Trying to change someone’s true identity through so-called therapy is a dangerous practice that can seriously harm our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth, by not only denying their true identities, but by trying to change who they are.
That’s why we’re working with Assemblymember Deborah Glick (A06983A) in the State Assembly and Senators Brad Hoylman and Michael Gianaris (S04917A) in the State Senate to pass a law that would ban this damaging practice and protect LGBT children from harm. This legislation would protect LGBT minors from psychological abuse at the hands of so-called medical professionals who try to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.
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Facts about the Bill to Protect LGBT Youth
The bill would clearly stop so-called medical professionals from trying to “convert” the sexual orientation or gender identity of minors.
How New York State stacks up:
- California and New Jersey have ended this practice.
- The District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia are also proposing similar legislation, as is the United Kingdom.
How current New York State law allows a dangerous practice:
- The American Psychological Association (APA) does not consider either same sex attraction or gender nonconformity to be a mental disorder.
- Furthermore, the APA believes that transgender individuals should have access to gender-affirming care.
- The APA cites negative effects of so-called “reparative therapy” such as anxiety, depression, and suicide.
- Because so-called “reparative therapy” is not a mainstream psychological treatment, there are no professional standards or guidelines for how it is conducted.
- By blaming victims when the treatment fails, these efforts cause lasting psychological harm and divide families and communities.
How ending this practice would protect New Yorkers:
- The legislation clearly defines these practices and “mental health professional” to make it clear what the law covers, and what it does not.
- It will also define the consequences that mental health professionals will be subject to should they continue trying to change children’s gender identity or sexual orientation, including discipline by and sanctions from the provider’s licensors.
- The proposed legislation in New York State exclusively addresses the treatment of LGBT minors who cannot legally make their own decisions. As legal adults, those over the age of 18 can pursue whatever therapy they wish.
- The bill only affects legally licensed mental health professionals and does not include unlicensed therapists or religious counseling centers.
Medical and psychological organizations oppose efforts to change LGBT people:
• American Medical Association
• American Psychoanalytic Organization
• American School Counselor Association
• National Association of Social Workers
• Pan American Health Organization
• World Professional Association for Transgender Health
History of so-called “reparative therapy” or “conversion therapy”:
- Early treatments in the 1960s and 70s included such practices as aversion therapy, electroshock therapy and nausea-inducing drugs.
- Recent victims report that treatments still emphasize pseudoscientific theories, such as the idea that an overbearing mother and a distant father make a child LGBT.
- Although these discredited theories are rooted in the work of Sigmund Freud, he argued that change is unlikely, even saying in 1935, "Homosexuality is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation; it cannot be classified as an illness."
- An extremely small group of psychologists, splitting with their peers, continue to promote the therapies, and founded the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), a scandal-plagued group with religious links.
- In June 2013, after 36 years of leading the “ex-gay” movement, Exodus International, disbanded amid growing skepticism of its top officials and board members that sexual attractions can be changed. President Alan Chamber apologized, saying he was "sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized patients.”
- Download this information as a Fact Sheet.