I am a product of my parents. I trust them with all my heart, but as a child, I had no choice. There are still parents who believe that being born gay, lesbian or trans is a choice, or that it is influenced by environmental factors. For these parents, conversion therapy is still accessible.
Since the 1980s, conversation therapy has used counselling as its sole technique. A study released last week by the US Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration described the therapy as “efforts to make children’s behaviours, dress, and mannerisms more consistent with those stereotypically expected of their assigned sex at birth”. More invasive techniques have been outlawed in many parts of the world for decades.
For those who spruik this therapy, the message is clear: Being same sex-attracted or trans is not normal. This sort of attitude is a driving factor in ongoing sexual identity issues and discrimination of LGBTI people in the broader community.
The facts speak for themselves. Mental health issues faced by same sex-attracted youth are at higher rates than their heterosexual counterparts. They are up to six times more likely to suffer from depression and up to 14 times more likely to commit suicide.
Anything we can do as a society to ensure that young LGBTI people are accepted and supported will go a long way towards them living a whole and happy life.
In no way is trying to “convert” a child supporting or affirming them. It is telling them that they are not normal and that they won’t be accepted.
The LGBTI community has come a long way in its quest for equality, but there is still little attention paid to the bizarre, humiliating and, sometimes, deadly treatments still being used in an attempt to convert. For many, conversion therapy might seem like a peripheral issue. For me, it’s more. It’s an issue that impacts on those who don’t have a choice, under parental care and guidance.
Gay conversion therapy is still legal in Australia and is outlawed in just a handful of states in the US. Ambassadors and Bridge Builders International, an LGBTI advocacy organisation based in Australia, is pushing for gay conversion therapy to be made illegal nationwide. It claims that there are up to 10 groups still practicing conversion therapy in Australia.
Last week’s US report on the issue, titled "Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth", suggests that the practice be made illegal, and measures implemented to educate those who believe it’s an acceptable therapy to subject children to.
The report found that there is limited research on conversion therapy and that the research that does exist fails to show its efficacy. It states that the interventions are coercive and can be harmful. In no way is trying to “convert” a child supporting or affirming them. It is telling them that they are not normal and that they won’t be accepted.
Outlawing it won’t see the practice go away. It exists because people still believe that being same sex-attracted or trans is a choice. Cracking down on organisations or people who advocate or condone conversion therapy is not the answer. Wiping out their ignorance is.
Lachlan Beaton is a writer and an equality and youth mental health advocate. He has worked as a freelance public affairs specialist for more than a decade, and most recently worked on a number of local campaigns highlighting the issues associated with inequality.
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