RICHMOND, Va. — The Gay Community Center of Richmond held a photo shoot Sunday to show a unified front in response to a controversial billboard promoting conversion therapy along Interstate 95/64 right before the Belvidere exit.
The billboard’s slogan proclaims that nobody is born gay and was sponsored by Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX).
All Richmonders — gay, questioning, straight — were invited to participate in the inclusive photo shoot, that is expected to be made into a billboard.
“Does the billboard make you angry? Want to respond?” said Bill Harrison, the GCCR’s Executive Director, in a released statement. “You are invited to participate in a group photo that will be used to counter the “No One Is Born Gay” billboard message. The picture will be used through social media and other forums and will also be considered for billboard use.”
They came in by the dozens, proud of being out. A unified RVA Gay community and its supporters took a peaceful stand Sunday, against a billboard erected on the heavily traveled I-95 corridor of downtown Richmond. It reads, “nobody is born gay” and is paid for by PFOX , a group that supports gay conversion therapy.
“It’s a hate crime — legalized hate crime hiding under the constitution,” said Dave Murray, an opponent of the billboard. “Our ability to strike back at that and say it isn’t representative of this city and it shouldn’t be representative of this country. That’s why I am here,” added Murray.
Opponents spent Sunday, painting their message to “ignore the hate” on a sign that is now along Interstate 95 near the controversial billboard.
“This is something that is good. This is something that if it makes one 16-year-old kid who is gay and terrified to tell anyone feel better about what he sees on the sign, then that’s all we need to do,” said billboard opponent, Mac McCormack.
Apryl Prentiss remembers being that fearful 16-year-old.
“When I started to realize I was not heterosexual and figure out my sexuality, I was completely panicked because I did not feel like I could be gay and Christian at the same time, said Prentiss. “I was absolutely desperate to change so I went to conversion therapy. Those programs breed self-hatred they breed anxiety and depression and all and all it’s a harmful practice,” added Prentiss.
Prentiss stands proud today happy and comfortable in her skin, alongside dozens of others in the LGBT community with smiles on their faces for a Sunday photo shoot. It’s a picture that they hope will be worth a thousand words.
“We see this as a constructive way to respond, it’s a positive message that we’re sending we’re not attacking anyone it’s a positive message about the healthy fitness of the LGBT community,” said Harrison.
Lamar advertising says the billboard will remain up as long as it’s paid for, which is through early January.
Meanwhile, Prentiss is working with Delegate Patrick Hope from Arlington County to introduce legislation before the General Assembly that would ban conversion therapy for minors.