RICHMOND, Va. — A group supporting the practice of gay-to-straight conversion therapy has put up a billboard along a Richmond interstate declaring “nobody is born gay.”
Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), the group behind the billboard, has supported “conversion therapy” (sometimes referred to as “reparative therapy”) in states around the country.
PFOX claims it hopes “to educate, support, and advocate for individuals and parents on the issue of same-sex attraction, and to increase others’ understanding and acceptance of the ex-gay community.”
The billboard’s message refers to a 2000 Northwestern University Department of Psychology study of identical twins in which one identified as gay, and the other as straight.
According to PFOX’s interpretation of the study, “there is no gay gene:”
20 percent of homosexual men had a twin brother who was also gay, while 24 percent of lesbian women had a twin who was also gay. Thus 80 percent of gay men and 76 percent of lesbian women had an identical twin that was heterosexual, suggesting an environmental component in the development of sexual feelings and identity.
But PFOX’s use of the study has been deemed inaccurate by the study’s author, J. Michael Bailey, who tells LGBT Science:
“People will often get confused in their terminology They ask for example is homosexuality genetic or learned? Well, genetic is not the opposite of learned. I think inborn is the opposite of learned. A trait can be completely inborn without being completely genetic. And I think male sexual orientation is a case in hand.”
A representative for Lamar Advertising Company, the group that owns the billboard, said PFOX’s message “is not a reflection of our company’s views.”
“It is in the best interest of our company and the communities we serve to accept advertising copy openly,” said Allie McAlpin, Communications Director for Lamar, in an email. “We do not accept or reject copy based upon agreement or disagreement with the views presented.”
This is not the first time PFOX has brought its message to the Richmond area.
In October 2013, the group asked the state legislature to stop funding “gay-transvestite centers at Virginia’s public universities,” claiming state funds are being used to “indoctrinate” youth into changing their faith.
PFOX asserted it had provided brochures about conversion therapy to LGBT resource centers at many Virginia state universities, but that the LGBT groups refused to make them available to students.
The billboard is scheduled to run through January 4.