Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays—a Reedville, Va.-based organization comprised almost entirely of straight people who have never been gay—has won another battle in its crusade to protect the world's "former homosexuals" from the tyranny of "heterophobic" LGBT rights organizations.
Last week, Metro Weekly reported that the World Bank had added PFOX to its roster of 250 charitable organizations in its Community Connections Campaign, an annual fundraising effort that encourages employees to donate portions of their salaries to local and international charities. When LGBT activists questioned the World Bank's support of an organization which encourages gay people to return to the closet, a spokesperson for the financial institution explained that World Bank staff members can always choose to dedicate their funds elsewhere. ''The Bank is not endorsing this group, or any other group," the spokesperson said. "Staff are free to give to the organization of their choice.''
One LGBT staffer rejects that explanation.
“If a charitable association supporting female genital mutilation, a pro-life organization or an association claiming it can turn black people white had wiggled its way in the CCC, The Bank’s management would have removed it immediately and issued an apology,” said the staffer, who only agreed to speak anonymously.
According to the employee, many of the World Bank's LGBT staffers are already in the closet at work, and supporting an organization that wishes to keep them that way adds insult to injury. The "LGBT community at the Bank is mostly closeted . . . and does not have enough clout to get member countries to complain to the Bank Management,” the staffer told me.
Starting this year, the World Bank has listed PFOX immediately above rival organization Parents, Families Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) on its eligible organizations list [PDF]. The listing claims that PFOX “Provides outreach, education and public awareness in support of the ex-gay community; supports families; and educates the public on sexual orientation.”
Some PFOX gems of wisdom: "Former homosexuals are the last invisible minority group in America"; the rejection of ex-gay activism "is a form of heterophobia"; "Unlike other organizations which insist that parental love is conditional on affirming homosexual behavior, there are no conditions on our love for our children" (PFOX did not immediately return a request for comment).
A World Bank rep told Metro Weekly that PFOX met the "minimum requirements for inclusion"; LGBT groups disagree with that assessment. All participating organizations are required to "observe and practice a policy of inclusivity and equal opportunity," the LGBT staffer reiterated to me. More pressing for the Reedville-based PFOX, the CCC requires eligible charities to have ''a substantial local presence in the Greater Washington metropolitan area." PFOX is an organization located over 100 miles outside of Washington, comprised of an overwhelmingly "everstraight" (read: never, ever gay) board of directors that has failed to identify a single ex-gay person in Washington, D.C. In April, District Mayor Adrian Fenty retracted a letter of appreciation his office had mistakenly sent to the group.
Privately, the institution has communicated that it chose to include PFOX on its list of charities for the sake of diversity. "The World Bank is a tremendous place to work because of the wonderful people who work here and the spirit of the institution which does indeed provide a safe place for all of us," a Community Connections Fund rep wrote in an e-mail to another LGBT employee who expressed concern with the development. "At the end of the day, however, it does mirror society and so there are staff with many differing viewpoints to accommodate which makes for a delicate balancing act." PFOX has, in the past, pursued legal action against organizations that failed to "accommodate" their "differing viewpoints."
How much funding will PFOX get for its unique perspective? In the 2008 fiscal year, the World Bank's CCC raised $1.85 million dollars to benefit 250 local and international charities; individual charities received anywhere from $12 to $223,000, depending on the strength of employee donations. According to Metro Weekly, the World Bank matches “50 percent or 100 percent" of all employee contributions. The organization's final contribution to PFOX will ultimately depend upon employee interest. “The amounts are potentially minimal,” the staffer concedes. “However, it is symbolically a blow to the LGBT community, the Bank’s LGBT staff as well as a positive endorsement for the ex-gay movement.”