• Conversion Therapy

Conversion Therapy, according to TheTrevorProject.org, “sometimes referred to as ‘reparative therapy,’ is any of several dangerous and discredited practices aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Some U.S. states have banned “sexual orientation change efforts” involving LGBT youth, a “medically defunct practice that aims to change one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”1 These conversion “efforts” and practices in the U.S. have been around for about 100 years: “Doctors at the turn of the 20th century understood homosexuality as a medical problem”;2 homosexuality “was officially deemed a mental disorder in 1952”;3 “Homosexuality was considered a psychiatric disorder until 1973, when it was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).”4

These practices and techniques go by many other names : “ex-gay” programs, aversion therapy and sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE).

“Currently, talk therapy is the most commonly used technique, but some practitioners have also combined this with ‘aversion treatments,’ such as induced vomiting or electric shocks. Approximately 700,000 LGBTQ adults have undergone conversion therapy at some point in their lives, according to a January 2018 UCLA study, and the report estimates tens of thousands of LGBTQ youth currently between 13 and 17 will undergo this controversial therapy from a licensed health care professional, religious adviser or spiritual leader before they turn 18.”5

“Many professional mental health associations have released statements discrediting the practice as ineffective, and some suggest that it may even be harmful. … Most of the scientific studies on such practices also draw that conclusion.”6

As of 4/8/2019, 16 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico7 “protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy through licensing restrictions which prevent licensed mental health service professionals from conducting conversion therapy on youth under age 18.”8

The sourced articles below should provide more information on “sexual orientation change efforts” and bans to protect LGBT youth from being subjected to these practices.

  1. Activists And Suicide Prevention Groups Seek Bans On Conversion Therapy For Minors

    “What Nunn was going through was conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy. It is a widely discredited practice aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. In most of the country, the therapy is still legal for minors. But advocacy groups are trying to change that by pushing legislation in statehouses across the country to ban licensed mental health professionals from practicing conversion therapy on minors. So far 16 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico have banned the practice.”

    Leila Fadel, npr.org, 4/26/2019

  2. Scotus Rejects Challenge To New Jersey’s Anti-Conversion Therapy Law For Third Time

    “On Monday [4/15/2019], the Supreme Court of the United States rejected for the third time a challenge [King v. Murphy] to New Jersey’s 2013 law that protects LGBTQ youth from the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy.’ New Jersey was the second state in the nation to prohibit state-licensed health professionals from engaging in these harmful practices with minors. The challenge was brought by the anti-LGBTQ group Liberty Counsel, which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Court’s action leaves in place the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ 2014 decision to uphold the law’s constitutionality, ensuring that New Jersey’s law remains in effect.”

    Xavier Persad, hrc.org, 4/17/2019

  3. NJ Counseling Case Goes Back To Lower Court

    “‘We have several challenges pending to these unconstitutional counseling bans,’ said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. ‘We will refile [King v. Murphy] this case in New Jersey and soon get one of the cases before the Supreme Court. It is not a question of if, but when, the Supreme Court will take one of these cases and implement what it already clearly stated — that these laws violate the First Amendment. The fundamental rights of counselors and clients to exercise their right to speak in private counseling sessions must be protected. The law is a gross intrusion into the fundamental rights of counselors and clients. All people should have access to the counselor of their choice. No government has the authority to prohibit a form of counseling simply because it does not like the religious or moral beliefs of a particular counselor or client,’ said Staver.”

    Liberty Counsel, lc.org, 4/15/2019

  4. Congressman Introduces Federal Bill Banning ‘Gay Cure’ Therapy: ‘This Quackery Is Outrageous’

    “Conversion therapists often exploit loopholes to receive reimbursements through Medicaid through deceptive billing tactics. Because there’s no diagnostic code for conversion therapy, the treatment is sometimes coded as ‘depression.’ Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs for the Trevor Project, says there are countless ways to cheat the system. According to Brinton, counselors with the national LGBTQ youth suicide prevention hotline hear ‘from youth harmed by conversion therapy every week,’ and many of those young people are likely receiving taxpayer-funded treatment.”

    Nico Lang, rollingstone.com, 4/2/2019

  5. This Rabbi Is Leading The U.S. ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’ Charge

    “Conversion therapy – the range of controversial psychological treatments aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation – has been pushed to the sidelines in America in the past decade. Indeed, 15 U.S. states banned the use of this therapy on minors after the American Psychiatric Association stated that it is ineffective and even dangerous. … Dr. David Schwartz recently sued the City of New York, arguing that its ban on conversion therapy violates his religion and deprives his patients of the ability to live their lives according to the laws of the Torah.”

    Taly Krupkin, haaretz.com, 3/17/2019

  6. APA Reiterates Strong Opposition To Conversion Therapy

    “In the wake of recent popular entertainment portrayals of conversion therapy, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) today reiterates its long-standing opposition to the practice. APA made clear with its 1998 position statement that ‘APA opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as *reparative* or *conversion* therapy, that is based on the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or is based on the a priori assumption that the patient should change his or her homosexual orientation.'”

    American Psychiatric Association, psychiatry.org, 11/15/2018

  7. The History Of Getting The Gay Out

    “Homosexuality was considered a psychiatric disorder until 1973, when it was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). It returned to later editions under other names, downgraded to maladjustment. After science got out of the bedroom, the law removed itself as well in 2003 with the Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court decision that invalidated sodomy laws. For the last 20 years or so, conversion therapy has been discredited scientifically and is no longer medically approved as effective or appropriate. Just as religious conviction and faith are part of some addiction programs, religious beliefs about sexuality and gender form the only remaining justifications for ‘gay conversion.’ Religion justifies conversion, frames the therapy, and is called upon as strength for an individual’s ‘cure.'”

    Katherine Ott, americanhistory.si.edu, 11/15/2018

  8. Gay Conversion Therapy Associated With Suicide Risk

    “They also had participants complete a number of mental health measures. Those whose parents tried to change their sexual orientation had three-fold higher odds of having ever attempted suicide (aOR 3.08, 95 percent CI 1.39-6.83). Those whose parents enlisted the help of a professional (therapist or religious leader) to change their sexual orientation had a five-fold higher odds of having ever attempted suicide (aOR 5.07, 95 percent CI 2.38-10.79).”

    Jack Turban, MD, MHS, psychologytoday.com, 11/14/2018

  9. With ‘Boy Erased’ And ‘Cameron Post,’ Hollywood Exposes Conversion Therapy

    “The goal of GLAAD and the Born Perfect campaign, and my personal promise, is to end conversion therapy once and for all. ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ and ‘Boy Erased’ are now the front lines to combating these anti-LGBTQ tactics. When filmgoers and parents see the pain of the young LGBTQ characters in the films — and how the parents come to understand and accept their children just as they are — it has the potential to erase the practice forever.”

    Mathew Shurka, variety.com, 11/13/2018

  10. Conversion Therapy’ Hits The Big Screen While Laws Play Out In States

    “Many professional mental health associations have released statements discrediting the practice as ineffective, and some suggest that it may even be harmful. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists and the National Association of Social Workers together — representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals — have taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and not something that needs to be or can be ‘cured.’ Most of the scientific studies on such practices also draw that conclusion.”

    Jen Christensen, cnn.com, 9/3/2018

  11. Gay Conversion Therapy’s Disturbing 19th-Century Origins

    “In 1899, a German psychiatrist electrified the audience at a conference on hypnosis with a bold claim: He had turned a gay man straight. … He didn’t know it, but he had just kicked off a phenomenon that would later be known as ‘conversion therapy’—a set of pseudoscientific techniques designed to quash LGBTQ people’s sexuality and make them conform to society’s expectations of how they should behave. Though it’s dismissed by the medical establishment today, conversion therapy was widely practiced throughout the 20th century, leaving shame, pain and self-hatred in its wake.”

    Erin Blakemore, history.com, 8/30/2018

  12. The Truth About New Study Claiming Ex-Gay Conversion Therapy Works

    “The Liberty Counsel believes the study [“Effects of Therapy on Religious Men Who Have Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction”] ‘strongly refutes claims the American Psychological Association and other organizations have made aimed at discouraging counsel to change unwanted same-sex attractions, behavior, and identity.’ This refers to the APA’s exhaustive report published in 2009, which reviewed all the available research and found that SOCE [sexual orientation change efforts] was ineffective and involved some risk of harm. Given the new study’s flaws and biases — including the fact it doesn’t even specifically identify which kinds of therapy it claims are effective — it’s unlikely to impact the APA’s conclusions. If, however, the Liberty Counsel can convince five Supreme Court justices that conversion therapy could be the least bit worthwhile, that would open the door to a new wave of shame-based treatments across the country — including for children who have no say in whether they are subjected to it.”

    Zack Ford, thinkprogress.org, 8/23/2018

  13. How Gay Conversion Therapy Came To Be, And How It Persists Today

    “Homosexuality was officially deemed a mental disorder in 1952 when the American Psychiatric Association (APA) listed it in its first-ever Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
    Dawn of a Dark Age: In the 1960s, as mental health experts apparently grew frustrated with talk therapy’s limited ability to achieve deep and lasting change in gay patients, the world of conversion therapy took a drastic turn. A new method known as aversion therapy emerged, Elise Chenier, a history professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, tells Teen Vogue. ‘It was based on the belief that you could change a person’s behavior by linking a negative stimulus, such as a mild shock, to a desire, such as an attraction to a person of the same sex,’ she says.”

    Chelsea Greenwood Lassman, teenvogue.com, 8/7/2018

  14. U.S. Experts Applaud U.K. Ban On ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’

    “Conversion therapy, also known as ‘reparative therapy’ or ‘ex-gay therapy,’ is a medically defunct practice that aims to change one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, talk therapy is the most commonly used technique, but some practitioners have also combined this with ‘aversion treatments,’ such as induced vomiting or electric shocks. Approximately 700,000 LGBTQ adults have undergone conversion therapy at some point in their lives, according to a January 2018 UCLA study, and the report estimates tens of thousands of LGBTQ youth currently between 13 and 17 will undergo this controversial therapy from a licensed health care professional, religious adviser or spiritual leader before they turn 18.”

    Elizabeth Kuhr, nbcnews.com, 7/5/2018

  15. A Half-Century Of Conflict Over Attempts To ‘Cure’ Gay People

    “Ego-dystonic homosexuality was specifically aimed at patients who expressed ongoing distress or sadness about their sexual orientation, even if homosexuality could no longer be considered a mental illness. Now it was the internalization of homophobia that could make you sick. Many used the diagnosis of ego-dystonic homosexuality as an excuse to legitimize reparative therapy—and still do. Although the diagnosis was removed from the DSM in 1987, it remains today as ‘ego-dystonic sexual orientation’ in the tenth (and still current) edition of the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases. As some clinicians and activists have pointed out, the diagnosis of ‘gender dysphoria’ in DSM-5, released in May 2013, also bears a strong resemblance, framing the distress commonly associated with gender variance as an individual rather than social problem.”

    Stephen Vider and David S. Byers, time.com, 2/12/2015

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Footnotes

1. nbcnews.com, 7/5/2018

2. washingtonpost.com, 8/5/2018

3. teenvogue.com, 8/7/2018

4. americanhistory.si.edu, 11/15/2018

5. nbcnews.com, 7/5/2018

6. cnn.com, 9/3/2018

7. nbcnews.com, 4/9/2019

8. hrc.org, 3/11/2019