Conversion ‘therapy’ unhelpful, degrading
If any therapist thought they could change my sexual orientation, they would promptly change their minds after walking into my not-so-covertly Bieber-themed apartment and emotional aftermath following an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” Fact of the matter is, I’m not looking for a “cure” and, as of Sunday, California has spoken for its minors who are not looking either.
California banned any therapy that aims to alter or overcome homosexuality. And accordingly, therapists who support or perform such therapy must cease these practices. The implication of this ban is that homosexuality is incurable, and therefore should be left natural and completely intact. Although this idea of a gay cure may seem outdated, it is still widely accepted in other countries and in certain religious sects. Nonetheless, it is a win for LGBT advocacy groups and those harmed by sexual orientation-related reparative therapy that consider these practices useless and unsupported by science and medicine.
However, as California is the first state to implement this type of ban, many issues remain. First, religious groups not affected by this ban will continue to implement their reparative therapy practices and second, opponents of the ban are still completely naive to the experiences of a homosexual man or woman.
Religious beliefs are certainly a catalyst for therapy. Evergreen International, Inc., a non-profit that tries to help people diminish their homosexual tendencies while adhering to Mormon teachings, for example, believes “it is not a sin to have these (homosexual) feelings. It only becomes a sin when the individual acts upon those feelings.” So yes, you can have gay feelings — you just can’t act on them.
A Christian-based group in South Africa, The New Living Way Ministry, offers a “community” for residents with “unwanted same-sex attraction” — note the ironic “caring for gays” tagline at the top of the site’s page. Because we all know taking possible homosexuals and putting them with other homosexuals clearly reinforces heterosexual behaviors.
By creating programs that provide a “cure,” we are implying that there is a problem or abnormality that needs to be addressed and resolved. We’re essentially telling people that they must combat part of who they are and how they act as a sacrifice for acceptance. Well guess what, I’ve made sacrifices to be openly homosexual — and I’m still being accepted. Yet I cringe typing the word “acceptance,” as if changing who I am would make me feel accepted at all.
Trust me, I didn’t need a program to make me feel any more isolated than I already did and sometimes still do.
I am not judging the beliefs these religious groups hold, but the messages these groups send don’t appropriately address the feelings of homosexual individuals by any means.
The negative effects of these conversion programs go on: prevalence of child suicides, risk of depression, extreme feelings of pressure to conform, feelings of worthlessness and unholiness. These aren’t necessarily the negative effects of certain beliefs but of the ways in which we choose to address these disparities between doctrine and individuality.
In this sense, I fail to see where an individual would want to subject themselves to these consequences for a false sense of acceptance.
David Pickup, a licensed family therapist and member of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, even told The New York Times, ironically, that victims of sexual abuse who have homosexual feelings later in life can no longer be helped. So if things like child sexual abuse can cause homosexual feelings, why are we targeting homosexuals and not the sex offenders who are apparently to blame for the emergence of homosexuality?
It’s hard to think of an event so traumatic or significant that someone would want to voluntarily deny, change and then attempt to re-accept themselves. Opponents obviously disagree and go on to say that this ban is unfair for youth who want to seek therapy and that this is a direct infringement of First Amendment rights. In regards to these infringements, then minors shouldn’t be able to make a decision of this magnitude to seek controversial and potentially degrading therapy. Similar to voting, purchasing tobacco and curfew laws, seeking reparative therapy is just as, if not more, serious of a decision. Once an individual is over the age of 18, they are no longer a minor and do not technically fall within California’s ban boundaries.
As a member of the gay community, I would like to assure Mr. Pickup and others who share such beliefs that I don’t need therapy, let alone want it. I, unlike many organizations, have learned to accept my differences and have even learned to thrive on them. I would never wish permanent or partial change upon an individual because of a set of beliefs that I believe should be generalizable to everyone. I’m only generalizable to me.
Adam is a junior in ACES. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.