Government report: End ex-gay conversion “therapy” for LGBT youth

The US government is doubling down on its position that trying to “cure” teenagers of same-sex attractions is unscientific abuse, releasing a report calling for a ban on the practice. From Reuters:

The report released today by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) comes less than a year after the Obama administration endorsed efforts to ban the practice, which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

“Conversion therapies or other efforts to change sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression are not effective, reinforce harmful gender stereotypes and are not appropriate mental health treatments,” said SAMHSA Special Expert on LGBT Affairs Elliot Kennedy.

The report instead calls for LGBT youth to “be supported in their right to explore, define, and articulate their own identity.”

Anti-conversion therapy protest, via Daniel Tobias / Flickr

Anti-conversion therapy protest, via Daniel Tobias / Flickr

The report jives with literally every major medical and mental health organization that has weighed in on conversion therapy, and they have all said that the practice has precisely zero empirical support. As the report reads, “none of the existing research” supports the idea that sexual orientation can be changed through therapy, religious or otherwise. The only effects the practice has been shown to have are increased risk for depression, substance abuse and self harm among teenagers who are struggling with their sexual and gender identities.

Those who practice conversion therapy are unlicensed, and many have had religious (as in, not medical) training. While it would be completely illegal for me to set up a psychiatry business without a license and tell people who are completely healthy that they are in fact psychologically disordered, this is somehow alright because the organizations in question are religious.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration called for a ban on ex-gay therapy. While bans are on the books in California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington, D.C., a bill that would ban the practice nationwide is stalled in the House.

(h/t Joe.My.God.)


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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