Conversion therapy, a controversial practice aiming to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, has long faced condemnation due to its severe consequences. Victims of this practice often suffer psychological trauma, depression, anxiety, and long-lasting emotional distress. Recognizing the urgency to end this harmful practice, a coalition of 28 influential mental health and medical organizations in the United States, known as the United States Joint Statement, has emerged as a formidable force.
A Coalition of Influence
The USJS, cofounded and codirected by Guy Albert and Jim Walker, has united organizations to eradicate conversion therapy.
“Our coalition represents a powerful, united front in the fight against conversion therapy," Albert said in a press call last month. "We are bringing together the expertise and advocacy of 28 organizations to protect the LGBTQ+ community from these harmful practices.”
Walker reflected on the coalition’s development, saying, “This journey began eight and a half years ago when we started drafting the USJS. It’s the culmination of years of dedicated work to protect individuals from conversion therapy.”
This historic coalition signifies a turning point in the battle against conversion therapy. It harnesses the collective influence of its member organizations to drive change and end this harmful practice.
During the call, Albert emphasized the significance of this united effort.
“We are dedicated to ensuring that nobody is ever exposed to these harmful practices ever again,” he said.
The Disproportionate Impact on Transgender and Gender-Diverse Individuals
Conversion therapy is particularly harmful to transgender and gender-diverse individuals, a grave concern highlighted by Carl Streed Jr., president-elect of the U.S. Professional Association for Transgender Health.
“Transgender and gender-diverse people are disproportionately targeted for conversion therapy, leading to detrimental impacts on their mental and physical health,” Streed said.
He further emphasized, “Survivors of these harmful practices have had to navigate related trauma and the internalization of cis-heteronormativity during their lifetime.”
The USJS recognizes the pressing need to ban conversion therapy and provide trauma-informed health care for survivors.
Promoting Cultural Competency in Mental Health Care
Leticia Flores, past president of the Association of Psychology Training Clinics, highlighted the importance of cultural competency and humility in mental health care. APTC supports the USJS because it aligns with its mission to promote cultural awareness and competency among mental health professionals.
“Our clinics are typically associated with pre-doctoral graduate training programs in clinical community counseling and school psychology at accredited universities,” Flores explained.
The USJS seeks to ban conversion therapy and advocates for cultural competency within the mental health and medical professions. This emphasis on understanding the intersectionality of diverse communities is vital in ensuring affirming care.
“We respect and celebrate awareness, appreciation, and sensitivity toward all and encourage an appreciation of how political, economic, and societal influences affect individuals’ behaviors,” Flores said.
A Survivor’s Perspective
James Guay, a licensed marriage and family therapist, cochair of the Born Perfect Advisory Committee and conversion therapy survivor, shared his harrowing experience during the press call. He sought conversion therapy as a teenager, driven by a deep fear of societal rejection and eternal damnation.
“I grew up in an environment where I was told I was evil, an abomination, and that I’d live in eternity in the worst kind of pain in hell,” Guay said.
Guay’s story highlights the psychological abuse inherent in conversion therapy and the enduring trauma survivors must overcome.
“Conversion efforts are insidious messages that LGBTQ people are unhealthy, evil, abominations, perverted, sex-obsessed, unhappy, and can never have long-term relationships," he said. "These are the messages that we receive as clients.”
Guay’s testimony underscores the urgent need to protect LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly minors, from the harms of conversion therapy.
Advocacy and Awareness
The USJS intends to leverage its joint statement to advocate for legislative action and raise awareness about the harms of conversion therapy. The coalition’s ultimate goal is to safeguard minors from these harmful practices and provide trauma-informed health care for survivors. CaliforniaDemocratic U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu, a key figure in the fight against conversion therapy, cosponsored a bill that seeks to utilize the Federal Trade Commission to address the harm caused by conversion therapy.
Lieu’s efforts demonstrate the importance of legislative action in ending conversion therapy. The USJS’s joint statement reinforces the need for nationwide action to protect LGBTQ+ individuals and prevent further suffering.
So far, 21 states, the District of Columbia, and numerous cities and counties have barred licensed counselors from subjecting minors to conversion therapy. “Protecting minors from conversion efforts has been the single most successful legislative issue in LGBTQ history in the shortest amount of time,” Guay noted.