Ex-Gay Organization Attends ‘Federal Partners in Bullying’ Summit
In September, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) attended the Federal Partners in Bullying Summit held by the federal Department of Education in Washington, D.C. As only 175 attendees around the country were invited, PFOX was among the leaders in the field of bullying prevention invited to convene with the federal government and other national leaders to help stop bullying. PFOX opposes the bullying of young people who experience same-sex attractions (SSA). Along with government officials and national bullying prevention leaders, many high school students attended the summit, so distributing the PFOX bullying prevention flyer Safe Schools for Everyone was important, especially since some youth with unwanted SSA may not be embraced by national organizations who support gay and lesbian youth. While the gay community has made incredible progress with school clubs such as the Gay-Straight Alliance, little has been done for students who have homosexual feelings but do not want to adopt a lesbian or gay identity. These students are also bullied, more vulnerable for depression, anxiety, and suicide because they have little to no support in the school system.
PFOX board member Christopher Doyle attended a discussion group with teenagers who provided much insight as to how young people think and react to bullying in their schools. He learned from the students that while many programs in their schools try to stop bullying, there is little emphasis on why bullying behavior begins. One of the more touching moments was a youth campaign called “Bullycide” who presented a musical drama about five victims of bullying who committed suicide (see picture above).
An important concern brought up at the conference was Congresswoman Sanchez’s proposed federal law against bullying. Christopher commented to the Congresswoman at the summit: “I think both Republicans and Democrats can come together to solve this bullying crisis in schools; it’s a worthwhile goal. But how do you distinguish between bullying and religious expression? For example, what if a student disagrees with homosexual behavior because of their religious views? Is there protection for students in the bill due to religious expression?” The Congresswoman acknowledged that disagreeing with homosexuality is separate from bullying, which is usually considered “persistent harassment that causes harm.” She also expressed a need for a uniform definition of bullying, which still does not exist.
While at the summit, Christopher communicated with gay-identified students, as well as a representative of the gay-advocacy Human Rights Campaign, in the effort to bridge the gap between gays and ex-gays. “While gays and ex-gays may not see eye-to-eye on all issues, we can come together to agree that protecting our students against bullying and harassment is an important cause that transcends sexual orientation,” said Doyle.
Last year PFOX met with Kevin Jennings, former Assistant Deputy Director of the U.S. Department of Education. Jennings affirmed the right of ex-gay organizations to have equal access in the nation’s public schools and agreed that former homosexuals should not be discriminated against during outreach efforts for students with unwanted same-sex attractions.
PFOX also met with Joseph Wheeler, Attorney for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Wheeler agreed with the 2009 court ruling that ex-gays are a legally protected class. PFOX had brought this lawsuit to ensure equality for the ex-gay community.