The LGBT and allied community of Richmond, Va., turned out in force on Sunday to protest a billboard from an antigay group which claims "nobody is born gay."
"Hundreds gathered at the Gay Community Center of Richmond this sunday to show their support for LGBTQ Richmonders," reports local LGBT outlet GayRVA.
The billboard, which sits above busy Interstate 95 in Richmond, went up earlier this month after Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) purchased the space to advance its claim that "We believe twins research studies show nobody is born gay." The text is framed by two identical faces — though it turns out the model who posed for the stock image used on the billboard is not only not a twin, he's also an openly gay man from South Africa.
After the controversial billboard attracted local, nationwide, and even international media attention, LGBT residents of Richmond rallied on Sunday to counter the antigay group's message.
"It’s like we put out the gay-Bat signal, and everyone showed up,” Robyn Bently, chair of the local LGBT senior group SAGE, told GayRVA. She already had an event scheduled at the Gay Community Center for Sunday afternoon but quickly amended the day's agenda to make room for the photo opportunity, she said.
"People are tired of gays getting bashed," Bently added. "Showing up was the right thing to do … this is a time of year when everyone’s really busy and they showed up anyway."
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."
The billboard implicitly endorses so-called ex-gay therapy, the discredited practice that aims to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity. Every major medical, psychological, and mental health organization in the country has disavowed such efforts, sometimes called "reparative" or "sexual orientation change therapy," as not only ineffective, but harmful, according to the American Psychological Association.
California, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., have all banned licensed therapists from practicing the discredited "therapy" on minors. GayRVA reports that Virginia lawmaker Del. Patrick Hope plans to introduce a bill seeking to bring the ban of ex-gay therapy to Virginia in the 2015 legislative session as a response to the Richmond billboard.