Focus on the Family's Jeff Johnston offered this contribution to the media on Facebook's new gender options. His quote appeared twice in Associated Press stories. Here he is when the story first broke on February 13th:
"Of course Facebook is entitled to manage its wildly popular site as it sees fit, but here is the bottom line: It's impossible to deny the biological reality that humanity is divided into two halves - male and female," said Jeff Johnston, an issues analyst for Focus on the Family, an influential national religious organization based in Denver. "Those petitioning for the change insist that there are an infinite number of genders, but just saying it doesn't make it so. That said, we have a great deal of compassion for those who reject their biological sex and believe they are the opposite sex."
And again on the 14th:
Jeff Johnston, issues analyst for Focus on the Family, an influential national religious organization based in Colorado Springs, Colo., said just because people lobbying for the change say there are an infinite number of options, that's not true.
"Of course Facebook is entitled to manage its wildly popular site as it sees fit, but here is the bottom line: It's impossible to deny the biological reality that humanity is divided into two halves - male and female," Johnston told the AP.
But while the AP identifies Jeff as merely an "issues analyst," there are a few things you should know before processing his quote.
First off, the fact that Jeff is personally and professionally "ex-gay." Not only does he promote the idea that gays can and should "change" in his advocacy, but Mr. Johnston even starred in a major "ex-gay" ad campaign on behalf of his employer:
When considering his quotes on the "biological reality of humanity," it's more than pertinent for a discerning reader to know and understand where Mr. Johnston is coming from. If he believes sexual orientation is something that can be prayed away, it gives us a much better idea of what motivations are driving his views on gender.
But that's not at all. In a recent interview, Mr. Johnston claimed that transgender children have "a very treatable disorder." Here's that clip:
Again, it's quite helpful for the AP reader to know this. If he believes transgender men and women have "very treatable disorders," then it's very unlikely that Mr. Johnston is going to support Facebook's inclusion of trans identities.
Moreover, Mr. Johnston created a resource page for Focus on the Family, on which he pushes all kinds of fringe, scientifically discredited groups that purport to solve what he refers to as "gender identity disorder":
Whereas Facebook recognizes and respects the full spectrum of reality for what it is, this is what Mr. Johnston considers to be the proper form of engagement when it comes to gender identity. He's not just an "issues analyst" on this matter: he's an advocate who flouts scientific consensus so that he can push dangerous, deceptive, agenda-driven propaganda.
Personally, I have no problem with mainstream media sources citing the work of someone like Johnston, as his hardcore demonization of certain human populations lets everyday readers understand how much vehemence LGBT people still face. Mr. Johnston is someone who quite literally blames Satan for making people L, G, B, or T. When AP readers hear this, I'm more than confident in which side will benefit.
But when concrete facts about the "issues analyst" are omitted, it does us all a disservice. Mr. Johnston gets an undeserved pass while advocates on the other side suffer the indignity of seeing Mr. Johnston's words presented as balance to their grounded support for inclusion. AP readers, tasked with weighing the words both for and against, miss out on some crucial details.