Nice Time: Utah Will Stop Trying To Torture The Gay Out Of Kids

Utah has agreed to stop torturing children. It's crazy that this is even a victory rather than just a given, but Utah is only the 19th US state to ban conversion therapy for minors. The barbaric practice is supposed to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity. It's widely discredited because it's garbage science that doesn't actually achieve its questionable goal. Conversion therapy is more likely to kill its victims. That's not hyperbole. LGBTQ youth are already at a greater risk of attempting suicide than heterosexual kids, but their suicide rate more than doubles when parents try to change who they are. If therapists and religious leaders get involved, the rate triples.

Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, issued the ban this week. Utah's legislature couldn't agree on stopping the practice last year, so Herbert turned to the state's Psychologist Licensing Board. He said at the time:

We're going to turn this to the licensing people. They'll use the best available science. They'll have the opportunity to see what works, what doesn't work. What should be done. What shouldn't be done.

The science has been clear on conversion therapy. The American Psychiatric Association has opposed it since 1998. The American Psychological Association told CNN that there's "insufficient evidence" psychological "interventions" can change a person's sexual orientation. Spokesperson Kim Mills said that instead of trying to change sexual orientation, young people are best served by therapies that involve "acceptance, support and identity exploration and development without imposing a specific identity outcome."

Opponents of the ban claim that it will prevent parents from seeking "help" for children with "unwanted gay feelings." What's probably "unwanted" is the rejection young people feel from their families and communities because they don't fit some arbitrary definition of "normal." The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has claimed it's not crazy about conversion therapy, either, but believes the ban goes too far. It's not actually clear that it does. There are key exceptions for clergy, religious counselors, parents or grandparents -- as long as they aren't "acting" like psychologists.

Conversion therapy techniques are historically horrific. They've included "ice-pick lobotomies, chemical castration, and aversive treatments" that are something out of A Clockwork Orange. The horror shows have featured "electric shock to the hands and/or genitals," "nausea-inducing drugs," and "masturbatory reconditioning." Recent techniques might not be as extreme, but they are still abusive and the outcomes devastating. The therapy and spiritual interventions all inevitably fail. It might just be easier to actually love your children as they were made.

Casey Pick, senior fellow for advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project, applauded Utah's conversion therapy ban.

The Trevor Project commends the State of Utah for taking bold action to protect thousands of LGBTQ young people in Utah from the discredited practice of conversion therapy. This is historic progress and further proof that protecting youth from this danger transcends regional or political divides.

Thera are still 31 states where conversion therapy is legal, and LGBTQ youth aren't fully safe until that number is zero.


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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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