When I first read on Politifact that Vice President-Elect Mike Pence is a proponent of conversion therapy (CT), I was repulsed a politician could endorse a treatment modality noted for barbarism and based on the premise homosexuality is abnormal. Then I remembered on whose ticket he ran, and it all made sense.
Conversion therapy is a modality the goal of which is to bend and twist homosexuals and bisexuals into more acceptable heterosexuality. It is an unnatural method of forced conformity that creates severe psychological distress through practices meant to illicit physical discomfort in response to stimulus. In my own mental health practice I have never employed ice pick lobotomies, recommended emetics, or used electric shocks as aversion therapy to change client behavior. I am also proud to proclaim I have never implored a homosexual client to pray your gay away. All of those methodologies have been utilized by this cognitive recalibration I am ashamed to even refer to as therapeutic.
Conversion therapy is the antithesis of therapy and is an unethical method banned in an all too few five states. It is a practice used to support the long-since-antiquated premise of homosexual behavior as mental illness. Also called reparative therapy, CT negates the notion homosexuality and bisexuality are as inherent to a person’s nature as heterosexuality is to others. Lack of acceptance of homosexuality as inherent to nature assumes a person would make a willful choice to live in a way which could draw the ire of family and friends, and remains socially unacceptable to the masses.
One of the most progressive moments in the history of psychiatry was the removal of homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) in 1987. In the years between 1973 and 1987, the term homosexuality was removed from the DSM and replaced with sexual orientation disturbance, but even that denoted cognitive misfiring. Although it took 14 years for the classification to be removed, there was progress toward the removal of stigma associated with homosexual behavior as aberrant.
Mike Pence’s stance against homosexuality came under scrutiny during a 2000 Congressional campaign when he posted these words on his website:
“Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
What makes this dangerous is the supposition a change in sexual behavior equals a change in sexual orientation. The reason anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation are higher among victims of conversion therapy is its desired outcome forces people to live contrary to their nature. Regardless of how repulsive homosexuals might be conditioned to find same sex bodies, nature rules in the end, and the reconditioned victim learns to behave in direct conflict with his nature.
I do not expect our vice president-elect to leave his land of trephining or electric shocks to the genitals. However, I do hope there is enough advocacy and supportive therapies to assist members of the LGBTQ through struggles nonacceptance, isolation, and stigmatizing. As for those proponents of CT, I suggest they be subjected to a bottle of ipecac each time they are shown a picture of the opposite sex so they may feel the distress of being forced from their nature.