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Obama Calls for Laws Banning Gay Conversion Therapy

Gay youth parade


John Burger - published on 04/10/15

President would support state-level statutes rather than a federal ban

President Obama is calling for an end to "reparative therapies" aimed at helping young people rid themselves of same-sex attraction and identification as "transgender."

The White House posted a statement Wednesday evening alongside a petition for support to end the controversial practices.

“We share your concern about its potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer youth,” the statement, written by Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama, says. “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”

The New York Times quoted White House officials saying Obama will not explicitly call for a federal law banning therapists from using such therapies on their patients, "but he is open to conversations with lawmakers in both parties. Instead, he will throw his support behind the efforts to ban the practice at the state level."

The petition, which has received more than 120,000 signatures in three months, told the story of one Leelah Alcorn:

On Sunday, December 27, 2014, Leelah Alcorn a 17 year old transgender youth wrote a suicide note, posted it on Tumblr and then walked in front of a semi-truck tragically ending her life. Leelah explained how her parents had forced her to attend conversion therapy, pulled her out of school and isolated her in an attempt to change her gender identity. "Conversion therapies" have been documented to cause great harm and in this case, Leelah’s death. Therapists that engage in the attempt to brainwash or reverse any child’s gender identity or sexual orientation are seriously unethical and legislation is needed to end such practices that are resulting in LGBTQ+ deaths. We respectfully seek your help to ban the practice known as "conversion therapy" and name the bill in honor of Leelah Alcorn.

The Times represented the opposing views below:

Therapists who advocate the use of the gender identity therapies promote them as a way of helping gay people change their sexual orientation. Those therapists reject claims that sexual orientation or identity is unchangeable and argue that gay or transgender identities should be reversed so that people can embrace their “authentic” heterosexual selves.

The Narth Institute, an organization that advocates the therapies, says on its website that “numerous examples exist of people who have successfully modified their sexual behavior, identity, and arousal or fantasies.” …

David Pickup, a licensed family therapist in California and Texas, said in an interview on Wednesday that the president and gay rights advocates were purposely misconstruing the work that he and others do. He said that minors should never be forced into therapy, but he insisted that being gay was often brought about by serious emotional problems or sexual abuse.

“We believe that change is still possible. People go to therapy because they can change, because it really does work,” Mr. Pickup said. “We help people grow into their authentic selves.”

Aleteia reached out to experts on the subject as well. Dale O’Leary, author of The Gender Agenda: Redefining Equality, shared a forthcoming article, part of which reads:

Suppose parents are informed that their child has a serious condition, one for which the recommended treatment includes a lifetime regime of powerful drugs which can cause serious even life threatening side effects, mutilating surgeries, which can leave scars and compromise urinary track function, and result in the total loss of the ability to procreate and the partial or complete loss of genital function and pleasure. Even with this radical treatment, their child would be at high risk for depression, other psychological disorders, suicidal ideation and attempts, and a shortened life span. In addition their child would have to hide this condition.

Should these parents be allowed to seek a second opinion?

President Obama and his advisor Valerie Jarret say no. They were motivated to speak out by the suicide of a young woman who claimed to be driven by therapy. However, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey of 6,450 persons who self-identify as transgender 41% said they had attempted suicide, versus 1.6% of the general public.

O’Leary noted that according to the latest psychiatric profession standards in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), "the risk of suicide persists even after surgery."

Catholic psychiatrist Richard Fitzgibbons told Aleteia, "Youth have the right to be given informed consent about the serious medical and psych risks associated with same-sex attraction."

Fitzgibbons referred a reporter to an article on the website of his practice, the Institute for Marital Healing, which read in part: “Important medical and psychological issues need to be considered before the educational, medical, political and judicial systems rush headlong into a process of affirming in youth and in their parents a fixed false belief that a person can be a sex that is not consistent with their biological and genetic identity and that such individuals have the right to transgender surgery. Fixed false beliefs are identified in the mental health field as manifestations of a serious thinking disorder, specifically a delusion.  Health professionals are supporting this delusional belief in these youth and their parents."

It is vital to understand what motivates youth to identify with the opposite sex, to understand why parents support this developmental disorder, to know that proven successful treatment programs exist for such youth, and to be aware of the serious psychiatric illnesses resulting from sexual reassignment surgery.

The Times noted that California, New Jersey and the District of Columbia have banned therapists from offering the treatment to minors. Similar legislation was introduced in 18 states this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group that tracks legislation on the issue. Challenges to the laws in New Jersey and California were rejected by federal appeals court judges in 2013 and 2014, officials at the Human Rights Campaign said.

As if to adhere to a "practice what you preach" principle, the administration also announced the creation of an “all-gender restroom” in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where many of the White House staff members work, "to provide an additional option for transgender individuals who are not comfortable using either the men’s or women’s restrooms," the Times reported.

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