White House Calls For End To Conversion Therapy

BY AJ TRAGER

WASHINGTON D.C. - In a press conference held Oct. 15, the White House discussed a recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that aims to end conversion therapy and support the LGBT community.

"Today we are taking another important step to take care of our young people," said Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor for the White House. "People are determined to make these young people feel safe, and it's a call on everyone to take a public stand against bullying."

The report, "Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth," states that LGBT youth should be "supported in their right to explore, define and articulate their own identity" and that same-gender sexual orientation and variations in gender identity does "not constitute a mental disorder" and should not be treated as such. The report also found conversion therapy interventions "are coercive, can be harmful and should not be part of behavioral health treatment."

"No matter what their sexual orientation for gender identity, we want to make sure we are helping them along the way, and that the advice they are receiving is constructive," Jarrett said.

According to the SAMHSA report, youth who are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity experience significant health and behavioral health disparities which run the risk of developing negative and social attitudes and discrimination.

"Interventions aimed at a fixed outcome, such as gender conformity or heterosexual orientation - including those aimed at changing gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation - are coercive, can be harmful, and should not be part of behavioral health treatment," the report reads.

Elliot Kennedy, a bisexual trans man and special expert for LGBT affairs from the Office of Policy, said attempting to "fix" sexual orientation and gender identity with mental health treatments is "non-effective."

Conversion therapy has been denounced by every mainstream medical and mental health association, including the American Medical Association and American Psychological Association.

Four states and the District of Columbia have already passed laws banning the practice for minors, and 21 other states including Michigan have introduced similar legislation, according to the SAMHSA report.

HRC and the National Center for Lesbian Rights have partnered with state equality groups across the nation to pass legislation to end the practice of conversion therapy. Laws have already been passed in California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois and D.C.

Jarrett said that the president does support making conversion therapy illegal across the country and that the White House has evidence that the practice is not in the best interest of the nation's youth.

"Conversion therapy is child abuse, and the Obama Administration has joined our call to ban its practice once and for all," said HRC President Chad Griffin. "This is dangerous junk science that uses fear and shame to tell young people the only way to find love and acceptance is by changing the very nature of who they are. Today's new health report shows the extensive damage that so-called conversion therapy can cause and why it's so urgent that we end it in all 50 states."

The White House called for an end to the practice of conversion therapy in April of this year. One month later, Congressman Ted Lieu, D-California, introduced H.R. 2450 or the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act - the first federal legislation to prohibit the practice of providing conversion therapy to any person in exchange for money or compensation or advertising such services. The bill has yet to get a hearing and has been referred to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade.

The SAMHSA report was put together by a team of clinical experts from Abt Associates in the fields of child and adolescent mental health with a strong background in gender development, gender identity and sexual orientation in children and adolescents. The panel included experts with a background in family therapy and the psychology of religion.

NCLR efforts to end conversion therapy can be tracked online by searching for the tag #BornPerfect. Go to {www.NCLRights.org/BornPerfect} for more information.

Visit {http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content//SMA15-4928/SMA15-4928.pdf} to read the whole report.


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