PFOX — Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays — was co-founded by ex-gay activist Anthony Falzarano and the Family Research Council in 1996. When Falzarano complained in 1999 that the ex-gay movement was being exploited and underfunded by religious conservatives, he was ousted and replaced by antigay parents of adult gay individuals. Contrary to the organization’s name, few PFOX members appear to have ex-gay relatives.
Today the Virginia-based organization is led by executive director Regina Griggs, whose son is openly gay. Its board includes antigay federal civil rights attorney Estella Salvatierra, who spends various weekends at Northern Virginia public fairs, inciting arguments with bewildered passers-by. With the help of FRC’s Peter Sprigg, PFOX has fought against popular efforts by parents in Washington, D.C.’s Maryland suburbs to establish factual and comprehensive sex-ed programs and to reduce discrimination against gender-variant Marylanders.
In a racially charged rant that was distributed April 1 via PFOX’s online discussion board and official e-mail address, PFOX’s unidentified site administrator parrots an article which ignores established wisdom about gender identity disorder. Specifically, the article fails to make important distinctions among transsexuality, transvestism, biologically or genetically intersexed individuals, and other transgender conditions.
Instead, PFOX’s article reprint lumps a variety of different biological and psychological gender variances together — and then ridicules them all with the unexplained rationale that taxpayers who experience gender variance, for biological or psychological reasons, should not be granted the same access to public facilities that is granted to persons of color or other taxpaying demographics.
PFOX parrots author Erica Henry’s righteous anger at anyone who experiences gender variance for any reason. According to Henry, they are simply living a “fairy tale”:
Assuming a gender identity that is in contradiction to one’ biological reality begs a suspension of disbelief, like that required when watching a theatrical production. People with gender identity disorder believe — and expect everyone else to believe — a fairy-tale that simply isn’t true.
When we cooperate with a person’ gender delusion and grant it privileges under law, the rights of other will be violated.
Henry’s logic does not apply very well to transgender persons, who are so diverse in their biological and psychological realities as to defy generalization.
But Henry’s logic, ironically, can be readily used against ex-gays: They tend to assume an identity that is contrary to their biological and psychological reality, engage in a suspension of disbelief, and demand that others not only affirm that inaccurate identity but also join them in a political crusade against those who refuse to assume the same anti-identity.
Henry reasons that access to public facilities is a “privilege” rather than a right, and she asserts that equal access somehow violates the rights of those who oppose equal access. While Henry is outraged at the past denial of African-Americans’ equal access to public facilities, she eagerly denies access to others today. She claims that to grant access to unisex public facilities or to public facilities designated for one’s gender identity is to grant “priority” use of restrooms, showers and locker rooms “to males who believe they are female.”
Henry calls upon “today’s youth” to “protect” their own rights “as did the youth of the 1960s” — by denying access to others.
I’m old enough (barely) to remember the 1960s. My parents’ best friends — my babysitters and mentors — included peace-loving “flower children,” charismatic “Jesus freaks,” and passionate civil rights advocates, all freshly graduated from West Coast schools. None of them denied equality to others for personal gain, as Henry seems to suggest — and none of them considered such denial a moral virtue. But I’m not a history buff, so I inquired with someone who has more perspective.
According to Donna Cartwright, communications director for Pride at Work, an AFL-CIO constituency group: “In every civil rights struggle of the last half-century, defenders of the status quo have fallen back on paranoid fears about restrooms and similar facilities. In the Sixties, they said whites shouldn’t be forced to share restrooms with blacks. In the Seventies, they reduced the fight for the ERA to fears about abolishing women’s restrooms. In the Nineties, opposition to allowing gay people into the military were focused on the supposed discomfort that straight troops might face in integrated showers. And on and on and on….”
How, exactly, can PFOX claim with any legitimacy that its campaign to smear history’s civil rights struggles — dragging them literally into the toilet — is in any way beneficial to PFOX members’ gay relatives — or to ex-gays?