Gay Conversion Therapy Is On Its Way Out Thanks to Lawmakers, Mental Health Providers, and Common Sense

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 21: The rainbow flag symbolizing gay pride flies from a pole in Manhattan on June 21, 2011 in New York City. The New York Senate has yet to come to a resolution on the issue of same sex marriage. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Source: Mario Tama/Getty Images News/Getty Images

This month, lawmakers in California and New Jersey created legislation prohibiting health care professionals from practicing what is known as "gay conversion therapy," and it's about damn time. Autostraddle reports on Tuesday that ex-gay therapy is slowly disappearing — the Third Circuit unanimously decided to uphold the ban against this kind of therapy in New Jersey, stirring up conversation about when the Supreme Court would chime in. This legislation is a huge deal because it marks the beginnings of a movement demanding safe and fair access to health care by members of the LGBTQIA+ community, a revolution that has so far been under the shadow of marriage equality debates. 

According to the website of the International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses,"there is a critical need for increased awareness of and attention to the potential threat that “reparative therapy” poses to the health and well-being of lesbian, gay and bisexual persons." The website defines reparative therapy as:

"psychotherapy or other interventions aimed at eliminating homosexual desires.These therapies are conducted in various settings including private offices, inpatient units, residential facilities and boarding schools. The treatments may include: individual and group therapy; behavior therapies involving electrical shocks to the hands, torso and genitals while exposing the client to homoerotic images; covert sensitization – which involves imagining erotic circumstances and pairing this with something frightening or revolting or administering emetics; performing exorcism; subjecting the individual to isolation and restraints; and engaging in other therapies designed to modify gender behavior to be more hetero-congruent"

Not only does this kind of therapy attempt to "cure" something that cannot and should not be cured, but it uses methods and therapies that have not, in any way, been proven to have medical credibility or scientific effectiveness. These methods are inhumane and horrifying, like subjecting individuals to isolation or administering electric shocks to genitals. To put the implications of this in perspective, researchers use the same electric shock methods to train and condition animals in labs to express or suppress certain behaviors, and very rarely are the experiments involved with animal testing ethical to perform on humans (they're sure as hell not ethical in this case). 

Not only does this kind of therapy attempt to "cure" something that cannot and should not be cured, but it uses methods and therapies that have not, in any way, been proven to have medical credibility or scientific effectiveness.

Other organizations in different parts of the country are working toward raising awareness of conversion therapy and putting an end to it. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a human rights non-profit organization based in Alabama, released a short, personal video about the topic in late 2011.

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But it seems that in this country, when it comes to LGBTQIA+ rights, with every two steps forward, we go one step back. The GOP in Texas, to no one's surprise, is working toward keeping and enforcing conversion therapy to "heal" gay people. In a broadcast that aired about three months ago on CNN, Anderson Cooper asked a Texas rep why the state was pushing to keep therapy in place because, in the words of Mr. Cooper, "this is not something that needs to be cured."

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