Kyle Roux in the new billboard (above) and the old billboard
The international furore over an anti-gay billboard in the US, featuring a South African man, has taken a new turn.
In December it was revealed that stock photos of Capetonian Kyle Roux were used, without his knowledge, on a controversial anti-gay billboard along a major highway in Richmond, Virginia.
Erected by the “gay cure” group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX), the advert claimed that the two pictures of Roux depicted twins.
It stated: “Identical twins: One gay. One not.” It also read: “We believe twins research studies show nobody is born gay.”
The organisation was then embarrassed after it was revealed in the media that not only is Roux not a twin, but is actually a proudly gay man himself.
Now, human rights organisation Planting Peace and a defiant Roux have struck back with another billboard in response to PFOX – in the same location as the previous sign.
The new billboard includes two new images of Roux, taken by Cape Town photographer Reno Horn. The sign is addressed to “Dear PFOX”, and reads:
“Identical twins? I’m not. I’m gay. Regardless of what you believe, I was born gay. And I’m proud of who I am.”
Roux, an interior designer, told Mambaonline that Planting Peace approached him in December to ask if he would work with them “to do something to counter the negative and damaging message that PFOX had put out.”
He explained that his intention was not retaliation. “The important thing, after having my image attached to such a negative connotation, is having it attached to something positive, that says that it’s fine being gay. It was also to do something for their gay community.”
Roux added: “It’s quite strange that a country as progressive as the US has these kinds of backward things, like these billboards.”
He slammed organisations that target vulnerable young people and those confused about their sexuality. “The mere concept that you can ‘straighten’ someone with therapy is inconceivable to me. Being gay is such an important part of who you are,” he said. “It’s mind-blowing that these organisations exist.”
Scientists and activists have pointed out that PFOX misinterpreted the twins studies it referenced in its billboard. In fact, one of the authors of one of the studies, Dr J. Michael Bailey, has stated that science appears to show that at least in men, “sexual orientation is completely inborn.”
Major medical and mental health organisations around the world – including The South African Society of Psychiatrists – have denounced efforts to change sexual orientation or gender expression as ineffective and potentially harmful.