Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation in late July banning conversion therapy for minors in Michigan. Our state is the 22nd one in the US to outlaw conversion therapy, a scientifically discredited practice that aims to convert LGBTQIA people to heterosexuality.
According to the Governor, conversion therapy is a “horrific practice.” Michigan should be a place “where you can be who you are,” she said in a statement released to the media.
An estimated 15 percent of LGBTQIA minors in Michigan have reported they have been threatened with, or subjected to, conversion therapy.
In my strong opinion, conversion therapy is ineffective and potentially harmful, and there is no proven scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Conversion therapy presupposes that homosexuality is a behavior and a choice, not a sexual orientation. If individuals are given the appropriate therapeutic environment, they can be “converted” to heterosexuality.
Minors especially are vulnerable. This kind of therapy can lead to depression, anxiety, drug use or suicide.
For decades, the nation’s leading professional medical and mental health associations have rejected conversion therapy. The American Psychological Association advises parents and youth to avoid sexual orientation change efforts that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder. Instead, the association advises minors seek psychotherapy, social support and educational services that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality.
Confusion about sexual orientation is not unusual during adolescence. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning as well as heterosexual youth often begin to experience self-identification during their pre-adolescent or adolescent years. These developmental processes are essential and normal, and are not a sign of illness, mental disorder or emotional problems.
Counseling may be helpful for young people who are uncertain about their sexual orientation or for those who are uncertain about how to express their sexuality, however, therapy specifically directed at changing sexual orientation is the wrong direction to go because it can cause needless guilt, anxiety, confusion and depression in youth while bringing no positive results.
Family support is critical. Research shows that lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were eight times more likely to report having attempted suicide, five times more likely to report high levels of depression, three times more likely to use illegal drugs, and three times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse compared with peers from families who reported no or low levels of family rejection.
Same sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality. It simply is wrong to misrepresent the effectiveness of sexual orientation change efforts by promoting or promising change in sexual orientation, especially when individuals are confused about their sexual orientation.
Therapists who claim to “cure” people with non-heterosexual sexual orientation lack medical justification and represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of those they are treating.
Simply said, conversion therapy does not work. It is based on a false belief that being LGBTQ is a mental illness that should be cured.