Conversion therapy is the pseudoscience practice of attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual by employing psychological or spiritual methods. This practice has been outlawed in eighteen states including Nevada and has been regarded as ineffective and dangerous by the medical community, The American Psychiatric Association has deemed this therapy to be harmful and ignores the general consensus that it is not based in science and in many cases, creates harmful outcomes, many ending in tragedy including loss of life. In the early days of this therapy, the techniques included ice pick lobotomies, aversion therapy in which the patient would be exposed to stimulus while being subjected to some form of pain and discomfort along with the administration of nausea inducing drugs coordinated with the introduction of homoerotic materials.
In later years, the methods became less severe but still extremely dangerous to the patient as many extreme Christian right organizations such as Exodus International promised to cure homosexuality by introducing such methods as counseling, visualization, psychoanalytic therapy and spiritual intervention. Interestingly it can be noted that during the existence of Exodus, when pressed for statistics that would demonstrate the results of their therapy, they could produce none. In 2012, the then president of Exodus. Alan Chambers renounced conversion therapy and admitted that it was without value and issued an apology for the pain and suffering that was caused to those who were enlisted in the therapy. In 2013, Exodus disbanded and closed it’s doors. One can only imagine the unnecessary harm that this organization caused innocent people whose only crime was to live their truth.
Conversion therapy is built on the falsehood that an LGBTQ person is suffering from a mental illness which was debunked many years ago. It only serves to further the extreme religious agenda and like anything else based on a lie will ultimately cause pain and possibly irreparable damage. Combined with social prejudices against the patient for being LGBTQ, this therapy has been proven to intensify self-hatred already present within the patient.
The term, conversion therapy is misleading to start with as the process does not involve a licensed therapist as this practice is denounced by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the American Medical Association (AMA). Tragically, there are conversion therapy organizations remaining in states that have yet to ban the practice in spite of scientific fact that they simply do not work and exist as an extension of the religious right’s ongoing war on the LGBTQ community. One specific example of this is the Christian clinic, Counseling Care which operates in two locations in Minnesota and is overseen by Marcus Bachmann, the husband of anti LGBTQ, former Congresswoman, Michele Bachmann. Although both have denied that this clinic offers gay conversion therapy, former patients of the facility say otherwise.
Ultimately what must occur is the elimination of this practice by enacting laws that prohibit this harmful therapy and we must move forward with banning conversion therapy in the remaining states. Tremendous strides have been met in recent years as the medical and psychiatric communities confirm that this therapy does not work. We must use the power of the ballot box to pass laws in the states which allow this therapy to outlaw this scourge posing as a solution to a condition that doesn’t need to be cured in the first place. In fact LGBTQ youth who are rejected by their families are six times likely to endure high levels of depression and eight times more likely to attempt suicide in comparison to LGBTQ youth who are accepted and loved by their families. Rejected youth are also more likely to fall victim to alcohol and drug abuse and are at risk for sexually transmitted diseases due to their lack of self-esteem stemming from the rejection of their families. There are fewer practices that endanger our community’s youth than the practice of trying to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. Conversion therapy is dangerous and devoid of any scientific value, LGBTQ youth deserve to live in a world where they can grow and be loved for who they are. It’s time to ensure that the dreams of our community’s youth must be realized by making sure they have every opportunity to become who they are meant to be. Conversion therapy is an evil and destructive roadblock and the time has come for it to be banned everywhere.