04/11/2012

SPLC Provides Facts, Works Against Anti-Gay Propaganda in Maryland High Schools

Earlier this year, high school students in Montgomery County, Md., received flyers at school saying that being gay is a choice and that people can change their sexual orientation.

The flyer’s message is a popular and harmful piece of propaganda about LGBT people – the claim that gay people can change their sexual orientation through what is commonly known as “ex-gay” or “conversion” therapy. It’s a notion that has been rejected or highly criticized by every mainstream American medical and mental health professional association.

But this dangerous idea persists. It’s promoted by organizations such as the one behind the flyer – Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX). And it’s a message that can be taken to heart by students.

This propaganda can encourage students to enter harmful conversion therapy programs where participants have experienced anxiety, depression, and in some cases, suicidal thoughts. It can lead other students to believe they’re justified in bullying LGBT students – after all, they learned from a flyer they received at school that sexual orientation is simply a choice.

This misinformation is a threat to all students. It is crucial that they have access to accurate information.

That’s why the Southern Poverty Law Center and its allies launched an effort today to distribute nearly 50,000 flyers countering this propaganda in Montgomery County public high schools. These flyers, which also provide resources for LGBT students, will be distributed to all high school students within the school district as part of its flyer distribution program – the same method PFOX used to distribute its flyers.

In other words, we’re fighting this dangerous propaganda with the most powerful tool at our disposal – facts.

 

  • Students need to know the American Psychological Association (APA) has determined: “There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.”

  • Students need to know the APA has expressed concern that the aggressive promotion of efforts to change gay sexual orientation creates "an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.”

  • And they need to know that the American Medical Association explicitly opposes “therapies” based on the incorrect premise that gay people are ill or that they should change their sexual orientation.

 

That is why the SPLC formed a coalition with Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and the Equality Maryland Foundation to distribute these flyers. Though it’s tempting to urge a school district to ban the distribution of flyers that spread misinformation, such efforts can often backfire as they give groups a platform to argue that their free speech rights have been violated.

It is far better to provide students with the facts and let them know they are supported by the adults in their community. Today, students across the country continue to face serious harassment, and often violence, because they are LGBT or are perceived to be LGBT. Giving students the facts is a critical step to ensure our schools are safe and supportive environments for all students.