With all the progress the LGBTQ community has experienced this year, there has been major backlash in the United States during this election period. Some delegates to the Republican National Convention are making it a priority to advocate for so-called conversion therapy on their party platform, despite the fact that every major medical association in the United States has discredited this unethical and dangerous practice.
As the executive director and CEO of the Trevor Project, the only national accredited suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ people under 24, we hear from young people daily about being rejected in their homes and being forced to conform to identities that are not authentic to them. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people in the United States between the ages of 13 to 24, and LGB youth are three to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, with nearly half of transgender youth who have seriously thought about taking their own lives. LGBTQ youth who come from highly rejecting families are eight times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. Attempting to force LGBTQ youth to change their sexual orientation or gender identity through conversion therapy activities is the equivalent of physical and psychological torture and has been proven to put their mental health at risk.
Including conversion therapy support in political party platforms makes it a priority to exterminate LGBTQ identities and disregards official stances of the American Psychological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Association of Social Workers, and many more mental health professionals. It sends a message to all that being LGBTQ is wrong. Any endorsement of conversion therapy impairs the acceptance process by encouraging families and communities to consider it as a viable option. Young people who may internalize this homophobia can experience increased depression, shame, decreased self-esteem, social withdrawal, substance abuse, risky behavior, and suicidal ideation. We must protect LGBTQ youth from external factors that will affect their well-being.
The intention of psychotherapy is to better mental health, yet conversion therapy does the exact opposite. The Trevor Project urges all participants involved in deciding party platforms to use science to drive decision-making. Research has unequivocally shown that conversion therapy does not work and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has issued calls for its end. Already outlawed for use on minors in California, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Vermont, Illinois, and Oregon, conversion therapy has yet to be banned nationally. Recently, President Barack Obama's administration has issued a federal recommendation to do so, but, the rhetoric and propaganda around it has made that an impossibility. Yet having champions like Sens. Patty Murray and Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Ted Liu introduce legislation to ban conversion therapy nationally is an important step.
In the meantime, as we wait and hope to see the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act S 2880 / HR 2450 become law so that conversion therapy is banned nationally, the Trevor Project will be here 24/7, answering calls of LGBTQ youth who are seeing this backlash and may be losing hope of a brighter future. We must continue to let them know that their identities are valid and that they deserve to live their authentic lives.
It is incumbent upon our nation's leaders and political parties to adopt platforms that do not put more young people at risk of suicide. No policy platform should be designed to hurt, discriminate against, or take away basic liberties and freedoms from LGBTQ people.
ABBE LAND is the executive director and CEO of the Trevor Project. The former mayor of West Hollywood, she is a longtime resident of the city, where she lives with her husband, artist Martin Gantman.
The Trevor Project is the leading national organization focused on crisis intervention and suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ youth. Every day, the Trevor Project saves young lives through its free and confidential lifeline, educational materials, online resources, and advocacy. The Trevor Lifeline is available 24/7 at (866) 488-7386.