January 15, 2015 at 1:00 pm EDT | by Peter Rosenstein
Killing ‘conversion’ therapy a worthy LGBT goal
reparative therapy, gay news, Washington Blade

Activists marched through the streets of downtown D.C. in a ‘Justice for Leelah Alcorn Rally and March’ on Jan. 10, 2015. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

As Republicans take over Congress and we move toward spring and start getting serious about the 2016 presidential race, the question must be asked: What should the LGBT community focus on?

There are two areas needing immediate attention and in some ways they are connected yet not the focus of the community. They both require society to look at itself and become more accepting of differences. Currently the Human Rights Campaign is committed to supporting and championing the introduction of comprehensive LGBT civil rights legislation in this Congress. HRC has begun work on its southern strategy and we know work is still needed to ensure same-sex marriage is legal in every state. Progress on marriage will now come through the courts. We know there are still issues with regard to gays and lesbians in the military, allowing transgender persons to serve, and ensuring they all have every right accorded to others.

Today you can be married in 36 states and the District of Columbia yet in many of those states you can marry on a Saturday and be fired from your job on Monday. You can be married and kicked out of your apartment and not have access to adequate healthcare. All the fights for our individual rights must continue while we work to pass that comprehensive LGBT civil rights bill.

But other fights we must take on are jumping out from today’s national headlines and we can no longer ignore them. One is the issue of conversion, or some call it reparative, therapy. This is the discredited therapy some young people are still forced to undergo by their parents trying to change them from gay to straight.

Recently D.C. became only the third jurisdiction in the United States, joining California and New Jersey, to prohibit reparative therapy for those under 18. It was an honor to witness Mayor Vincent Gray sign the bill. At the signing I had the chance to chat with a young man, Samuel Brinton, who I first noticed when he performed an amazing solo with the Gay Men’s Chorus at a Christmas concert. He is hard to miss with his bright red Mohawk. But when you get to know him you realize quickly his hair is really the least amazing thing about him. Among other things Sam is taking a lead in bringing the issue of banning conversion therapy to national attention traveling the nation to do so.

Last Saturday, I joined the D.C. rally in remembrance of Leelah Alcorn, the young transgender woman from Ohio, who committed suicide by stepping in front of a truck. Her story is tragic but she left a suicide note saying her death wouldn’t be in vain if it led to making a difference for other transgender persons. At the rally a number of people observed the Trevor Project uses the line, “It Gets Better” to help young people deal with their sexuality and bullying, but added through personal experience they knew for a transgender person it often doesn’t. Others spoke words that resonated with me about conversion therapy: “While we can now get married in 36 states and the District of Columbia in 48 states parents can still put their children through torture in an effort to turn them into something they are not.”

On Sunday night at the Golden Globes, the award for best TV series, musical or comedy went to “Transparent.” The show was created and is directed by Jill Soloway. It revolves around a Los Angeles family and their lives following discovery that father Mort is transgender. One review in the Jewish Daily Forward by Debra Nussbaum Cohen said, “Transparent is a television series about a transgender father coming out to his three young adult children. It weaves together the tragicomic family dynamics of five unbelievably narcissistic people.” So while this ‘comedy’ won an award, Leelah Alcorn wasn’t alive to see it because her life, in school and at home, was so unbearable it led her to suicide.

The time has come for the entire LGBT community to focus on ending conversion therapy. We don’t need to fix or change LGBT people. We need to fix society. Together we can make a difference, we can make it better and we need to do it now.

3 Comments
  • I spent well over a decade desperately involved in "ex-gay" therapy and immersed in a fundamentalist Christian world. I was a true believer. At 31, I had a girlfriend…but there I was, taking the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building and once I made it to the top, I planned on jumping. I just didn't see a way out. My truth was abominable to the Church and shameful to my family should they ever find out. I'm exhibit A as to what this type of "therapy" does to one's mind and spirit. I'm encouraged by this and hope someday lawmakers and religious leaders understand this practice is leaving scars on the souls of humanity and must be stopped before another kid jumps or steps in front of a moving train.
    Bryan Christopher (Author, "Hiding from Myself: A Memoir")
    http://tinyurl.com/o4frmhp

  • What this author is reporting is false and misleading information and it serves to traumatize children and adults for whom AUTHENTIC Reparative Therapy does indeed work, and with which they grow into more of their authentic selves. NONE of what this author states about real RT is true. I have so many clients who have had a marvelous, emotionally changed experience for which there is much evidence. In fact, it is high time LGBT reporters exhibit true diversity by listening to the voices who have a different experience instead of trying to push their bigotry and agenda through false reports. There is room for both voices, LGBT and real Ex-gays who are in fact heterosexual. If you have experienced a horrible therapy experience then I don't believe you've experienced real RT, and the non experts who are doing this kind of thing should be dealt with. Real RT's first goal is to remove any and all shame for having homosexual feelings, but I'm sure this reporter never discusses this point.

  • Your comment is garbage – all you do is terrify people and turn them into pathological liars. while transferring the self hatred to another victim eg several of these v victims said "gays support the westboro baptists because it brings them sympathy

    The other part of this is right wing extremists doing this create a situation where kids often victims of this child abuse commit suicide at a horrific rate I'm sure your just trying to feed more money to right wing causes. Not one reputable psych or med group says you can change sexual orientation.

    stuff your ideas up where the son doesnt shine or GO FIND ANOTHER PLACE WHERE THEY USE WITCH DOCTORS – YOU MIGHT FIT IN THERE.

    wE ARE GOING TO OUTLAW THIS CRAP AND THE PENALTIES FOR PRACTICING MEDICINE / PSYCHOLOGY WITH OUT A LICENSE ARE SEVERE

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