Conversion therapy remains one of the biggest threats to the LGBT community. Many prominent politicians including President Obama realize this. In a small scale victory back on August 1, the Seattle City Council approved an ordinance that made it illegal to subject minors to conversion therapy. In California this type of “therapy” is illegal. While this was a positive step forward, the laws regarding conversion therapy still lie in the hands of individual cities and states. With no federal precedent set, the harmful practice could continue to damage the lives of gay adolescents and adults across the country. Even though it might be illegal in California, parents figure out ways to send their kids out of state to get this treatment (which I cannot say enough is harmful and can kill a person emotionally).
Prior to 1981, conversion therapy was a dark and violent affair. Therapy methods included ice pick lobotomies, chemical castration, drugs, masturbatory reconditioning, and painful electroshock therapy. The modern day version is a more spiritual affair filled with intense religious gatherings and rituals, all put in place to convince gay people that they are not gay. The conversation “therapy” today, although it sounds less scary, is just as harmful.
For parents who are considering subjecting their kids to this type of therapy, they should immediately course correct. The inherent problem with conversion therapy is that it assumes being gay is wrong, and it doesn’t work. The American Psychological Association has declared that it’s ineffective. A senior advisor to Obama reaffirmed this and also declared that it’s medically and ethically inappropriate. As a therapist, I can tell you that your child will NEVER be the same. It doesn’t change the fact that they were born gay, but it does devastate their self-esteem and perhaps your relationship with them forever.
In 2014, Leelah Acorn committed suicide after completing conversion therapy treatment. She believed that the therapists were biased against her and her sexual identity. Her death resulted in Leelah’s Law, which is a proposed national ban on the treatment option.
The biggest danger is that conversion therapy teaches gay youth that they’re not normal; that their sexuality is wrong. And when it doesn’t work, these kids are left feeling terrible about themselves. They feel like they need to change because they’ve just been subjected to complete strangers who’ve told them they should. But it’s impossible for them to do so. Conversion therapy fails them. They fail to change after. Many teens succumb to the pressure, and the personal battle ends in suicide.
For those teens who are strong enough to pull through once treatment ends, they’re saddled with the weight of extreme self-hatred. This means there could still be depression. Plus, they have to face the fact that their parents think something is wrong with them. For a teenager in some of their most formative years, this type of emotional trauma can be devastating.
Many of the teens who’ve survived conversion therapy emerge with horror stories and flashbacks akin to soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder. No teen should be subjected to this. No parent should believe that this type of therapy actually works. You need to understand that if you subject your child to this, it could forever end your relationship with them or worse; it could cause them to end their life by committing suicide.
What gay teens need most is support and love. They need to be surrounded with people who can help them come to terms with their sexuality and continue loving themselves. They don’t need to have messages of self-hate reinforced by strangers. They don’t need to live in an environment that makes them feel like outsiders. Being a teen is hard enough. Conversion therapy makes teen life insufferable. For many teens, it’s the final straw.
If you are a parent and need help in how to support your gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender child, please call me. If you are part of the LGBT community and you are looking for gay friendly therapy in Long Beach, please call me.