With a stroke of his pen, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown sent a powerful
message to the rest of the nation about the dangers of conversion
By signing S.B. 1172, Brown made California the first state in the
nation to ban conversion therapy for children. This dangerous and
discredited "therapy" -- sometimes known as "reparative therapy" or "ex-gay
therapy" -- claims to change people from gay to straight. The new law,
which takes effect Jan. 1, not only protects California children but
paves the way for a national effort to end this dangerous practice. It
has already inspired a similar bill in New Jersey.
People need to know that conversion therapy is junk science. It has
been discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical,
psychiatric, psychological, and professional counseling organizations.
In 2006 the American Psychological Association stated, "There is
simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual
orientation can be changed."
Nevertheless, the conversion therapy movement continues to push its
message, churning out ludicrous claims, such as the belief that people
aren't lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender but simply "latent
heterosexuals," a common precept of conversion therapy.
Absurd treatments also abound within the movement. A Parent's Guide to
Preventing Homosexuality, written by Joseph Nicolosi, advises,
"The penis is the essential symbol of masculinity -- the unmistakable
difference between male and female. This undeniable anatomical
difference should be emphasized to the boy in therapy."
It's not surprising that many people who undergo conversion therapy
report increased anxiety, depression, and, in some cases, even suicidal
thoughts. As San Francisco resident Peter Drake told legislators
earlier this year, conversion therapy only left him hurt and
"This is a form of medical malpractice, with practitioners who make
claims about healing something that is not an illness," Drake told
Yet the conversion therapy movement continues to push its message,
targeting LGBT youth and often recommending that parents commit their
children to treatment against the child's wishes. For the first time,
the law now protects such children in California. This is an
important strike against conversion therapists' bogus claims to
parents that they can "fix" children's sexual orientation.
The dangers of conversion therapy extend beyond the person receiving treatment.
The American Psychological Association expressed concern in 2006 that
the positions espoused by some of the leading advocates of conversion
therapy, such as the National Association for Research & Therapy of
Homosexuality, "create an environment in which prejudice and
discrimination can flourish."
The Southern Poverty Law Center analyzed 14 years of federal hate-crime data and found that LGBT people are far more likely to be
victims of a violent hate crimes than any other minority group in the
These troubling statistics aren't surprising in light of the
demonizing propaganda that's pumped out by hate groups that accuse the
LGBT community of being pedophiles and worse. Politicians and pundits
also aren't above demonizing LGBT people, sometimes even depicting
them as a threat to the country. We cannot allow junk science claiming
to "cure" people of homosexuality to pour more fuel on this fire.
Unfortunately, conversion therapy continues to be practiced across the
country. Even worse, it's taking aim at children and teens.
Jerry, a 23-year-old Texan, underwent seven years of painful
conversion therapy beginning when he was 14 years old.
"Every single day when I attended conversion therapy, I left a little
more destroyed than I was before I went in that room," he told the
Jerry's advice to parents and lawmakers is simple: "Parents need to
know that conversion therapy does not work. Every single legislature
on the state and national level needs to know that conversion therapy
is nothing but lies."
The new California law not only will protect children from this
practice but, hopefully, will spark a national conversation that will
encourage other states to examine this practice and pass their own
legislation restricting it.