A federal government report released Thursday makes the strongest case to date for ending the discredited practice known as conversion, reparative, or "ex-gay" therapy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender young people.
The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration joined with the American Psychological Association in calling for greater acceptance, support, and understanding by parents, guardians, families, educators, medical professionals, friends, and neighbors, rather than ineffective, dangerous attempts at so-called therapy. The report says these youngsters should "be supported in their right to explore, define, and articulate their own identity."
Experts in the field of behavioral health contributed their findings after what the agency calls a "careful review of existing research, professional health association reports and summaries, and expert clinical guidance."
Earlier this year, the Obama administration called for a ban on the controversial practice, which aims to change a person's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Just days after the White House announced its opposition, the sitting U.S. Surgeon General also denounced the discredited practice. Four states and the District of Columbia have banned its use on minors.
"This groundbreaking report dispels widespread misconceptions about sexual and gender development and definitively concludes that treatments designed to change a child's sexual orientation or gender identity do not work, are devastatingly harmful to 'victims' of this type of therapy, and should not be considered appropriate mental health services," said noted psychologist Celia B. Fisher, director of the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education.
"Conversion therapies or other efforts to change sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression are not effective, reinforce harmful gender stereotypes, and are not appropriate mental health treatments," said SAMHSA special expert on LGBT affairs Elliot Kennedy. She joined White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett in a conference call with reporters Thursday morning.
The officials defined the purpose of this report, Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth, as providing mental health professionals and families with "accurate information about effective and ineffective therapeutic practices related to children's and adolescents' sexual orientation and gender identity."
Moreover, the report states that "conversion therapy perpetuates outdated views of gender roles and identities as well as the negative stereotype that being a sexual or gender minority or identifying as LGBTQ is an abnormal aspect of human development. Most importantly, it may put young people at risk of serious harm."
Praise for the report poured in after its release Thursday morning. "Conversion therapy is child abuse, and the Obama Administration has joined our call to ban its practice once and for all," said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin. "This is dangerous junk science that uses fear and shame to tell young people the only way to find love and acceptance is by changing the very nature of who they are. Today's new health report shows the extensive damage that so-called conversion therapy can cause and why it's so urgent that we end it in all 50 states."
"We could not be more grateful to SAMHSA, [Health and Human Services], and the entire Obama administration for producing such an in-depth and lifesaving report, and to the APA for inviting us to the table with such high caliber experts to observe the process," said National Center for Lesbian Rights #BornPerfect campaign coordinator and staff attorney Samantha Ames, speaking at the Utah LGBT Summit, part of the National LGBT Rural Summit Series, hosted by the White House and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "From representing LGBTQ youth institutionalized for their identity to advocating for laws protecting them from physical and psychological abuse, NCLR has been leading the fight to end these dangerous and discredited practices for decades. For the first time in history, advocates are seeing our national leaders prioritize what is too often an issue of life and death for LGBTQ youth. But, more importantly, young people are seeing their heroes stand up for them. We thank President Obama for his strong leadership on this issue and look forward to using the groundbreaking findings of this report to bring about a day when every child knows they were #BornPerfect."
"Every policymaker in America should heed the call in this report to end the discredited and dangerous practice of 'conversion therapy' on LGBT youth," said Empire State Pride Agenda executive director Nathan M. Schaefer. "Unscrupulous quacks must not be allowed to warp young minds with their harmful pseudoscience."
Click here to read the report in full; a summary is provided in an online press release.