New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has signed a bill barring licensed therapists from trying to make gay minors straight. In doing so, New Jersey becomes the second state to ban the "therapy," following in the footsteps of California, which outlawed so-called "conversion therapy" or "reparative therapy" in January.
Mainstream medical and psychological organizations say that conversion therapy is ineffective, unethical and often harmful, exacerbating anxiety and self-hatred among those treated for what is not a mental disorder. And that's exactly it: Homosexuality is not a mental disorder. It's neither a choice nor a disease any more than being a heterosexual is. In fact, homosexuality is a natural predisposition that exists throughout the animal kingdom.
Over 50 years ago Dr. Alfred Kinsey used a sliding scale of 1 to 6 to describe human sexuality, with. Scoring a 6 meant that you were primarily homosexual, while a score of 1 meant that you were primarily heterosexual. Kinsey believed that most people were somewhere in the middle, although many would be afraid to admit it.
The goal of conversion therapy is to change a person's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. It may include electrical shock treatments to the hands and genitals, nausea-inducing drugs that are administered simultaneously with the presentation of homoerotic stimuli, visualization techniques, social skills training, psychoanalytic therapy and spiritual interventions like prayer and group support. In 2009 an American Psychological Association task force found that conversion therapies, despite being touted by religious organizations, have little scientific evidence to back them up.
Conversion therapy is barbaric, mean, and painful, and no human being should ever have to experience it. And that's what Alan Chambers, the final president of the now-defunct Exodus International, finally realized too. In an apology letter, he said:
I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn't change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn't stand up to people publicly "on my side" who called you names like sodomite -- or worse.
Conversion therapy is still a hotly debated topic. While I'm normally one to oppose most forms of government intervention, in this case I fully support Gov. Christie. Christie said that the health risks of trying to change a child's sexual orientation outweigh concerns over the government setting limits on parental choice, and he's correct. Whether a youth is straight, gay, bisexual, or transgender, nobody -- not the church, the parents, a religious organization or a therapist -- has the right to try to change him or her. Accept who you are, be proud of who you are, and live your life on your terms. After all, if we're not interfering with anyone else, shouldn't we all be free to live our own lives how we want?
Unfortunately, we still have to deal with religious extremists who preach the message that "God hates fags" and that homosexuals are flawed or immoral human beings. Yet the irony in all of this is that the Catholic Church is the first to speak out against homosexuality, yet the depth and breadth of abuse in the Catholic Church around the world is almost unbelievable. The revelations about priests molesting young boys has effectively wiped out the good deeds of the Catholic Church and demolished its credibility.
Gov. Christie is a Catholic, and although he took a stand against the despicable and demoralizing practice of conversion therapy, he's still playing the middle in an attempt to pander to the religious right while simultaneously trying to stay in office in a Democrat-leaning state. If Christie is such a tough, outspoken politician, why doesn't he legalize gay marriage? He's already on record stating that gays are born gay, so why discriminate against them by banning them from marrying the person they love? Is he behind equal rights for gays or not? He needs to take a stand one way or the other.
Troy Stevenson, the executive director of New Jersey's largest gay rights group, Garden State Equality, said it best:
It is our truest hope that the governor will realize, as the majority of the legislature and a super-majority of the pubic have realized, that the best way to ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender youth are protected from the abuse of being ostracized is to provide them with equality.