The Minnesota chapter of the National Organization for Women opposes all forms of so-called conversion therapy. NOW supports legislation to ban licensed medical professionals from encouraging LGBTQ individuals, especially LGBTQ minors, to attempt to change their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. NOW denounces the actions of religious leaders, individuals and organizations that shame or guilt people into entering this form of “treatment.”
WHAT IS CONVERSION THERAPY?
Conversion therapy is the efforts of counselors or religious leaders to change LGBTQ people into cisgender heterosexual people. This practice can involve a variety of techniques, but most center their message on promising LGBTQ individuals, commonly adolescents, that they will be unhappy and/or morally corrupt if they do not change their identity. Sometimes, therapists use strategies such as name-calling and threats to essentially bully a patient into repressing or concealing their feelings. Even among those who use moderate tactics, counselors imply, or in some cases state explicitly, that there is something inherently wrong or inferior about being LGBTQ.
NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF CONVERSION THERAPY
Conversion therapy has been widely criticized by many medical organizations, individual doctors and several prominent medical groups in the United States. The American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have publicly expressed their opposition to the practice. Rather than improve the mental health and happiness of those who seek the treatment, research has repeatedly demonstrated that LGBTQ youth who receive treatment have higher rates of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. While all LGBTQ youth experience higher rates of mental illness than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts, those who undergo conversion therapy have even higher rates of self-esteem issues, depression, anxiety and feelings of shame than their LGBTQ peers.
CONVERSION THERAPY IN MINNESOTA
Conversion therapy is legal under Minnesota’s current state laws. There is a common misconception that conversion therapy no longer exists, or at least not in relatively progressive states like Minnesota. However, there are over 10 clinics in Minnesota that advertise conversion therapy services, sometimes under alternative titles, such as “unwanted same-sex attraction,” “sexual identity issues,” “sexuality identity confusion,” and more. It is suspected that there could be additional clinics offering this so-called “therapy” that do not advertise it as one of the primary services they provide. In addition, Minnesota is also home to a plethora of ex-gay religious groups and churches that offer conversion therapy services performed by religious leaders rather than licensed counselors.
Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to prevent religious leaders from continuing to shame and degrade LGBTQ individuals by insisting their identity is fake or morally wrong. However, there are several states that have passed legislation banning conversion therapy for minors. Minnesota NOW supports similar legislation at the state and federal level that would rescind the license of a medical professional found to be engaging in or promoting this practice. NOW also opposes the use of government funds for conversion therapy, through Medicaid coverage of some mental health services. Taxpayer money should not be spent on a practice rooted in religion rather than science that has proven to increase one’s chances of additional long-term mental health problems.