U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier is calling for a federal investigation of therapists who administer so-called conversion therapy.
The Northern California Democrat sent a letter Wednesday to the Federal Trade Commission demanding a probe of mental health providers and what she sees as deceptive claims that they can change an individual's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
"Being transgender, gay, lesbian, or bisexual is not a disease to be cured or a mental illness that requires treatment," wrote Speier. "In spite of this fact, therapists continue to promise their 'treatments' will change their patients, including children.
"When children and adults undergo these so-called 'treatments,' they don't come home from sessions 'ex-gay' as their therapists promised. Instead, studies show that these abusive therapy practices pose critical health risks to their patients, including decreased self-esteem, confusion, guilt, shame, helplessness, hopelessness, social withdrawal, and substance abuse.
"The statistics are frightening: Conversion therapy patients are 5.9 times more likely than their 'un-treated' LGBT peers to report depression, and 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide. These are the statistics you won't find on a 'conversion' therapist's website or brochure."
Speier's letter gave three challenges to the FTC: "(1) investigate the claims and advertising practices of therapists who perform conversion therapy, in order to identify those who are making scientifically invalid claims; (2) Enforce any applicable laws regarding false claims to prevent conversion therapists from misinforming parents, patients, and the public; (3) Properly assess the practice of conversion therapy as 'unfair or deceptive.'"
In 2012, Speier denounced "ex-gay" therapy as "quackery" as she introduced the Stop Harming Our Kids resolution, the first federal action directed at the controversial and discredited attempts to "change" sexual orientation.
California,New Jersey, and the District of Columbia have all enacted laws barring licensed mental health professionals from subjecting minors to such therapy, and the governor of Oregon is expected to sign similar legislation there. President Obama and other top federal officials have denounced this type of therapy as well.
Speier has long been an LGBT ally. Last summer, she sent a letter to Alan I. Leshner, the executive publisher of Science magazine, to complain about a photo of two transgender sex workers as the cover image for the July issue. The image featured the women's heads cropped out, and Speier denounced it as sexist, racist, and transphobic.