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Gay conversion therapy is a bullshit religious practice in which people who hate gay people utilize various “techniques” with no basis in science in an attempt to convince a gay person to not be gay anymore. It’s often performed on minors against their will, and studies show that not only does it fail to stop homosexual thoughts and behaviors, but it also leads to serious depression and suicide in the person being “treated.”
Because of this, several states in the US have banned the use of conversion therapy on minors. Hawaii’s House just passed such a bill, and Maryland also has one currently waiting on the governor to sign it into law. An interesting thing happened during the debates over whether to pass Maryland’s bill — one vocal supporter of the bill was Meagan Simonaire in the House of Delegates, who told the story of a young bisexual whose family rejected her and pushed her to use gay conversion therapy once she came out. Meagan revealed at the end of her impassioned speech that she was that young woman. That makes the bill pretty personal, but what truly elevates this to operatic levels is that meanwhile over in the state Senate, Senator Bryan Simonaire was vehemently arguing that banning gay conversion would impinge religious freedom (the freedom of religious parents to make their children kill themselves, I suppose). As you might guess from their names and the fact that I’m telling you all of this, Bryan Simonaire is Meagan Simonaire’s father — the one who tried to get her into religious therapy to convert her sexuality.
Meagan Simonaire had never discussed her sexuality in public prior to that speech, but she said she spoke up in order to prevent more LGBTQ people from experiencing the shame that she did.
Here in California, gay conversion therapy is already illegal for minors, but one of my local politicians has just introduced a new bill to make it illegal for adults as well. Evan Low from Cupertino, chair of the state’s LGBT Caucus, has proposed declaring the “therapy” fraudulent and enacting severe penalties for anyone, licensed therapist or not, who advertises or practices it.
I’m pretty sure that California would be the first to do that for consenting adults, and frankly I’m glad about it. We have all the evidence that clearly shows that gay conversion doesn’t work as promised and it only ends up hurting both the people involved and the larger gay community as a whole, since it leads to further stigmatization and the characterization of sexuality as a disease that should be cured. The people peddling it are quacks, and they shouldn’t be allowed to lie to marginalized, confused people — yes, even adults — and trick them into spending money and time on something that is at best useless and at worst deadly.
And yes, just in case you don’t click through to the research citations on my patreon, let me sum up the research: gay conversion might make you slightly less likely to have homosexual urges in a laboratory according to some studies that use no control group, but even in those studies the “therapy” caused no actual decrease in homosexual behaviors. Any effects that were observed, like decrease in urges or increase in interest in the opposite sex, were only found in men who were bisexual anyway.
While there is no evidence of any benefit, there is evidence of harm from the few studies that have been done on it. The American Psychological Association concludes in its analysis that “attempts to change sexual orientation may cause or exacerbate distress and poor mental health in some individuals, including depression and suicidal thoughts. The lack of rigorous research on the safety of (gay conversion therapy) represents a serious concern, as do studies that report perceptions of harm.”
So congrats to California for realizing that not only does this pseudoscience harm children, but it also takes advantage of adults. I can’t wait for this bill to pass, and then for the bigoted quacks practicing it to be taken to task.