Conversion therapy needs national intervention


Conversion therapy needs national intervention

By Brooke Pawling Stennett

Nestled deep in the outskirts of Seminole, Alabama, the Blessed Hope Boys Academy has two tools for dealing with boys who identify as gay: a Bible and sometimes a belt, as shown during a March 10 “20/20” episode on ABC. 

During the episode, a team of investigative reporters went undercover to expose the horrors of gay conversion therapy—a discredited psychotherapy method or spiritual counseling designed to change a person’s sexual orientation. 

Conversion therapy for minors has been outlawed for licensed mental health providers in California, Oregon, New Jersey, Vermont, Illinois and Washington D.C., according to the National Center for Lesbian Rights. In a 2016 executive order, New York also blocked insurance providers from covering this form of therapy.

It is still practiced despite the denunciation of multiple professional associations, including the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association. The APA stated that conversion therapy practitioners “often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure,” according to a Nov. 30, 2016, New York Times article. 

Many religious institutions still have gay conversion camps and therapy groups just like BHBA, but religion is not solely to blame, considering the APA classified homosexuality as a mental disorder until 1974. However, if the APA can admit its mistake, surely more religious leaders can step up and condemn conversion therapies.  

Some advocates for the barbaric practice even went as far as to say they were heartened by President Donald Trump’s election and counting on the Trump administration, including Vice President Mike Pence, to help oppose efforts to make “sexual reorientation” programs illegal. 

Many publications were quick to expose Pence’s advocacy of gay conversion therapy when Trump announced his choice for vice president. A Nov. 30 New York Times article noting Pence’s opposition to same-sex marriage and desire to repeal the Ryan White Care Act—which specifically provides federal funding for HIV and AIDS patients—also revealed his support of the practice. 

Until gay conversion therapy is illegal for minors in all 50 states, LGBT advocacy groups, reporters and communities must keep fighting to expose the practice at every opportunity. They must also encourage legislators to propose bills to ban it. 

Young adults in this country have suffered emotional and physical abuse for their sexuality, and it can’t continue. There are many more who are trapped in camps such as the one exposed by “20/20,” or are subjected to therapy sessions authorized by their guardian. Without the voices of those on the outside, aggressively speaking out for their rights when those who are meant to care for them will not, these teens may lose hope in themselves and in humanity.