The danger in conversion therapy

Conversion therapy is harmful, no matter how it’s conducted

Jordan Zy

“Tonight, somewhere in America, a young person, let's say a young man, will struggle to fall to sleep, wrestling alone with a secret he's held as long as he can remember. Soon, perhaps, he will decide it's time to let that secret out. What happens next depends on him, his family, as well as his friends and his teachers and his community. But it also depends on us—on the kind of society we engender, the kind of future we build.” President Barack Obama gave this response when addressing a petition to ban conversion therapies for minors.

Last December, two days after Christmas, a transgender girl named Leelah Alcorn gave up wrestling with her parents demands and took her life. In her suicide note she revealed that her parents were forcing her to see therapists who tried to convince her to identify as a boy. Her parents also pulled her out of school and isolated her from her peers until she was “cured.” Was this ethical?

Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, is when therapists engage in the attempt to change or reverse a patient’s gender identity or sexual orientation. Conversion therapies have always resulted in more harm than good. The American Psychological Association does not condone treating sexual orientation or gender identity as a disorder, and discourages the use of conversion therapy because there has not been enough evidence of its effectiveness as a therapy.

Anyone licensed to counsel goes by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to diagnose anyone with any mental disorder. The latest version, DSM-V, removed sexual orientations as a disorder, including Gender Identity Disorder. The American Medical Association does not condone treating homosexuality or transgender as a disorder, and thusly will not support any reparative or conversion therapies. However, therapists are still able to conduct conversion therapy if they inform their patients the techniques are unproven to be effective. Other therapists, through private organizations like church ex-gay ministries, are continuing to practice reparative therapy on their own.

I’ll spare you the often outlandish details of the practices of conversion therapies, but know that people who have undergone conversion therapy have reported increased anxiety, depression, and in some cases, suicidal ideation.

In January, We the People created a petition to enact “Leelah’s Law” to ban all use of conversion therapies for sexual orientation or gender identities on minors. Today, there have been over 120,000 signatures.

The petition was brought to the attention of the White House Administration who responded with support of an eventual national action to stop the use of conversion therapy. President Obama and his cabinet responded in support of finding an eventual solution to the problem.

Whether or not we agree that God wishes for anyone to identify as anything other than heterosexual, conversion therapy is not the answer. In forcing our children to undergo therapies such as this only reinforces the idea they are not loved or wanted as they are. They feel more lost and alone than ever before. Forcing them to be what humans decide is perfect in God’s eyes is not helping. Let’s instead reach out by loving them right where they are.

Everyone is on their own path, and while we may not agree, it’s our responsibility as church members to be Christ like, to accept and love all of God’s children and leave the judgment up to Him.

Jordan is a senior studying psychology.