Conversion therapy bans necessary

President Barack Obama’s April 8 call for a ban on conversion therapy—an unethical and disproven method that some people claim can repair variant gender expression and sexual orientations—seems too little, too late in light of the growing concern over the many public instances of bullying and suicides of those considered “other.”

With the many hits the U.S.’s LGBTQ communities have taken in recent weeks, this show of support from the president may seem as if it is a giant leap forward in the fight for LGBTQ equality. However, the fact that many young children and teens are forced into “corrective” therapy for identifying as gay or transgender—identities that have been deemed as illnesses that can be cured by those who administer conversion therapy—demands more than a show of support. It demands actual legislation.

Obama’s gesture is admirable, but it is not enough. The call for action was spurred by a petition created in honor of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender girl whose suicide flooded the headlines when her online suicide note and various postings on the Internet revealed her struggles with conversion therapy. 

Unfortunately, Alcorn’s experiences and resulting suicide are not uncommon. Many LGBTQ youths are not only forced into conversion therapy by parents , but also face abuse and bullying from friends, family and much of the outside world. 

According to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s 2013 National School Climate Survey, 85 percent of LGBTQ youth were verbally harassed in 2012. Furthermore, LGBTQ youth are two times more likely than their heterosexual peers to make suicide attempts, according to the “Adolescent Sexual Orientation and Suicide Risk: Evidence From a National Study” published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Simply condemning conversion therapy as the atrocity it is and then hoping that states that have not already will consequently implement bans is exceptionally shortsighted. Obama should have instead proposed a federal bill and made moves to push it through Congress.

Of course, Congress’ track record for approving anything Obama puts forth is abysmal, so making the decision to place the responsibility of a conversion therapy ban upon individual states is a rational move. It is simply a matter of applying the right amount of pressure to those states that remain backwards in allowing its residents to practice and participate in conversion therapy. 

States have a duty to protect all their residents from abhorrent practices carried out by those who believe conversion therapy is a legitimate medical practice. The U.S. should not allow the notion that anyone who is not a cisgender heterosexual individual should be cured of their “illness” to continue to infect progress.

The Chronicle in no way condones conversion therapy. It is a disgusting variety of treatments and practices that hide behind the deeply flawed idea that being gay, lesbian, queer or transgender is a sickness that can be cured. It is beyond dispute that those who believe members of the LGBTQ community are stricken with “illness” are the same individuals who perpetuate the horrific ignorance and bigotry that currently plagues the U.S.