NATIONAL CENTER FOR LESBIAN RIGHTS
NCLR has launched #BornPerfect: The Campaign to End Conversion Therapy by passing laws across the country to protect LGBT kids from these dangerous practices, fighting in courtrooms to ensure their safety, and raising awareness.
NCLR helped secure legislation protecting youth from these dangerous practices in California in 2012; New Jersey in 2013; Washington, D.C. in 2014; Oregon and Illinois in 2015; Vermont in 2016; Connecticut, Nevada, New Mexico, and Rhode Island in 2017; Washington state, Maryland, Hawaii, New Hampshire, and Delaware in 2018; and New York in 2019. It is now working with legislators and LGBT leaders to bring similar protections to states across the country.
If you are considering legislation in your state, please contact BornPerfect@NCLRights.org.
Ending Conversion Therapy in Child Welfare and Ending Conversion Therapy in Juvenile Justice help state agencies recognize how and when LGBTQ youth may be subjected to conversion therapy while in the care of the state, explain the negative impact of conversion therapy and its close relationship to family rejection, and include tips and model language about how to develop policies protecting LGBTQ youth from these harms.
NCLR and The Trevor Project have developed a comprehensive toolkit for state legislators and LGBT leaders working to advance legislation protecting LGBT kids from conversion therapy. For access, contact BornPerfect@NCLRights.org.
2018 White Paper
McDermott Will & Emery LLP, The Pernicious Myth of Conversion Therapy: How Love In Action Perpetrated a Fraud On America (2018).
For decades, the scientific community has rejected conversion therapy and documented the significant harm that it can cause to its victims and their families. Indeed, in its own opposition to conversion therapy, the American College of Physicians has pointed to research showing that “the practice may actually cause emotional or physical harm to LGBT individuals, particularly adolescents or young persons.” This white paper has its genesis in the story of one such young person, Garrard Conley. Conley is a young author, who burst onto the literary scene with Boy Erased, a memoir based on his experience in a conversion therapy program run by a faith-based ministry called Love In Action (“LIA” or the “Ministry”).
American Psychological Association, Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation (2009), available at www.APA.org/pi/LGBT/Resources/Therapeutic-Response.pdf.
A. Lee Beckstead, Can We Change Sexual Orientation?, 41 Archives of Sexual Behavior 121, 122-23 (2012).
Margaret Rosario, Eric W. Scrimshaw, & Joyce Hunter, Disclosure of Sexual Orientation and Subsequent Substance Use and Abuse Among Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youths: Critical Role of Disclosure Reactions, 21 Psychol. Addictive Behav. 175 (2009).
Emily F. Rothman, et al., Parents’ Supportive Reactions to Sexual Orientation Disclosure Associated with Better Health: Results from a Population-Based Survey of LGB Adults in Massachusetts, 59 J. Homosexuality 186 (2012).
Caitlin Ryan, et al., Family Rejection as a Predictor of Negative Health Outcomes in White and Latino Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Young Adults Pediatrics 346 (2009).
National Center for Lesbian Rights, Report on the Unites States of America’s Compliance with Its Human Rights Obligations in the Area of the Family Relationships of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People (2014), available at http://dev.nclrights.org/legal-help-resources/resource/nclr-upr-report/.
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, Youth in the Crosshairs: The Third Wave of Ex-Gay Activism (2006), available at www.NGLTF.org/downloads/reports/reports/YouthInTheCrosshairs.pdf.
The Trevor Project, FAQ on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts and LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, available at http://s.bsd.net/trevor/default/page/-/files/resources/SOCE%20Two%20Pager.pdf.
Resources for Survivors
Beyond Ex-Gay – Community and resource for those who have survived ex-gay experiences. Information on annual conference, personal stories, and related media. www.BeyondExGay.com
Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) – PFLAG has local chapters which may be able to connect with parents, youth, and adults who have been impacted by conversion efforts. www.PFLAG.org
TrevorSpace – An online – www.TrevorSpace.org – community for LGBTQ young people and their friends.
Truth Wins Out – A non-profit organization that counters antigay propaganda, exposes the “ex-gay” myth and educates the public about gay life. www.TruthWinsOut.org
To share your story and connect with a network of other survivors, contact Sam Ames, Staff Attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights at 415.365.1308 or SAmes@NCLRights.org.
LGBT youth in crisis should contact The Trevor Project through Trevor Lifeline, a crisis intervention and suicide prevention phone service available 24/7. www.thetrevorproject.org/pages/get-help-now#lifeline
POLICY & POSITION STATEMENTS
Valerie Jarrett, Senior Adviser to President Barack Obama, Response to Your Petition on Conversion Therapy (2015), available at https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/response/response-your-petition-conversion-therapy.
“When assessing the validity of conversion therapy, or other practices that seek to change an individual’s gender identity or sexual orientation, it is as imperative to seek guidance from certified medical experts. The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm.
As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”
United Nations Human Rights Council, Discrimination and Violence against Individuals Based on Their Sexual Orientation and Gender identity: A Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, A/HRC/29/23 (2015), available at www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session29/Documents/A_HRC_29_23_en.doc.
“M]edical procedures that can, when forced or otherwise involuntary, breach the prohibition on torture and ill-treatment include ‘conversion’ therapy . . . . The [United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights] recommends that States address violence by . . . [b]anning ‘conversion’ therapy. . . .”
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Practice Parameter on Gay, Lesbian, or bisexual Sexual Orientation, Gender Nonconformity, and Gender Discordance in Children and Adolescents, 51 J. Am. Acad. Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 957 (2012), available at www.Guideline.gov/Content.aspx?id=38417#Section420.
“Clinicians should be aware that there is no evidence that sexual orientation can be altered through therapy, and that attempts to do so may be harmful. There is no empirical evidence adult homosexuality can be prevented if gender nonconforming children are influenced to be more gender conforming. Indeed, there is no medically valid basis for attempting to prevent homosexuality, which is not an illness. On the contrary, such efforts may encourage family rejection and undermine self-esteem, connectedness and caring, important protective factors against suicidal ideation and attempts. Given that there is no evidence that efforts to alter sexual orientation are effective, beneficial or necessary, and the possibility that they carry the risk of significant harm, such interventions are contraindicated.”
The American Academy of Nursing, Position Statement on Reparative Therapy (2015), available at http://www.nursingoutlook.org/article/S0029-6554(15)00125-6/pdf.
“The American Academy of Nursing strongly supports the position of the Pan American Health Organization (2012) and those of various other professional bodies such as the American Psychiatric Association (2013), American Psychoanalytic Association (2012), American Psychological Association (1975), Anton (2010), International Society of Psychiatric- Mental Health Nurses (2008), National Association of Social Workers (2000), American Medical Association (2014) and the Association of American Medical Colleges (2014) that same-sex sexual relationships be- tween consenting adults are a form of healthy human sexual behavior. The Academy concludes that reparative therapies aimed at “curing” or changing same-sex orientation to heterosexual orientation are pseudo- scientific, ineffective, unethical, abusive and harmful practices that pose serious threats to the dignity, autonomy and human rights as well as to the physical and mental health of individuals exposed to them.”
American Academy of Pediatrics, Homosexuality and Adolescence, 92 Pediatrics 631 (1993), available at www.Pediatrics.AAPPublications.org/content/92/4/631.full.pdf.
“Therapy directed at specifically changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.”
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, AAMFT Position on Couples and Families (2009), available at www.AAMFT.org/imis15/content/about_aamft/position_on_couples.aspx.
“[T]he association does not consider homosexuality a disorder that requires treatment, and as such, we see no basis for [reparative therapy]. AAMFT expects its members to practice based on the best research and clinical evidence available.”
American College of Physicians, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health Disparities: Executive Summary of a Policy Position Paper from the American College of Physicians (2015), available at http://annals.org/data/Journals/AIM/0/0000605-201507210-00288.pdf.
“The College opposes the use of ‘conversion,’ ‘reorientation,’ or ‘reparative’ therapy for the treatment of LGBT persons. . . . Available research does not support the use of reparative therapy as an effective method in the treatment of LGBT persons. Evidence shows that the practice may actually cause emotional or physical harm to LGBT individuals, particularly adolescents or young persons.”
American Counseling Association, Ethical Issues Related to Conversion or Reparative Therapy (2013), available at www.Counseling.org/news/updates/2013/01/16/Ethical-Issues-Related-to-Conversion-or-Reparative-Therapy.
“The belief that same-sex attraction and behavior is abnormal and in need of treatment is in opposition to the position taken by national mental health organizations, including ACA. The ACA Governing Council passed a resolution in 1998 with respect to sexual orientation and mental health. This resolution specifically notes that ACA opposes portrayals of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals as mentally ill due to their sexual orientation. . . . In 1999, the Governing Council adopted a statement ‘opposing the promotion of reparative therapy as a cure for individuals who are homosexual.’ . . .
[T]he ACA Ethics Committee strongly suggests that ethical professional counselors do not refer clients to someone who engages in conversion therapy or, if they do so, to proceed cautiously only when they are certain that the referral counselor fully informs clients of the unproven nature of the treatment and the potential risks and takes steps to minimize harm to clients. . . . This information also must be included in written informed consent material by those counselors who offer conversion therapy despite ACA’s position and the Ethics Committee’s statement in opposition to the treatment. To do otherwise violates the spirit and specifics of the ACA Code of Ethics.”
American Medical Association, Health Care Needs of Gay Men and Lesbians in the United States, 275 J. Am. Med. Ass’n 1354 (1996), available at http://www.hawaii.edu/hivandaids/Health_Care_Needs_of_Gay_Men_and_Lesbians_in_the_United_States.pdf.
“Aversion therapy (a behavioral or medical intervention which pairs unwanted behavior, in this case, homosexual behavior, with unpleasant sensations or aversive consequences) is no longer recommended for gay men and lesbians. Through psychotherapy, gay men and lesbians can become comfortable with their sexual orientation and understand the societal response to it.”
American Osteopathic Association, Opposition to the Practice of LGBTQ+ Conversion Therapy or Reparative Therapy (2017)
“Therefore be it resolved, that the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) affirms that individuals who identify as homosexual, bisexual, transgender, or are otherwise not heteronormative lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, identifying as queer, or other than heterosexual (LGBTQ+) are not inherently suffering from a mental disorder; and, be it further resolved, that the AOA strongly opposes the practice of conversion therapy, reparative therapy, or other techniques aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, by licensed medical and mental health professionals; and, be it further resolved, that the AOA supports potential legislation, regulations, or policies that oppose the practice of conversion therapy, reparative therapy, or other techniques aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, by licensed medical and mental health professionals.; and, be if further resolved, that the AOA oppsoes the use of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), which is based on the assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder that should be changed; and, be it further resolved, that any effort by an osteopathic physician to participate in any SOCE activity be considered unethical.”
American Psychiatric Association, Position Statement on Therapies Focused on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation (Reparative or Conversion Therapies) (2000), available at www.Psychiatry.org/File%20Library/Advocacy%20and%20Newsroom/Position%20Statements/ps2000_ReparativeTherapy.pdf.
“Psychotherapeutic modalities to convert or ‘repair’ homosexuality are based on developmental theories whose scientific validity is questionable. Furthermore, anecdotal reports of ‘cures’ are counterbalanced by anecdotal claims of psychological harm. In the last four decades, ‘reparative’ therapists have not produced any rigorous scientific research to substantiate their claims of cure. Until there is such research available, [the American Psychiatric Association] recommends that ethical practitioners refrain from attempts to change individuals’ sexual orientation, keeping in mind the medical dictum to first, do no harm.
The potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient. Many patients who have undergone reparative therapy relate that they were inaccurately told that homosexuals are lonely, unhappy individuals who never achieve acceptance or satisfaction. The possibility that the person might achieve happiness and satisfying interpersonal relationships as a gay man or lesbian is not presented, nor are alternative approaches to dealing with the effects of societal stigmatization discussed.
Therefore, the American Psychiatric Association opposes any psychiatric treatment such as reparative or conversion therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that a patient should change his/her sexual homosexual orientation.”
American Psychoanalytic Association, Position Statement on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, or Gender Expression (2012), available at www.APSA.org/About_APsaA/Position_Statements/Attempts_to_Change_Sexual_Orientation.aspx.
“As with any societal prejudice, bias against individuals based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression negatively affects mental health, contributing to an enduring sense of stigma and pervasive self-criticism through the internalization of such prejudice.
Psychoanalytic technique does not encompass purposeful attempts to ‘convert,’ “repair,” change or shift an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Such directed efforts are against fundamental principles of psychoanalytic treatment and often result in substantial psychological pain by reinforcing damaging internalized attitudes.”
American Psychological Association, Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts (2009), available at www.APA.org/About/Policy/Sexual-Orientation.pdf.
“Therefore be it resolved that the American Psychological Association affirms that same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings, and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality regardless of sexual orientation identity;
Be it further resolved that the American Psychological Association reaffirms its position that homosexuality per se is not a mental disorder and opposes portrayals of sexual minority youths and adults as mentally ill due to their sexual orientation;
Be it further resolved that the American Psychological Association concludes that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation;
Be it further resolved that the American Psychological Association encourages mental health professionals to avoid misrepresenting the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts by promoting or promising change in sexual orientation when providing assistance to individuals distressed by their own or others’ sexual orientation;
Be it further resolved that the American Psychological Association concludes that the benefits reported by participants in sexual orientation change efforts can be gained through approaches that do not attempt to change sexual orientation;
. . .
Be it further resolved that the American Psychological Association advises parents, guardians, young people, and their families to avoid sexual orientation change efforts that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and to seek psychotherapy, social support and educational services that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support, and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth;
Be it further resolved that the American Psychological Association encourages practitioners to consider the ethical concerns outlined in the 1997 APA Resolution on Appropriate Therapeutic Response to Sexual Orientation (American Psychological Association, 1998), in particular the following standards and principles: scientific bases for professional judgments, benefit and harm, justice, and respect for people’s rights and dignity[.]”
American School Counselor Association (ASCA), The Professional School Counselor and LGBTQ Youth (2014), available at www.SchoolCounselor.org/School-Counselors-Members/About-ASCA-%281%29/Position-Statements.
“The professional school counselor works with all students through the stages of identity development and understands this may be more difficult for LGBTQ youth. It is not the role of the professional school counselor to attempt to change a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Professional school counselors do not support efforts by licensed mental health professionals to change a student’s sexual orientation or gender as these practices have been proven ineffective and harmful (APA, 2009). School counselors provide support to LGBTQ students to promote academic achievement and personal/social development. Professional school counselors are committed to the affirmation of all youth regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression and work to create safe and affirming schools.”
American School Health Association, Quality Comprehensive Sexuality Education (2007).
“[T]he American School Health Association . . . expects that comprehensive sexuality education in schools will be scientifically accurate and based on current medical, psychological, pedagogical, educational and social research . . . [and recommends] that teachers be well-trained and competent to teach sexuality education as defined by . . . insight into and acceptance of their own personal feelings and attitudes concerning sexuality topics so personal life experiences do not intrude inappropriately into the educational experience.”
National Association of Social Workers, “Reparative” or “Conversion” Therapies for Lesbians and Gay Men (2000), available at www.NASWDC.org/diversity/lgb/reparative.asp.
“[P]roponents of reparative and conversion therapies, such as the most commonly cited group NARTH, claim that their processes are supported by scientific data; however, such scientific support is replete with confounded research methodologies. . . . [Reparative and conversion therapies] cannot and will not change sexual orientation. Aligned with the American Psychological Association’s (1997) position, NCLGB believes that such treatment potentially can lead to severe emotional damage.” (emphasis in original)
National Association of Social Workers, Position Statement (2015), available at http://www.socialworkers.org/diversity/new/documents/HRIA_PRO_18315_SOCE_June_2015.pdf.
“The stigmatization of LGBT persons creates a threat to the health and well-being of those affected which, in turn, produces the social climate that pressures some people to seek change in sexual orientation or gender identity (Haldeman, D.,1994; HRC, 2015). However, no data demonstrate that SOCE or reparative therapy or conversion therapy is effective, rather have succeeded only in short term reduction of same-sex sexual behavior and negatively impact the mental health and self-esteem of the individual (Davison, G., 1991; Haldeman, D., 1994, APA, 2009).
The NASW National Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues believes that SOCE can negatively affect one’s mental health and cannot and will not change sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Pan American Health Organization: Regional Office of the World Health Organization, “Cures” for an Illness That Does Not Exist: Purported Therapies Aimed at Changing Sexual Orientation Lack Medical Justification and are Ethically Unacceptable (2012), available at www.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_view&gid=17703.
“Reparative’ or ‘conversion therapies’ have no medical indication and represent a severe threat to the health and human rights of the affected persons. They constitute unjustifiable practices that should be denounced and subject to adequate sanctions and penalties.”
Just the Facts Coalition (American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of School Administrators, American Counseling Association, American Federation of Teachers, American Psychological Association, American School Counselor Association, American School Health Association, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of Social Workers, national Education Association, School Social Work Association of America), Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators, and School Personnel (1999), available at www.APA.org/pi/LGBT/Resources/just-the-facts.pdf.
“The most important fact about ‘reparative therapy,’ also sometimes known as ‘conversion’ therapy, is that it is based on an understanding of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major health and mental health professions. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers, together representing more than 477,000 health and mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus there is no need for a ‘cure.’”
World Psychiatric Association, WPA Position Statement on Gender Identity and Same-Sex Orientation, Attraction, and Behaviours (2016), available at http://www.wpanet.org/detail.php?section_id=7&content_id=1807.
“1. The World Psychiatric Association (WPA) holds the view that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals are and should be regarded as valued members of society, who have exactly the same rights and responsibilities as all other citizens. This includes equal access to healthcare and the rights and responsibilities that go along with living in a civilised society.
2. WPA recognises the universality of same-sex expression, across cultures. It holds the position that a same-sex sexual orientation per se does not imply objective psychological dysfunction or impairment in judgement, stability, or vocational capabilities.
3. WPA considers same-sex attraction, orientation, and behaviour as normal variants of human sexuality. It recognises the multi-factorial causation of human sexuality, orientation, behaviour, and lifestyle. It acknowledges the lack of scientific efficacy of treatments that attempt to change sexual orientation and highlights the harm and adverse effects of such “therapies”.
4. WPA acknowledges the social stigma and consequent discrimination of people with same-sex sexual orientation and transgender gender identity. It recognises that the difficulties they face are a significant cause of their distress and calls for the provision of adequate mental health support.
5. WPA supports the need to de-criminalise same–sex sexual orientation and behaviour and transgender gender identity, and to recognise LGBT rights to include human, civil, and political rights. It also supports anti-bullying legislation; anti-discrimination student, employment, and housing laws; immigration equality; equal age of consent laws; and hate crime laws providing enhanced criminal penalties for prejudice-motivated violence against LGBT people.
6. WPA emphasises the need for research on and the development of evidence-based medical and social interventions that support the mental health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.”