Therapies to change one’s sexual orientation or gender identity seem like ancient practices that belong in history books, but they still exist. However, a new White House petition highlights just how archaic and wrong they are.
Late last year, 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn, a transgender youth, committed suicide after her parents repeatedly sent her to Christian therapists who endorsed such methods.
In response to this tragedy, President Barack Obama included a statement on a WhiteHouse.gov petition to end the practice of conversion therapy, which is used in an attempt to change one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, according to a recent New York Times article. Currently, therapists still practice it, some members of the Republican Party still endorse it and those who underwent it continue to speak out about it.
LGBT youth deal with enough discrimination from both their peers and surrounding society, and the U.S. is not exactly progressive in accepting people as they are. In Florida alone, a bill to criminalize using a restroom that doesn’t match one’s biological sex has made it past the second committee in the Florida House of Representatives. According to the Center for American Progress, gay and trans people experience high rates of workplace discrimination and harassment.
Conversion therapy is another especially dangerous form of discrimination that should be completely outlawed.
Today, the practice involves shaming patients from homosexual attractions and attempting to make one’s behavior more feminine or masculine. In the past, it involved measures as drastic as castration and electroconvulsive shock therapy, according to the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).
As of now, only California, New Jersey and D.C. have enacted laws to completely prohibit con- version therapy. Additionally, a group of therapists in the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality still practice and condone it.
However, Obama’s denouncement and the petition, written by his senior adviser Valerie Jarret, is a move closer to where the U.S. needs to be on this issue, according to the NY Times. The petition itself has gained over 120,000 signatures.
While conservative organizations and religious doctors promote conversion therapy, the American Psychology Association reported it can cause patients to experience depression, social withdrawal, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse and self-hatred, as mentioned by NCLR — not to mention it’s not scientifically valid.
According to the NY Times, Obama does not aim to impose a federal law to ban the practice, though he is willing to speak with lawmakers on the matter.
Given its obvious hazards, it’s only appropriate to finally bring conversion therapy to an end. It goes beyond practicing a conservative personal belief — it’s about shamelessly and abusively forcing that belief onto another person.
Isabelle Cavazos is a junior majoring in English and Spanish.