You can find a study about most anything today, but this is a chilling study that for many is difficult to shake.
An estimated 20,000 LGBT youth ages 13 to 17 will undergo conversion therapy from a licensed health care professional before the age of 18, according to a new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.
Also, approximately 57,000 youth will receive the treatment from a religious or spiritual advisor. These are the first estimates of U.S. youth at risk of undergoing conversion therapy before they reach adulthood.
The researchers also found that approximately 698,000 LGBT adults in the U.S have received conversion therapy at some point in their lives, including about 350,000 who received it as adolescents.
Conversion therapy is treatment intended to change the sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression of LGBT people. It is grounded in the belief that being LGBT is abnormal.
“So-called reparative or conversion therapies are “flawed” in premise as there is absolutely no underlying mental illness and none diagnosable,” Donald Grimm, an openly gay licensed psychologist in Palm Springs, told Uken Report. “They are medically unnecessary, bordering on medical malpractice. The premise of conversion therapy is patently wrong: Having same sex attractions is not a mental illness.”
Lisa Middleton, who made history in Palm Springs in November by becoming the first transgender person elected to a non-judicial office in California, said she did not have anything to add “that match the horrific stories of those who survived such programs.”
“I, like most LGBTQ people, know that these conversion programs do not work and inflict harm on those they purport to help; but I do not have direct experience with them,” Middleton told Uken Report.
To date, nine states, including California, the District of Columbia and 32 localities have laws protecting youth under age 18 from receiving conversion therapy from licensed health care providers. According to the study, 6,000 youth ages 13 to 17 would have received conversion therapy before they reached adulthood if their state had not banned the practice. Some state bans also apply to anyone who performs the practice in exchange for money. None of them prevent religious or spiritual advisors from providing conversion therapy as long as they are acting solely in a spiritual capacity.
In the summer of 2012, Ryan Kendall, a survivor of the practice who testified in the Perry v. Brown legal challenge to Proposition 8, described his experience to the Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee: “As a young teen, the anti-gay practice of so-called conversion therapy destroyed my life and tore apart my family. In order to stop the therapy that misled my parents into believing that I could somehow be made straight, I was forced to run away from home, surrender myself to the local department of human services, and legally separate myself from my family. At the age of 16, I had lost everything. My family and my faith had rejected me, and the damaging messages of conversion therapy, coupled with this rejection, drove me to the brink of suicide.”
In September 2012, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a historic bill that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) minors from “reparative” therapies administered by mental health professionals aimed at altering sexual orientation or gender identities and expressions.
Senate Bill 1172, which the National Center for Lesbian Rights notes was co-sponsored by the NCLR, Equality California, Gaylesta, Courage Campaign, Lambda Legal, and Mental Health America of Northern California, and supported by dozens of organizations, was the first law of its kind in the United States. It became effective on Jan. 1, 2013.
“Many professional health associations and the public support ending the use of conversion therapy on LGBT youth,” said Christy Mallory, the state and local policy director at the Williams Institute and lead author of the study. “Our research shows that laws banning conversion therapy could protect tens of thousands of teens from what medical experts say is a harmful and ineffective practice.”
A number of prominent national professional health associations — including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among others — have issued public statements opposing the use of conversion therapy and several have called on Congress and state legislatures to pass laws that ban the practice.
For more than a century, health care professionals and religious figures have used a range of techniques to attempt to change people’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, talk therapy is the most commonly used therapy technique. However, some practitioners have also used “aversion treatments,” such as inducing nausea, vomiting, paralysis or applying electric shocks.
This year, several more states will be considering conversion therapy bans and pending federal legislation — the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act — would outlaw the practice nationwide.
“With such a large number of teens at risk of conversion therapy,” said study author Kerith Conron, Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and research director at the Williams Institute, “we must ensure that families, faith communities and service providers have accurate information about sexual orientation and gender identity and work to reduce stigma and promote acceptance of LGBT youth and their families.”
Read the complete study HERE.
The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, is dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research with real-world relevance.