Anti-Gay Conversion Therapy Campaign #BornPerfect Hopes To End The Torturous Practice

After Texas Republicans gathered to vote on a platform pushing for gay conversion therapy earlier this month, the LGBT community pushed back on Tuesday. The National Center For Lesbian Rights has announced a new anti-gay conversion therapy campaign called #BornPerfect, an educational and legislative initiative to "make clear that every LGBT person is born perfect," according to executive director Kate Kendell.

The goal of the #BornPerfect campaign is to provide parents with access to psychological experts and former patients of conversion therapy in order to help them understand why the so-called treatment is so harmful. But the campaign's organizers aren't blaming the parents: "We have no doubt they love their children," Kendell told TIME, who noted that some parents are only thinking of the difficulties that their children might face as LGBT people. "We want parents to understand there are resources for them to come to terms with embracing their child as they are."

In addition to sexual orientation, the #BornPerfect campaign will also aim to prevent therapy that tries to influence a child's gender identity.

The campaign will also try to stop conversion — or "reparative" — therapy on a legislative level. On June 16, New York state voted 86 to 28 to pass a ban on conversion therapy, but the GOP-controlled state senate blocked the bill from coming to the floor, despite support from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. In the last few years, California and New Jersey were able to successfully pass laws to ban conversion therapy for minors. New York would have been the third state to enforce a ban.

So What Is Gay Conversion Therapy?

Conversion therapy is a series of treatments that seek to change the patient's sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual, based on the notion that homosexuality is something abnormal and needs to be fixed. Treatments include behavioral modification, which often involve aversive conditioning techniques like using electro shock or nausea-inducing drugs to accompany images of same-sex couples; psychoanalysis, which is used to resolve subconscious childhood incidents "responsible" for homosexuality; and reparative therapy, which aims to condition a homosexual person to be more heterosexual.

For example, gay men are taught to participate in more sports, avoid activities associated with homosexuals (i.e., museums, the theater, operas), attend church, be more assertive with women, and spend more time with heterosexual males to mimic their way of talking, walking, and all-around being straight.

Why It's Considered A Form Of Torture

Besides the fact that conversion therapy is based on the belief that homosexuality is a mental disorder, a belief that the American Psychological Association threw out in 1973 when it removed it from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, conversion therapy is considered by many to be torture in disguise.

Merriam-Webster defines torture as "the act of causing severe physical pain as a form of punishment or as a way to force someone to do or say something." When conversion therapy administers electro shock, forces patients to take nausea-inducing substances, freezes and burns their hands, and sticks needles into their fingers, then torture is exactly what it becomes. 

One victim of conversion therapy, Samual Brinton, described his "treatments" in an interview for LGBT advocacy group I'm From Driftwood's video series. "The Month of Hell consisted of tiny needles being stuck into my fingers and then pictures of explicit acts between men would be shown and I'd be electrocuted," he said. If that doesn't constitute torture, then I don't know what does.

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Image: Guillaume Paumier/Flickr

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