Triumph for the LGBTQ+ community on April 8th, as President Obama and his administration gave public support for the end of the controversial practice known as “conversion therapy”.
Conversion therapy attempts to “fix” a member of the LGBTQ+ community, changing their sexual orientation or identity to heterosexual. The therapy relies on an assumption that being LGBTQ+ is wrong and something which needs to be fixed; it’s a mental disorder. The American Psychiatric Association declassified the validity of conversion therapies in 1998, stating: “The American Psychiatric Association opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as “reparative” or “conversion” therapy, which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder, or based upon a prior assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation.” The therapy practices have been discredited yet still continue in the United States.
Many of you have probably heard about the tragic suicide of transgender youth Leelah Alcorn.
Her suicide was in part a reaction to her parents’ attempts to convert her transgender identity using conversion therapy. In respect to Leelah, a petition has been proposed to ban all LGBTQ+ conversion therapies. The petition calls for a bill in honor of Leelah, stating, “Therapists that engage in the attempt to brainwash or reverse any child’s gender identity or sexual orientation are seriously unethical and legislation is needed to end such practices that are resulting in LGBTQ+ deaths.”
Since the petition has been presented, President Obama’s administration has responded in support. The petition and the response both understand the real consequences this therapy approach has, most poignantly the death of Leelah Alcorn and other LGBTQ+ youths. Conversion therapy is especially harmful in the case of minors, such as Alcorn, because they do not have full control over their medical decisions. Conversion therapies discredit actual important therapeutic practices which can be helpful not only to LGBTQ+ societal members, but to all people.
Senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, who composed the administrative response, cites the importance of the petition: “‘It’s not the story of one young person. It is the story of countless young people who have been subjected to this.’”
President Obama’s support for ending conversion therapies is just another positive step in the acceptance of LGBTQ+ identities in the United States. California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia have all banned the use of conversion therapies, and eighteen other states have proposed legislation to similar effect. However, for this action to incite real change, Congress would need to pass federal legislation. Hopefully, a national ban is forthcoming. The end of conversion therapies in the United States would ensure greater protection for minors across the nation. The safety of the LGBTQ+ youth is crucial.
“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