US President Barack Obama, has called for an end to psychiatric therapy treatments aimed at ‘repairing’ gay, lesbian and transgender youth.
“Tonight, somewhere in America, a young person, let’s say a young man, will struggle to fall to sleep, wrestling alone with a secret he’s held as long as he can remember. Soon, perhaps, he will decide it’s time to let that secret out. What happens next depends on him, his family, as well as his friends and his teachers and his community. But it also depends on us — on the kind of society we engender, the kind of future we build,” said Obama.
In a statement, posted alongside a WhiteHouse.gov petition, made in honor of 17-year-old transgender youth Leelah Alcorn—who in December threw herself in front of a tractor-trailer, after writing in her online suicide note that religious therapists had tried to convert her back to being a boy—Obama condemned the practice supported by socially conservative organizations and religious doctors. The petition received over 120,000 signatures in three months.
“Conversion therapy generally refers to any practices by mental health providers that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Often, this practice is used on minors, who lack the legal authority to make their own medical and mental health decisions. We share your concern about its potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer youth.”
“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,” the statement read.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, welcomed Obama’s stand. “Having President Obama and the weight of the White House behind efforts to ban conversion therapy is so critical in the fight for transgender and LGB young people. My hope is that when a transgender person’s struggle is acknowledged by one of the most recognizable figures in the world, it positively changes the way they view themselves. The pseudo-science that propels conversion therapy cannot match the self-acceptance that comes with this kind of change,” Keisling said in a statement.
Alcorn killed herself after years of struggling with her Christian parents’ refusal to acknowledge her true identity as a female. She ended her suicide note with a plea: “The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was… My death needs to mean something. Fix society. Please.”
Conversion therapy for minors is already illegal in California, New Jersey and Washington DC, while similar legislation is pending in 18 states.
The American Psychiatric Association has long opposed conversion therapy, which the organization says is based on the assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder. The American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry believes clinicians should be aware that there is no evidence which supports the idea that sexual orientation can be altered through therapy, and that attempts to do so may be harmful. There is no empirical evidence that suggests that 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. The American Academy of Pediatrics says therapy directed specifically at changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety, while having little or no potential for successfully achieving changes in orientation.
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy does not consider homosexuality a disorder that requires treatment, and as such, sees no basis for [reparative therapy]. The American Medical Association opposes the use of ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy, which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se, is a mental disorder, or is based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation.
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; it also concludes that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation.
On the 17 May, 2012, the International Day against Homophobia, the Pan American Health Organization said in a position statement, that services that purport to cure people with non-heterosexual sexual orientation lack medical justification and represents a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people. The statement calls on governments, academic institutions, professional associations and the media to expose these practices and to promote respect for diversity.
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