The first time most people were shocked to learn of the existence of gay reversal therapy was on August 28, 2012, when the California State Assembly passed SB1172, a measure outlawing the use of sexual orientation change therapy on minors.
California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB1172 into law on the night of September 30, 2012, to go into effect January 1, 2013. That should have been the last time any Californian had to worry about the Golden State’s children being subjected to a largely discredited treatment designed to pervert a natural aspect of their humanity.
Unfortunately, gay reversal therapy, also known as reparative therapy, made headlines again on October 1, 2012, when the Pacific Justice Institute, a Christian legal group, filed a lawsuit to reverse SB1172.
The Pacific Justice Institute insists that prohibiting parents or guardians from subjecting gay-identified children to behavioral modification techniques that have included emotional withholding, shaming, electric shock, nausea-inducing drugs and powerful prescription medications to reduce the sex drive is a First Amendment violation.
Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, outlined the logic behind his group’s stance to Reuters:
This legislation is an outrageous violation of the civil rights of youth, of parents and of licensed counselors, including clergy who are licensed counselors. What we’re advocating is for all to have the freedom and liberty to seek the counseling that meets their needs.
Gay reversal therapy may fulfill some needs of licensed counselors and clergy, such as financial and rhetorical, but the notion that it meets any needs of the patients undergoing the treatment has been widely and credibly dismissed.
The American Psychiatric Association pulled homosexuality off its list of “mental and emotional disorders,” way back in 1973. The American Psychological Association has, since 1975, admonished member psychologists to remove any stigma attached to LGBT orientations and has found no scientific proof that gay reversal processes are “safe or effective.” Furthermore, in the APA’s informed view, change therapy “likely reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons.”
Tim Dolphin, a doctor speaking for the British Medical Association, is more direct in his criticism of orientation change therapy: “Sexuality is such a fundamental part of who a person is, that attempts to change it just result in significant confusion, depression and even suicide,” said Dolphin.
Gay youth are four times as likely as their straight peers to take their own lives. Statistics indicate that one out of every three gay youths will report a suicide attempt.
“Sexuality is such a fundamental part of who a person is, that attempts to change it just result in significant confusion, depression and even suicide.”
It should be self-evident to anyone born with the compassion gene that minors who may be dealing with teetering self-esteem at the most vulnerable juncture in their lives—at the point when their sexuality is manifesting—should not be subjected to a series of adult-administered mind fucks designed to disrupt their fundamental acceptance of self.
Despite the APA’s denunciation of the practice, factions of three of America’s major religious groups— Christians, Jews and Mormons —have embraced gay reversal therapy, and a therapeutic community has monetized clinical application of gay reversal. Past practitioners include Marcus Bachmann, the ambiguously heterosexual husband of former Presidential Candidate and current Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
The Pacific Justice Institute’s lawsuit to keep gay reversal therapy as a going concern illustrates that any sane, humane step society takes forward is apt to trod on the beliefs of someone else’s conception of how life should be policed.
It’s fitting, speaking ironically, that the Pacific Justice Institute’s push for gay reversal should come in October. October 11 is National Coming Out Day, 24 hours set aside to celebrate bisexual, gay, lesbian or transgender people who exist openly and comfortably as their true selves, setting living examples to any LGBT youth who might be struggling with an emerging sexuality that is at odds with what parents, educators or society might wish to impose.
It’s also fitting that the Pacific Justice Institute’s push to treat homosexuality as a disorder provides the grist for this opening post in TakePart’s Coming Out series.
TakePart Coming Out is a month-long concentration of stories and actions celebrating the strides LGBT people have made in America. We live in a time and a place where gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals are often perceived and treated as standard-issue people. And that is a plus.
TakePart Coming Out is here to amplify messages to the country’s gay youth that their struggle with identity and acceptance does, indeed, get better.
Due diligence dictates that the Coming Out series also encourages ongoing vigilance and activism as essential to maintain the gains the LGBT vanguard has won, and to move the standard of acceptance, tolerance and inclusion toward a day when LGBT rights will no longer be a wedge issue in our country’s politics and media discourse—nor in our homes, schools and businesses.
What will it take for us to reach a day when “coming out” will be a ritual of the past? Leave your steppingstones to success in COMMENTS.
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