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San Francisco The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) announced the formation of the #BornPerfect Advisory Committee , a group of conversion therapy survivors, child welfare and mental health experts, and faith leaders with unique insights into the harms of conversion therapy Oct. 22.
NCLR’s #BornPerfect campaign is a national effort aimed at ending conversion therapy in the next five years by passing laws across the country to protect LGBT youth, fighting in courtrooms to ensure their safety, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by these dangerous practices. The campaign is managed by Samantha Ames, an attorney at NCLR who focuses on conversion therapy and youth issues.
The committee, led by Ames, is co-chaired by Samuel Brinton and James Guay, MFT, both of whom are survivors of conversion therapy. Samuel Brinton, the Fellow for the Clean Energy Program at Third Way, is a recent graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with dual graduate degrees in nuclear engineering and policy, as well as the recipient of the 2014 Courage Award from NCLR along with fellow committee member Ryan Kendall. James Guay is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in LGBTQ affirmative psychotherapy and a member of GAYLESTA, the LGBTQ Psychotherapy Association.
Other members of the committee include Bill Bettencourt, child welfare expert and senior associate at the Center for the Study of Social Policy; Dr. Caitlin Ryan, clinical social worker and director of the Family Acceptance Project; Deb Cuny, survivor and chaplain in residence at St. Francis Memorial Hospital; Rev. Debra W. Haffner, ordained Unitarian Universalist minister and co-founder and president of the Religious Institute; Judith Glassgold, PsyD, licensed psychologist and chair and report co-author of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation; Kimberly Inez McGuire, reproductive justice advocate and director of public affairs at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health; Peter Drake, survivor and co-founder of the Coming Out Into Light Foundation; and Ryan Kendall, survivor and witness in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case that invalidated Proposition 8.
“The time is long overdue for the United States to address the severe harms inflicted on young LGBT people and their families by purveyors of these dangerous and discredited practices,” said Ames. “Persuading the Committee Against Torture to take up the issue of conversion therapy on the international stage has the potential to save the lives of countless LGBT youth in the United States and around the world. Many of the same groups who advocate in favor of conversion therapy in the United States have supported laws in other countries criminalizing LGBT people, such as the ‘Kill the Gays’ bill in Uganda. These laws are often linked with attempts to ‘cure’ sexual orientation or gender identity, whether by coercion or force. Conversion therapy is damaging our human rights record both at home and around the world and creating a crisis the United Nations can and should address this November.”
Ames and Brinton are scheduled to attend the United Nations Committee Against Torture meeting in Geneva, Switzerland the week of November 10 to educate the committee about the practice of conversion therapy in the United States. NCLR will be joining the U.S. Human Rights Network delegation to elaborate on a shadow report it authored earlier this month explaining that practices attempting to change sexual orientation or gender identity, especially among vulnerable youth, constitute “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” when practiced by individuals and torture per se when facilitated by the government under the Convention Against Torture.
Conversion therapy has been discredited by every major medical and mental health association in the country. Nonetheless, practitioners continue to subject countless LGBT children to efforts to change their sexual orientation and gender identity, causing serious harms that include alienation from their families, severe depression, and even suicide. NCLR has been at the forefront of the effort to protect LGBT young people from these practices for more than 20 years, helping draft and pass the nation’s first laws protecting LGBT children from the dangers of conversion therapy and working in more than a dozen other states to bring protections to LGBT children across the country.
“Speaking to the U.N. in Geneva will be one of the highlights of my life and my work to end the torture of conversion therapy,” said Brinton. “While I’ve sat across the table from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the need for the elimination of nuclear weapons, it will be this conversation which brings a tear to my eye, one seeking the elimination of a more personal threat. A few years ago no one seemed to care about the horrific experiences of survivors like myself. They truly believed that conversion therapy had be relegated to the dustbin of history. All that has changed. This Kansas boy is about to speak to the most powerful members in the world in a quest to end conversion therapy. You can’t change what we never chose.”