Studies conducted by major mental health organizations and personal testimony from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth have shown that conversion therapy can create dangerous and even life-threatening effects, including depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse and suicidal behavior. We are thrilled that President Obama will call for an end to the use of conversion therapy on minors. It is a harmful and discredited practice that uses rejection, shame and psychological abuse aimed at changing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Fifteen years ago, major medical, psychiatric and counseling associations rallied to GLSEN’s side to beat back attempts to force this insidious practice into our schools. We salute them for their pioneering stance and thank the President for his leadership in protecting youth from these damaging and misguided practices.
Truth Wins Out
“We are ecstatic that President Barack Obama spoke out against this harmful practice that psychologically terrorizes too many perfectly healthy LGBT youth and stigmatizes them as mentally ill,” said Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen. “The President’s wise words gave momentum to efforts to prohibit fringe practitioners from traumatizing vulnerable LGBT adolescents and calling it therapy.” “President Obama’s expression of support shows that he really ‘gets it’ at a fundamental level,” said TWO’s Wayne Besen. “We are very fortunate to have a president who is dedicated to equality and ending the destructive practice of conversion therapy.”
In both California and New Jersey, Lambda Legal joined with regional and national organizations working with LGBT young people to advocate on behalf of the ultimately successful efforts in both states to enact legislation preventing licensed mental health providers from using therapies with minors that are demonstrably ineffective and can be deeply harmful, and we were part of the correspondingly successful efforts to defend these bans in court. We will continue to advocate on behalf of LGBT young people as other states likewise move to protect them from this preventable harm. These dangerous and damaging efforts to change sexual orientation and gender identity have wrecked lives. Tonight the President lent the full weight of his leadership to the work our community has been doing for years to protect young people and their families. He joins not only Lambda Legal and our sister organizations, but every leading medical and therapeutic organization, as they have unanimously and unequivocally recognized that LGBT people’s identities should not be targeted for change.