by Michele Zipp
Tens of thousands of teenagers will undergo conversion therapy before they turn 18. This is happening in 2018. Tens of thousands of parents are so unaccepting of their children’s sexuality that they are resorting to cruel methods in an attempt to change them. This horrible nightmare has already happened to around 350,000 kids and another 350,000 adults, and will happen to many more if action isn’t taken to stop it. There are licensed health care professionals, religious advisors, and spiritual leaders who are torturing children and adults, starting at age 13, with a medically defunct practice.
Conversion therapy (sometimes called reparative therapy) has included electric shock treatment and induced vomiting, along with counseling (read: brainwashing), visualization, social skills training, psychoanalytic therapy, and various types of interventions and pressure to convert to being straight. Imagine being forced to change who you are because your parents didn’t like it? Imagine how that feels for a child.
Vice President Mike Pence is widely rumored to support conversion therapy because he believes homosexuality is “a choice” and goes against the teachings of God, as per the bible.
What happened to God loving everyone? Jesus loves me, the Bible told me so! Those who believe what Pence says only do so when it fits their agenda. This has nothing to do with religion, but about the freedom to be yourself. If you need a simple way of thinking about it, consider this: You can’t force your kid to love and be great at football just because you were the champion high school quarterback. We cannot and should never force any person to be anything but what they are. Despite this, it’s still happening to thousands of children a year, every year.
For this piece, I spoke to school psychologist Dr. Michael Paff who said, “There is no evidence that conversion therapy is effective, and a great deal of evidence that it is very harmful.” According to Paff and the majority of credible psychologists, the harm is physical, mental, and emotional. The American Psychological Association reported that survivors of conversion therapy are 8.9 times more likely to consider death by suicide.
Dr. Paff added, “No major medical or psychological professional organization supports its use.” The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Psychoanalytic Association, and the American Counseling Association have all spoken out against conversion therapy. These groups collectively stated that “Homosexuality is not a mental disorder, and thus is not something that needs to or can be ‘cured.’”
As of now, only six places in the U.S. have banned the practice of conversion therapy. California led the way in 2012. Since then, Connecticut, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia followed suit. These bans have saved approximately 6,000 adolescents from this torture. We need this to pass in every state, and most Americans agree. A 2017 poll found that 71 percent of Floridians believed conversion therapy should be illegal; 64 percent of people in Virginia felt the same way. Only eight percent of Americans thought conversion therapy worked according to a 2014 poll. So why is it still practiced in the majority of states in our country? Why are all these lives — particularly young ones — being put at risk? This conversation is long overdue — these are our children, children who have essentially been abandoned by their parents.
Congress seems to be attempting to tackle this problem from a different angle. Last year, members introduced the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act that classifies conversion therapy, when exchanged for payment, as consumer fraud. Because it doesn’t work. If passed, action can be taken against those who practice it. It’s a start, but we need to get to the root of the problem — the parents who believe their children need to be cured of being who they are. Without that, these inhumane treatments will continue in basement rooms of so-called religious institutions. To think kids are enduring this abuse at the request of their own family is horrific — there are so many stories of trauma reported from survivors, and thankfully, many support groups.
Pence and Trump will maintain their approval for conversion therapy (or silence on the matter) in order to keep their evangelical base of supporters. These Trump/Pence/conversion therapy supporters most likely physically abuse their kids and call it discipline. They are anti-abortion because they see an unborn fetus as a viable human, yet somehow fail to see that the LGBTQ community is a community of viable humans.
Of course, this is the same base that thinks Trump deserves a pass for cheating on his wife — who had just given birth — with a porn star, but let’s completely zap the brains of kids who are gay.
The LGBTQ community needs support, especially vulnerable teenagers and young adults. “LGBTQ students are at significant risk for bullying and harassment and they need affirmation and support from the adults in their lives,” Dr. Paff told me. And that support needs to come on every front — neighbors, friends, doctors, and teachers. “Psychologists who work with parents who request conversion therapy for their children should help them understand how harmful it would be for their children. They should decline to participate in any attempt to change sexual orientation and should decline to make referrals to other so-called mental health professionals who might,” Dr. Paff went on.
The root of this problem is the notion that behavior and sexual identity can be changed just because those against it want it to be. Instead of children and young adults being forced into conversion therapy, it should be the parents who have to be evaluated and treated, because there is nothing wrong with their kids.
To support campaigns to end conversion therapy, visit: