By Jennifer Snook @SIRJID
The American Psychological Association (APA) removed homosexuality from the list of mental disorders in 1973, but today, some people are still determined to “cure” LGBT people.
One of the most prevalent ways this is done is conversion therapy, where LGBT youth are sent, either by choice or by their guardian’s mandate, to therapy sessions where they are taught that being gay is a disease.
Most therapies focus on tearing down the individuals and destroying their self-worth. After that, they are rebuilt as self-loathing husks.
Garrard Conley, the son of a preacher, spoke of his experience to time.com.
“My Love in Action counselors placed me in a group of people dealing with pedophilia, bestiality, and infidelity, referring to all of these ‘lifestyles’ as ‘sexual addictions,’” Conley said. “They charged $1,500 a week for brainwashing tactics requiring me to narrate ‘sinful’ moments in my life when I had thought or acted in a way that was not straight or ‘gender affirming.’”
Conley said that the effects of his conversion therapy continue long after his treatment was over.
“I ended friendships and relationships without a second thought, entertained suicidal thoughts because I considered myself unlovable. When people claimed they loved me, I never believed them. My counselors taught me to hate the word, to mistrust anyone who said it to me,” he said.
In an article for The Guardian, Zach Stafford outlined the negative effects of conversion therapy on the patients as well as their friends. A friend of his underwent conversion therapy in high school and subsequently outed him on MySpace.
“One morning I awoke to find that he had posted ‘Zach is a fag’ on my wall and under countless profile photos throughout MySpace page,” said Stafford.
By now, Stafford is, of course, open about his sexuality, and the public outing doesn’t hurt him much. But he does worry about the man who used to be his friend.
“People who have gone through conversion therapy face 8.9 times the rates of suicide ideation, face depression at 5.9 times the rate of their peers, and are three times more likely to use illegal drugs,” said Stafford. These figures are especially alarming for a group that already has suicide rates four times the national average.
In 2009, the APA released the findings of a comprehensive study on conversion therapy.
According to the APA website, the study found that conversion therapy was based on shaky scientific ground, was often harmful to those undergoing the therapy and it rarely, if ever, was effective in changing a patient’s sexual orientation.
In response, it offered the resolution that “the American Psychological Association advises parents, guardians, young people and their families to avoid sexual orientation change efforts that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and to seek psychotherapy, social support and educational services that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support, and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth.”
California and four other states, as well as the District of Columbia, have outlawed the practice. But that leaves 45 states where it is still legal.
And some politicians think that is too few.
While the GOP does not officially support conversion therapy, it also does not support homosexuality.
Section 6 of the Republican Party Platform says “we support the right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children.”
It is obvious that this is largely aimed at homosexuality. Giving the choice to the parents is important because no doctor associated with the APA would ever consider homosexuality in need of treatment.
In fact, some conservatives are even more transparent. Mike Pence, the Vice President-Elect, stated in 2000 that Congress should suspend HIV research until “federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
The “celebration and encouragement” Pence is referring to is, of course, homosexuality, which has been blamed for the spread of HIV for decades.
Unfortunately, Mike Pence is not alone. For many, maintaining the illusion that their world is the only one which is normal and, indeed, the only one which is acceptable, is more important than the mental health and wellbeing of millions of people.
Even without the use of physical methods such as electroshock therapy, which have been prevalent in the past and may still be used in some places today, conversion therapy is a dangerous, poorly-defended sham of mental healthcare under the guise of love and caring.