On August 1, the Seattle City Council approved an ordinance that barred licensed health care providers from subjecting minors to “ex-gay” therapy. It’s also referred to as conversion or reparative therapy. It’s ultimately designed to make LGBT people straight or cisgender, and it’s a huge problem for our community all over America.
Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez was quoted as saying, “Being gay, lesbian, queer, or transgender is not an illness. Nor is it something that needs a cure.” The council approved the ordinance in a 9-0 vote.
This is a small scale victory for LGBT people. But it’s only the 10th such victory in America. Only California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, New York, Vermont, Cincinnati, Washington, D.C., and Miami Beach have enacted similar ordinances.
President Obama and various high-ranking members of the current administration have spoken out in protest of conversion therapy. But the choice to ban or continue the harmful practice remains in the hands of the individual cities and states. Some members of Congress have pushed for the Federal Trade Commission to label it as consumer fraud. That move would make it illegal.
Conversion therapy has a dark and dangerous history. Fans of American Horror Story: Asylum may recall how Sarah Paulson’s character Lana Winters was subjected to electrotherapy as a cure for her lesbianism. While the show is made for pure entertainment, that treatment method wasn’t far from reality. Prior to 1981, these electric shock treatments to the hands and genitals were commonplace.
Other methods of conversion therapy included ice pick lobotomies, chemical castration, drugs, and masturbatory reconditioning.
Today’s brand of conversion therapy is based more on spirituality and intense religious gatherings. According to a study by the Human Rights Campaign, victims of conversion therapy are 8 times as likely to attempt suicide, 6 times as likely to report high levels of depression, 3 times as likely to use illicit drugs, and 3 times as likely to contract HIV and STDs.
Not only does conversion therapy fail in scaring LGBT people away from their true identities; it makes them feel ashamed of who they are once the therapy doesn’t work. It’s clear that this practice does more serious harm than good. If it does any good at all.
One discriminatory portion of the proposed Republican platform states that parents should have the final say in the determination of their child’s gender identity. Surely, if this were put into law, conversion therapists would have free reign to continue their unjust practices.