Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), a national family organization, is calling this week for a "true dialogue" with a coalition of right-wing groups in the wake of its continued campaign of advertising and rhetoric advocating the "curing" of gay Americans.
"As parents and grandparents, we would welcome a fair-minded dialogue with our conservative neighbors," said Rev. Paul Beeman, a minister and national PFLAG Board member.
"PFLAG asks them to take the daring step of getting to really know and listen to the stories of our gay loved ones," he said. "This right-wing coalition has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars calling for a 'national discussion' on homosexuality. We want to move beyond misleading ads and inflammatory rhetoric, toward an open and honest exchange of perspectives."
Several "ex-gay movement" groups have orchestrated an ongoing national anti-gay campaign in recent weeks, placing full-page advertisements in major newspapers and increasing their rhetoric against acceptance and understanding of gay and lesbian Americans. PFLAG co-sponsored an ad that ran this week in USA Today calling for acceptance and support for all gay people.
"It's time to move to a higher ground. We no longer want to see our children and loved ones used as pieces on a chessboard, in the middle of a debate for political gains by extremists," stressed Kirsten Kingdon, Executive Director of PFLAG, a 400-plus chapter group based in Washington, DC. "It's time for everyone to realize that our children are healthy and happy as they are. They do not need to be 'cured,' but they do need to be recognized as valuable, fully equal members of our families, our churches, our communities and our nation."
In their ads and their rhetoric, the conservatives promote out-moded theories used by "ex-gay" ministries that try to alter gay and lesbian people's natural sexual orientations. The American Psychological Association and the American Psychoanalytical Association say that scientific evidence does not show that so-called conversion therapy works, and that it can do more harm than good. The American Academy of Pediatrics' position is that "therapy directed specifically at changing sexual orientation is contraindicated."
PFLAG and other coalition members believe that "if you really love someone, you'll fight for their right to live with dignity and fairness." Scientific evidence points to the conclusion that a person's sexual orientation is intrinsic and not subject to modification.
Kelly Kirby, a national PFLAG Board member who participated in "ex-gay" ministries in the 1970s and 1980s, also welcomed the call for dialogue. "I believe that most of these folks who propound the need for gays to change are loving and sincere.... But in my case, attempts to change my natural sexual orientation caused real spiritual, emotional and psychological damage, which took a lot of work on my part to undo," he said. "I am grateful that I have succeeded in coming out healthy on the other side."