The man featured on a billboard in Richmond, Va., claiming to show twins and proclaiming that "nobody is born gay" is not only not a twin — he's an out gay man living in South Africa.
After reporting on the controversial billboard placed above Interstate 95 in Richmond — paid for by antigay nonprofit Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, a.k.a. PFOX — earlier this week, local TV station WWBT was contacted by the man featured on the billboard.
Kyle Roux, a South African man who modeled for the the stock image more than a decade ago, told WWBT that he was "obviously quite shocked" when friends sent him a link to the story about the billboard that featured his face — twice — as the literal poster boy for the "ex-gay" group, which claims that sexual orientation is a choice anyone can decide to avoid.
That's because Roux is not a twin, and he happens to be gay.
"It just seems like there no place in today's world for an organization that is promoting this as being some kind of deviant or distasteful lifestyle, because I've lived my life openly gay and happy for my entire life," Roux told WWBT via Skype.
"It's actually quite a big thing that there is this kind of discrimination and borderline hate speech going on, you know," he continued, explaining why he felt it necessary to contact the local news network a world away from his home.
As for PFOX, a representative of the group told WWBT that the "issue isn't the photo on the billboard, it's the actual science."
The group's executive director, Regina Griggs, defended the billboard's claim that "twins research shows nobody is born gay" in a statement Monday, claiming, "Identical twins have the same genes or DNA. They are nurtured in equal prenatal conditions. If homosexuality is caused by genetics or prenatal conditions and one twin is gay, the co-twin should also be gay. … Because identical twins are always genetically identical, homosexuality cannot be genetically dictated. No one is born gay."
But LGBT advocates — and even the man featured on the billboard — contend that PFOX, labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "the ex-gay movement's answer to PFLAG," has a gross misunderstanding of the science behind existing research about the sexual orientations of twins.
"PFOX's billboard underscores the groups scientific illiteracy and shows that 'ex-gay' activism is about demagoguery and marketing, rather that truth and results," said pro-LGBT group Truth Wins Out executive director Wayne Besen in a statement Wednesday. "In reality, twin studies prove that there is a genetic link to sexual orientation. It is stunning that PFOX would pay for a billboard to showcase its ignorance and incompetence."
Even the company which owns and operates the billboard understood that PFOX was twisting the science behind research about sexual orientation. The vice president of governmental relations at Lamar Advertising told The Advocate Wednesday that PFOX's original copy claimed "twins research shows nobody is born gay," but the advertising agency required the group to add the words "we believe" to the statement, because the company's policy that ads be factual and accurate meant "we wouldn't allow [PFOX] to state it as a fact."
PFOX is a nonprofit organization which claims that people can choose not to be gay, stating on its website that "people deserve to know the truth about the many men, women, and children who have made the decision to change their lives" and "overcome same-sex attraction." Founded in 1998, PFOX proudly announces it "was created specifically to be an alternative to the misinformed gay family groups which insist that parents only prove their love for their gay child if they support gay rights and affirm their child's self-proclaimed gay identity. PFOX teaches parents that it's ok to love their children without placing any conditions on that love."
Watch WWBT's report, featuring a Skype interview with Roux, below.