President Obama made news this week when he made a statement, posted on the whitehouse.gov website, calling for the end of conversion therapies aimed at gay and trans* youth. Numerous news sites reported that, in making the statement, he had been moved by the December suicide of a 17-year old trans* youth named Leelah Alcorn, who had been subjected to conversion efforts by religious therapists. A petition to ban conversion therapy, begun in her honor, has already received over 120,000 signatures.
Those are some of the bare facts, but as is usually the case, by the time someone high up like the president gets around to an issue, it’s already been building steam for a while. States such as California and New Jersey, as well as Washington DC have already banned conversion therapy aimed at youth, and I believe this is just the beginning of further state legislation. In making these decisions, the courts have pointed to the complete lack of empirical, scientific evidence for the efficacy of these so-called therapies as well as the catastrophic potential harm that they can cause.
In my mind, therapies such as conversion therapy and it’s close cousin, reparative therapy are nothing more than formalized ways of exploiting shame, under the cloak of professionalism and authority. They reach out to potential clients (victims?) by appealing to their pain points of shame that is based around their sexuality and then proceed to intensify the shame by trying to eradicate the sexual thoughts, fantasies or behaviors. So what you have here is an individual who is already scarred by shame, and then retraumatized over and […]