“Oh that would never happen in America. You know she was just doing it to rile people up and get that shock value,” muttered a disgruntled advisor. Her day had been ruined by having to hear a student speak at a debate tournament about the horrors of conversion therapy that she was so sure would never be allowed to occur. As I stood in shock and listened to this woman speak so carelessly about conversion therapy, all I could think about was every op-ed and headline about another queer youth who escaped torture camps where their very identity was ripped apart piece by piece. All I could feel was raw anger and shock. This woman was easily dismissing the stories and truths of thousands of queer Americans forced into conversion therapy by their parents or by a society that they felt would not accept them as they were.
While the advisor may not believe it, the truth remains that conversion therapy remains legal in 31 states. This practice attempts to force LGBTQ people back into the societal mold of heterosexuality and gender binaries using various graphic methods. These include therapy, electroshock therapy, inducing nausea or paralysis in tandem with the presentation of homoerotic images, and other forms of physical and mental torture. Sometimes these “treatments” occur in weekly therapy, while others occur in cheerful-looking summer camps that hide the horrors happening inside. In 2018, the Williams Institute at UCLA estimated that 700,000 LGBTQ people had been through conversion therapy and that another 80,000 queer youth will experience in the next few years. 700,000 people have been ripped apart, shamed, and attacked in a “therapy” that does not change who they are but instead causes severe physical and psychological damage to those individuals.
After conversion therapy, individuals were significantly more likely to attempt suicide, face higher rates of depression and anxiety, and were at a higher risk of HIV and STDs. Not only does this therapy cause severe damage to subjects undergoing the “treatment”, but it also causes lifelong mental and physical strife to the survivors of these human rights violations.
If you have been through conversion therapy, I stand with you. I am proud of you for making it through that experience however you could. I believe you, even if others won’t. If you have not experienced it, go check whether your state allows conversion therapy. If it does, call, email, write, and constantly bother your senators and representatives to pass legislation to ban this violent human rights abuse against our LGBTQ family. This will not end until we shut it down in every single state. Thankfully, cities like Ferndale, Michigan have taken up the mission and begun to ban conversion therapy on minors. Hopefully, this will continue until it is banned nationally.
For anyone who may need resources for healing after conversion therapy, the Spectrum Center at the University of Michigan and online communities like BeyondExGay.com are here to offer support and help however you may want it.
Countries where conversion therapy is banned. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.