April 10, 2014

Beginning this morning, PFLAG, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Equality Maryland Foundation will distribute nearly 50,000 flyers in all 25 Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) high schools. The flyer addresses issues raised by dangerous anti-LGBTQ materials previously circulated to students, and will be distributed to all high school students within MCPS as part of the school system’s flyer distribution program. [1]

The flyers provide schools with resources for LGBTQ students, and also counter misinformation spread by a group known as Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), which recently distributed flyers in some MCPS high schools asserting that gay people "can seek help and information on overcoming their feelings." The PFOX flyers also urge readers to go to the PFOX website, which directs readers to therapies that purportedly can change one's sexual orientation. [2]

“It is vital for young people in Montgomery County to have access to accurate information,” said Christine P. Sun, the director of SPLC’s LGBTQ rights project. “While spreading this kind of misinformation is dangerous to the well-being of LGBTQ youth, not having the facts is a threat to all students.”

The notion that sexual orientation can be changed has been rejected or highly criticized by every American mainstream medical and mental health professional association. [3]

For example, the American Medical Association "opposes the use of ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy that is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon a prior assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation." [4]

The mainstream groups “have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be ‘cured.’” [5]

As the American Psychiatric Association explains, the “potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior.” [6]

“There have been too many stories of suicide arising from such therapies for us to remain silent in the face of the PFOX flyers,” said Patrick Wojahn of the Equality Maryland Foundation.
MCPS Superintendent Joshua P. Starr has called the PFOX flyers "disgusting and reprehensible." [7]

“We applaud the superintendent’s position. But it is unfortunate that the MCPS health education curriculum does not address this issue, nor does it permit health teachers to convey to students the conclusions of the mainstream medical and mental health professional associations that being gay is not an illness–unless a student specifically asks,” said David S. Fishback, of Metro DC PFLAG. “Fortunately, the Board of Education's Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development and MCPS's health education advisors from the Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics have recommended the inclusion of this information in the health education curriculum, information that would counter the PFOX canards. We have urged MCPS to adopt these recommendations.”

The coalition formed by PFLAG, the SPLC and the Equality Maryland Foundation is distributing flyers with this information so that LGBTQ students will know they are being supported by the adults in the community, and to fill in the gaps currently existing in the health education curriculum. The absence of such knowledge contributes to bullying.

The coalition is working together to expose the dangers of conversion therapy and ensure that all LGBT youth are protected.

Contact: David S. Fishback, Advocacy Chair, Metro DC PFLAG, [email protected], (240) 605-3243

[1] The two-sided April PFLAG/TTP/EQMDF can be found here and here
[2] http://media2.myfoxdc.com//documents/EinsteinPFOXLetter.PDFhttp://www.metroweekly.com/news/?ak=7162 ,http://pfox.org/Research-Treatment-Unwanted-Homosexuality-Beneficial.htmlhttp://pfox.org/therapist_parents.htmlhttp://www.pfox.org/Facts_on_full_sheet_Apr_1.pdf
[3] See Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators, and School Personnel, developed by the American Psychological Association and endorsed by 13 other organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American School Counselors Association and the National Association of School Psychologists available at http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/just-the-facts.pdf.
[4] AMA Policy Number H-160.991, Health Care Needs of the Homosexual Population, available at http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/about-ama/our-people/member-groups-sections/glbt-advisory-committee/ama-policy-regarding-sexual-orientation.page
[5] See n. 3, at p. 6.
[6] See n. 3, at p. 7.
[7] See http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/backpack-flier-prompts-montgomery-to-consider-banning-such-notes/2012/03/01/gIQAzzZZtR_story.html