California suffered in past years as marriage equality took a turn for the worse. When it comes to protecting queer youth, however, we’re now number one in the nation.
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill making California the first state to ban gay reparative or conversion therapy for children under 18. Passed on Sept. 30, SB 1172 will be effective Jan. 1, 2013.
In a statement to the SF Chronicle, Gov. Brown strongly stated that these therapies “have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.”
City on a Hill Press supports and applauds Gov. Brown for signing this ban because time and time again, reparative conversion therapy has been medically disproven.
The bill, put forth by Sen. Ted Lieu (D–Torrance), states from the beginning that, “Being lesbian, gay, or bisexual is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming. The major professional associations of mental health practitioners and researchers in the United States have recognized this fact for nearly 40 years.”
Therapy aimed at “fixing” or “normalizing” queer youth — defined here as youth who identify under the umbrella term because it is gender-neutral and does not perpetuate a gender binary — is not only unnecessary, it also preserves the false idea that being queer is something to correct or doctor.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) published a statement in March 2000 that states conversion therapy aimed at converting queer youth is “based on developmental theories whose scientific validity is questionable. Furthermore, anecdotal reports of ‘cures’ are counterbalanced by anecdotal claims of psychological harm,” according to the bill.
Again, it has been medically proven that reparative conversion therapy is not only unsuccessful for the queer-identified, it is also in some cases irreparably harmful. The second and perhaps most important reason we find therapy of this type to be harmful to queer youth: it perpetuates outdated and unhealthy stigmas.
The APA established a task force on “Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation” and reported in 2009 that the irreparably harmful side effects of efforts to change sexual orientation included, “depression, guilt, hopelessness, shame, suicidality, substance abuse, increased self-hatred, feelings of anger and betrayal, [and] sexual dysfunction,” according to the bill.
This is to name only a few.
Some opponents of the ban may point to freedom of speech rights, stating that this bill infringes upon the freedom of parents to seek therapy for their children if they choose to do so.
We find this invalid because freedom of speech does not permit harm to another, especially when that harm is inflicted on a minor.
We need to redirect wasted time and resources toward more positive and helpful programs for queer youth instead of conversion therapy that makes queer teenagers, arguably already at risk for feeling misunderstood, feel further dehumanized and untrue to themselves.