Metro Weekly

National child welfare and mental health organizations back conversion therapy bans

Letter reiterates medical and professional objections to subjecting minors to conversion therapy

Photo: Sander van der Wel, via Wikimedia.

A coalition of child welfare, educational, and mental health organizations has come out strongly opposing conversion therapy and supporting attempts by states to ban it. 

The coalition members signed on to a letter denouncing the practice, declaring its intent as misleading and denouncing the therapy as ineffective.

We reiterate the prevailing science confirming that variations in sexual orientation and gender identity represent normal expressions of human diversity and cannot be changed at will,” the letter reads. “We affirm the contemporary scientific agreement that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender  is not a mental illness or disorder and should not be pathologized.”

The letter also recounts the dangers that can result if youth are forced into conversion therapy against their will, and are prohibited from expressing their true selves. Such risks can include increased anxiety, depression, social withdrawal, isolation, substance abuse, and even suicidal ideation.

While we agree that most medical and mental health professional organizations understand that trying to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is harmful, we also acknowledge that, in virtually every state, some therapists continue to engage in these dangerous practices, deceiving parents, and causing LGBT youth to suffer a variety of consequences and adverse outcomes,” the coalition’s letter reads.

A health care provider’s ability to effectively treat patients is not limited by laws and regulations that prevent licensed health care providers from engaging in sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts,” the letter continues. “We stand firmly together in support of legislative and policy efforts to curtail the unscientific and dangerous practice of sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts.”

The letter was signed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the National Education Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American School Counselor Association, Mental Health America, Child Welfare League of America, Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, National Association of Secondary School Principals, American Medical Women’s Association, and Voice for Adoption.

The Human Rights Campaign praised the organizations’ decision to go on-record as opposing conversion therapy.

“These major child welfare organizations are speaking out at a critically important moment as legislative proposals to protect LGBTQ youth from so-called conversion therapy are pending in state legislatures across the country,” HRC Legislative Counsel Xavier Persad said. “No child should be subjected to this dangerous and discredited practice that amounts to nothing less than child abuse.”

The declaration by the child welfare organizations comes at a time when several legislatures are debating whether to ban efforts by licensed therapists to subject LGBTQ-identifying youth to sexual orientation or gender identity change efforts.

Democratic-led legislatures in Hawaii and Maryland have passed bills to ban the practice, which, if signed into law, would bring the total of states with prohibitions on conversion therapy to 13. Other bills are struggling to gain traction in the Republican-led Senate chambers of New Hampshire and Maine, though House lawmakers in both states have green-lighted legislation calling for bans.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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