LGBTQ rights activists rejoice. The U.S. President Barack Obama administration finally took a stance against LGBT conversion therapy on Wednesday. Though no therapy-banning legislation is slated to follow, it’s monumental that the president even commented on an LGBT issue other than same-sex marriage.
This is proof that petitions can actually work. The White House’s statement is influenced by an online petition created in response to the death of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender girl and victim of conversion therapy whose suicide drew national attention online. The petition generated more than 120,000 signatures from people in support of outlawing conversion therapy.
But you might be wondering — the term “conversion therapy” sounds so pleasant. What’s so bad about it? Well, first of all, it’s kind of impossible to change something people have no control over. It’s like being forced to change the essence of whom you are. Second, most of the people who participate in conversion therapy are under the age of 18. This means that it is not their own choice to partake in conversion therapy, but the choice of their guardians. And attending conversion therapy is not a harmless activity, like when parents make their kids go to church. It can look like something straight out of a horror movie.
What specifically goes into gay conversion therapy varies on a case-by-case basis. During therapy, however, victims are constantly reminded that their homosexuality is due to some deep-seated childhood trauma or horrible experience that caused them to deviate from their heterosexual self.
Other characteristics of conversion therapy include, but are not limited to forced participation in gendered activities, classically conditioning thoughts of homosexuality to be bad and hormone medication. Victims of conversion therapy often develop psychological issues and, like Leelah Alcorn and many others, end up committing suicide.
According to a survey cited by The Huffington Post, more than 90 percent of victims surveyed reported that they felt harmed by going through conversion therapy. This is why it should be banned in states other than just California, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.
As the White House’s statement said, a supportive family is the most important resource for LGBTQ youth. I don’t understand unaccepting parents, and I probably never will. Parents willing to subject their children to tormenting therapy need to take a minute to incorporate a cliché into their lives: think of the children.
If you’ve made it this far through this post, I probably don’t have to berate you with reasons why conversion therapy is horrible. The bottom line is: if you’re straight, try to make yourself gay, and if you’re gay, try to make yourself straight — it doesn’t work. The American Psychiatric Association even opposes this so-called therapy. Additionally, The American Psychological Association says conversion therapy poses serious health risks to participants. So stop.
Obviously, I think it’s great that LGBTQ issues other than marriage are getting national recognition. This issue wasn’t even on most Americans’ political radar until the White House issued this press release. I hope that some legislation is actually passed on this issue and that conversion therapy isn’t the last LGBTQ issue in the federal spotlight. From LGBTQ-specific homelessness to national legislation on employment, there are still a lot more issues to tackle than just marriage.