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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Let’s Listen to the Experts When It Comes to “Gay Conversion Therapy”

Posted by on Wed, Feb 27, 2013 at 7:15 AM

(This guest post is by Washington State representative Marko Liias, who has introduced a bill that would require the state to scrutinize gay conversion programs.)

Most people follow the advice of their doctors. When nearly every major health organization voices concerns over the potentially adverse health effects of a new drug, a behavior such as smoking or a new diet fad, people take notice—especially when it comes to the health and well-being of our children.

Mainstream medical organizations across the board have voiced concern about the practice of Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE), more commonly known as “gay conversion therapy.”

Last year the World Health Organization came out against services that claim to “cure” people with non-heterosexual sexual orientation, stating that they are not medically justified and represent a “serious threat to the health and well-being” of an individual.

So why would we ignore the advice of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, and the National Association of Social Workers when it comes to the health and well being of those under the age of 18?

The notion that homosexuality is a disease that needs curing was renounced by the mental health mainstream half a century ago.

In 2007, a task force of the American Psychological Association undertook a thorough review of the existing research on gay conversion therapy and concluded that sexual orientation change efforts do not work.

The American Psychiatric Association official website states, “The potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior…” And just last year Dr. Robert Spitzer, often labeled the father of modern psychiatry, renounced and retracted his 2001 study on conversion therapy and apologized to the gay community for making unproven claims on its effectiveness, calling it his biggest professional regret.

What is clear is that questions have been raised. For many figuring out ones sexual identity can be a struggle and it is incumbent on society to ensure that children are not subject to damaging influences as they grow into adulthood.

California recently took the bold step of banning these controversial practices. The law would subject psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals to discipline by their licensing boards for providing minors SOCE therapy.

The law now faces legal challenges in the courts but it was a bold first step in regulating this controversial practice. Here in Washington we need to follow their lead.

I recently introduced HB 1882 that would set up a panel to study the current research around SOCE practices to determine whether they are harmful and if we should put in place a set of standards to regulate their use in our state.
The legislation would create a 15-member panel of predominantly mental health experts, including at least one practitioner of gay conversion therapy to evaluate current research, identify any potential harm to clients, develop recommendations for approaches to protect children, and report back to the governor by December 15, 2013.

Regardless of your opinion on gay conversion therapy we can all agree that we have a responsibility to protect our children. In the absence of scientific data that proves behavior modification techniques actually work we need to err on the side of caution and examine these controversial practices here in Washington.


Comments (12) RSS

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bleedingheartlibertarian 1
A cure that doesn't work for a disease that doesn't exist.
Posted by bleedingheartlibertarian on February 27, 2013 at 7:46 AM · Report this
Suppose a parent has moral objections to homosexual behavior based on deeply felt religious beliefs and has a gay child? What kind of advice should a counselor or doctor give in that situation? Generally we respect the right of religious minorities to live by the tenants of their faith and raise their children to do the same. Amish tell their kids that owning a car is a one way ticket to hell and Orthodox Jews tell their children not to eat pork. Are those practices really so different than a fundie christian who raises his or her children to not be gay?
Posted by Ken Mehlman on February 27, 2013 at 8:06 AM · Report this
Why yes, yes it is different. Because you're asking kids to not eat pork or drive a car, not deny an inherent part of their humanity. What a great question though.
Posted by goodjobguy on February 27, 2013 at 8:29 AM · Report this
@2 I firmly reject the notion that an adult's right to hold whatever religious belief extends special protection to acts that harm their children. We could argue until midnight if religious indoctrination constitutes harm but we should agree right away that obviously harmful behaviors should not be permitted. Ex gay conversion falls under that category.
Posted by wxPDX on February 27, 2013 at 9:07 AM · Report this
Actually, Ken, 2/3rd of the Amish sects allow their teens to buy and use cars. They believe that teens need to 'sow their wild oats' for a bit before having a family. And I know lots of Jews who eat pork, and most of them call themselves 'Conservedox' [on the norder bretwwen Consertatism and Orthodox]. You are thinking of Hassidic Jews who hold tightly to all the laws of the Torah, including not wearing mixed fibers and doing no labor between Friday sunst and Saturday sunset.

But goodjobguy is correct - if a religion sect said it was a sin to have blue-eyes and the parents had a blue-eyed girl baby, would they have a right to blind her? The same with homosexuality.
Posted by Schweighsr on February 27, 2013 at 9:20 AM · Report this
Phoebe in Wallingford 6
What's to prevent, for example, a right-wing state from enacting a law that prohibits therapy on cult members such as getting loved ones away from a David Koresh?
Given the rise rate of gay acceptance, ex-gay therapy is one of those psychiatric offshoots that will dissipate, but still will never go away entirely. While that's unfortunate of course, this is one of those cases where laws, especially tax payer funded panels, are more of a waste of money rather than just letting things take their natural course.
With people paying for psychotherapy plunging anyway, this is not a need for government intrusion.

Posted by Phoebe in Wallingford on February 27, 2013 at 9:35 AM · Report this
The pseudoscientific mental health field needs *something*, and until then, maybe legislation is the way to go.

The American Psychiatric Association delisted homosexuality as a disease on December 15, 1973. That's 39.8 years ago, not half a century ago.

The American Psychological Association and the World Health organization followed in 1975 and 1990.…

Spitzer has apologized for his unproven claims, but the APA never has apologized for calling gay people mentally ill. (Irony: Spitzer helped to delist homosexuality as a disease in 1973.)
Posted by cgd on February 27, 2013 at 9:57 AM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 8
Ken, Phoebe, stop bringing in 'what ifs' and attempting the 'slippery slope' arguments. If you're going to do that, why not argue in favor of female genital mutilation?

We're not talking about Amish or Muslim or crazy Christian cults. We're talking specifically about a therapy that has no benefit whatsoever and causes great harm. The fact that it's used by emotionally stunted religious nutcases has no bearing on the argument. Period. End of story.

If you think people should be "free" to practice this specific type of emotional torture, then fuck you. Fuck you because you're a shitty human being. OK? That's it. Stop your quibbling & hand-wringing and grow the fuck up.
Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on February 27, 2013 at 12:37 PM · Report this
Pridge Wessea 9
@8 - THIS.
Posted by Pridge Wessea on February 27, 2013 at 12:59 PM · Report this
Thanks Rep Liias for introducing this important bill!
Posted by QuixoticHoya on February 27, 2013 at 1:17 PM · Report this
Thank you Rep. Liias for introducing this important Bill!
Posted by QuixoticHoya on February 27, 2013 at 1:21 PM · Report this
venomlash 12
@2: So when Christian Scientists treat their cancer-stricken children with prayer circles and refuse to allow them medical care, you support their right to practice their religion? When Hmong patients deteriorate because surgical incisions are taboo to them?
If people want to cleave to their beliefs at the expense of their health, they're welcome to do so as long as they don't harm others and are duly educated on the danger of their actions. People considering gay conversion therapy should decide for themselves, and should be given the rundown on the risks and benefits (if any) of such a program.
Posted by venomlash on March 1, 2013 at 8:29 AM · Report this

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