fed homophobic propaganda, and frankly, neither should their straight counterparts. Rather, they deserve fact-based, affirming reminders that it's okay to be LGBT, and that welcoming communities exist. Let's hope their pro-LGBT fliers have neutralized the messages of the previous PFOX fliers.

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