As we celebrate the strides made for LGBTQ Americans, we must also recognize the steps that still need to be taken to ensure true equity for the community.
The Trevor Project keeps track of Conversion Therapy legislation in the United States, as seen on the map below (map retrieved: June 23, 2021). If you’re interested in joining the fight or just want to stay informed on the topic, you can visit this link.
(Note: Throughout this article, the practice of conversion/reparative therapy will be referred to with quotes around the word ‘therapy,’ to make it clear that while that is the name most are familiar with for this practice, it is not considered a valid form of therapy by any mental health organization in the United States.)
Last summer, the United Nations released a report on conversion ‘therapy’ written by their Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz. The practice was found to be a serious threat to the lives of LGBTQ individuals around the world. While the way conversion ‘therapy,’ or reparative ‘therapy’ as it is sometimes called, is carried out varies from place to place, the report consistently found negative outcomes for those subjected to it, and even went so far as to deem the practice torturous.
Even before the United Nations’ report, numerous medical authorities, ranging from the American Psychiatric Association to the American Medical Association have long believed conversion ‘therapy’ to be dangerous and advised that it be banned from practice. In fact, every major medical or mental health organization in the United States has issued a statement that condemns the use of conversion ‘therapy.’
Perhaps less important is the fact that this type of ‘therapy’ simply does not work. No credible study or research has been able to show that the practice has consistent or meaningful success. Instead, data has shown that the people subjected to conversion ‘therapy’ have negative outcomes, with The Trevor Project finding that “LGBTQ youth who underwent conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide and more than 2.5 times as likely to report multiple suicide attempts in the past year.”
It becomes hard to understand, then, why Michigan has allowed conversion ‘therapy’ to take place up until now. It wasn’t until Governor Gretchen Whitmer introduced an executive order on June 14th, 2021, that the practice was put on hold in the state in any way. It’s important to note that the executive order does nothing to stop conversion ‘therapy’ with regards to gender identity and that executive orders can simply be overturned when a new governor takes office. While banning some of the practice is certainly a change in the right direction, there is much more to be done.
Of course, those of us reading (and writing) this article may not have the power to change state law just yet and may instead be wondering what we can do. For that, we have a few suggestions!
Have Discussions About Mental Health
A sticking point with conversion ‘therapy’ is the name itself. By calling the practice conversion ‘therapy,’ many people operate under the misunderstanding that it is typical therapy or that all therapy is similarly abusive. This point of view is often held by people who haven’t had exposure to therapy in a proper setting or who haven’t had anyone speak about mental health care. Without that information, people can often falsely assume that conversion ‘therapy’ is an accepted part of therapeutic practice.
The reality is that therapy can certainly be difficult and painful at times, but it is far from the torturous experiences of conversion ‘therapy.’ By having discussions around mental health and mental health treatment, we can make it clear that true therapy is an act of healing. Furthermore, we can share the fact that conversion ‘therapy’ is not recognized by any major mental health organizations in the United States and is instead condemned as a practice by all of them. This information can help people to understand the dangers involved and seek out proper therapy for themselves and/or their children.
Talk to People About the Issue
One of the most important pieces of information in this discussion is the simple fact that conversion ‘therapy’ exists and is still practiced in the state of Michigan. Many individuals are unaware of that fact and, when educated on the reality, are ready and willing to become advocates for outlawing the practice. Having open and honest conversations about this topic can be a gateway to more support in making conversion ‘therapy’ a true thing of the past.
Furthermore, many parents who send their children to conversion ‘therapy’ report being unaware that the practice looked the way it did. While it can be easy to be judgmental of these parents, a healthier outlook is to approach a parent who is considering conversion ‘therapy’ or has already utilized it and have a conversation with them. Often the groups promoting conversion ‘therapy’ lie to families about what goes on behind closed doors.
Once the conversation around the realities of conversion ‘therapy’ starts, we may then be able to divert a family from partaking in the practice or rethink their utilization of the practice in the past. We can then direct them to licensed professionals or agencies that specialize in working with family crisis and/or the LGBTQ community.
Call or Email your State Representatives and Senators
Currently much of the power with this issue in our state rests in the hands of our state lawmakers. Both calling and emailing are powerful tools on this issue. Calling is always preferred, as it shows a strong interest in having a conversation about the topic, but emailing is worthwhile as well. Letting your representative and senator know that the banning of conversion ‘therapy’ of all kinds for people in Michigan is an important issue to their constituents, can be vital in a fight like this.
Reach Out for Help
Finally, it’s important to acknowledge that you might be reading this post because you are a parent who is considering sending your child to conversion ‘therapy.’ Or perhaps you are someone who has been sent to a camp that engaged in this practice. Maybe you are just someone who doesn’t know where else to turn to get help for your family or yourself on this topic.
Whatever the case, something to remember is that you are not alone. Whatever your situation, you can reach out for support to our crisis and resource helpline 24/7. We can talk through a current crisis or help you find resources to deal with bigger struggles. This includes helping young LGBTQ people and their families find proper, affirming resources.
Whether you need a ten-minute phone call to process the anxiety you’re feeling, a stay in our shelter as a young person experiencing family crisis, outpatient counseling in an environment where you feel safe, or a referral to another community resource – we’re here!
Feel free to call or text us anytime at 1-800-321-1127 or chat with us via our website at commongroundhelps.org.
United Nations: https://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/HRC/44/53
Author: May Freck, Youth Empowerment Coordinator at Common Ground