Several Delaware lawmakers have introduced legislation (SB 65) that would ban conversion therapy in our state.

“Conversion therapy is a pseudoscience that poses a risk to our LGBTQ youth and can lead to anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and self-harm,” says Sen. Harris McDowell, one of the lawmakers sponsoring the legislation. “While many of us know that [conversion therapy] is a sham, we can’t allow the possibility that someone could try to use it here,” says Rep. Debra Heffernan, the bill’s House sponsor. “The LGBTQ community is a vital and vibrant part of our fabric, and we need to stand with them in one strong voice, and that starts with banning conversion therapy in Delaware.”

In America, there is massive professional and scientific consensus that conversion therapy is both ineffective and potentially harmful. In fact, seven states, one territory, and sixteen cities have banned conversion therapy for minors. Politicians on both sides of the aisle, therapists, doctors, educators, religious leaders, and many others have spoken out against conversion therapy. The list of professional national associations and organizations against conversion therapy spans millions of employed and retired professionals across numerous disciplines, including: American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, American Association of School Administrators, American College of Physicians, American Counseling Association, American Federation of Teachers, American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American School Counselor Association, American School Health Association, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of Social Workers, National Education Association, and School Social Work Association of America.

In fact, conversion therapy has been condemned worldwide.  According to the World Psychiatric Association, composed of 138 international member associations in 118 nations: “There is no sound scientific evidence that innate sexual orientation can be changed.  Furthermore, the so-called treatments of homosexuality can create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish, and they can be potentially harmful. The provision of any intervention purporting to ‘treat’ something that is not a disorder is wholly unethical….WPA considers same-sex attraction, orientation, and behavior as normal variants of human sexuality….It acknowledges the lack of scientific efficacy of treatments that attempt to change sexual orientation and highlights the harm and adverse effects of such ‘therapies.’” The Pan American Health Organization, a regional office of the World Health Organization, has declared: “Since homosexuality is not a disorder or a disease, it does not require a cure. There is no medical indication for changing sexual orientation. Practices known as ‘reparative therapy’ or ‘conversion therapy’ represent a serious threat to the health and well-being—even the lives—of affected people.” The United Nations has investigated so-called conversion and reparative therapies as torture.

It is important to highlight that not only is conversion therapy ineffective, it is often harmful. It represents, especially to youth, a devastating rejection of a core component of their fundamental identities. A San Francisco State University study concluded that LGBT youth strongly rejected by their families are eight times more likely to attempt suicide, almost six times more likely to report high levels of depression, and over three times more likely to use illegal drugs. Furthermore, they are over three times more likely to be at high risk for STDs including HIV.  Some “reparative” therapies have gone so far as to include physical abuse, lobotomy procedures, and electro-shock therapy; expose the subjects’ genitals to electric shocks; and place subjects in solitary confinement for extended time periods—often leading to significant physical as well as psychological harm.

In a recent groundbreaking survey of conversion therapy survivors, conducted by noted “ex-gay” expert Jallen Rix, more than 90 percent reported psychological harm due to the therapy, and more than 80 percent reported that the harm continued years after therapy concluded. More than 75% of respondents said that they quit the “ex-gay” movement because therapy did not work.  20% of respondents reported that they quit because of a nervous breakdown. “I saw that NOBODY was being changed, and some of those other guys had a lot more faith than I did,” one respondent reported.  “The only ones I ever met who claimed to have been changed were the leadership. And one of them was always hitting on me.” Another respondent wrote, “I tried to kill myself and ended up in the psych ward.”

Almost without exception, experts in therapy, medicine, science, education, and the humanities agree with survivors that so-called conversion or reparative therapy is not only ineffective, but that it is harmful.  Please contact your State Representative and Senator today, asking them to support SB 65, which would ban conversion therapy in Delaware. If you are unsure of who your legislators are, visit legis.delaware.gov and enter your address under “Who is My Legislator?”.

-E

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