“They made me feel like I wasn’t worthy enough to live,” recounted Junior, a survivor of conversion therapy.
As physicians who care for Minnesota youth, we know the loving acceptance of a parent is a foundational need for all young people. There is a predatory practice masquerading as medicine that threatens this developmental need. It is our duty as physicians to speak out against “conversion therapy.” Conversion therapy, also known as “ex-gay therapy” or “sexual orientation change efforts,” is a practice based on a false assumption that classified homosexuality as a mental disorder and that one’s sexual or gender orientation can be changed. Despite being largely discredited and denounced by medical organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association and American Psychological Association, it is still practiced in Minnesota.,,
Conversion therapy has been shown to have long-lasting negative effects including depression, self-harm and decreased self-esteem. According to The Trevor Project’s 2019 report, of the surveyed LGBTQ+ youth who had undergone conversion therapy, 42 percent had attempted suicide, compared to 17 percent for those who had not undergone conversion therapy. Numerous studies report conversion therapy causes both acute and long-term harms, especially in those who undergo the practice during childhood, adolescence and early adulthood.,,,, Conversion therapy has been unanimously rejected by the medical community as there is insufficient evidence to support its claimed clinical utility and significant evidence documenting its harms.
As of September 2020, 20 states and more than 70 cities nationwide, including Minneapolis, Saint Paul, West Saint Paul, Duluth, Winona, Red Wing and Robbinsdale, have passed bills to restrict these harmful practices for minors. In Minnesota, these citywide bans were instituted after a failed statewide ban in 2019. This current legislative session will provide another opportunity to ban conversion therapy statewide.
Pediatricians in Minnesota can take a stand against conversion therapy by supporting the Mental Health Protections Act. This bill will ban the practice of conversion therapy by health providers in Minnesota, protecting children and their families from deception and coercion into ineffective and dangerous practices. It will ensure that LGBTQ+ people receive the ethical, evidence-based, affirming and culturally aware mental health care they deserve. This bill will apply statewide, including greater Minnesota, where unregulated conversion therapy providers perpetuate this harmful practice. While the bill will not affect religious counseling, it will prohibit its use by licensed medical providers.
We urge you to contact your legislators and express your support for the bill, sign the OutFront Minnesota petition advocating for LGBTQ+ mental health protections, and make your voices heard within your professional and personal circles. As physicians, it is our responsibility to advocate for our patients and use our influence to protect them from preventable harms. Conversion therapy is a preventable harm that must be stopped to improve the health and wellness of Minnesota’s LGBTQ+ youth.
The authors thank OutFront Minnesota for their tireless organizing and advocacy efforts to protect LGBTQ+ people.
Katie Beck-Esmay; Ginearosa Carbone; James Pathoulas; Margot Zarin-Pass, MD; and Hannah Lichtsinn, MD, FAAP collaborated on this article.
- OutFront Minnesota. Junior’s Story: Surviving Conversion Therapy. YouTube. May 1, 2019. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inAnwM5Zsao&feature=emb_title.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Homosexuality and Adolescence, 92 Pediatrics 631. 1993. Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/92/4/631.full.pdf.
- American Medical Association. Issue Brief: LGBTQ change efforts (so-called “conversion therapy”). 2019. Retrieved from https://www.ama-assn.org/system/files/2019-12/conversion-therapy-issue-brief.pdf.
- American Psychological Association. Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts. 2009. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/about/policy/sexual-orientation.
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- The Trevor Project. National survey on LGBTQ youth mental health. 2019. Retrieved from https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2019/?section=Introduction.
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- OutFront Minnesota. Conversion Therapy is Dangerous. Retrieved from https://www.outfront.org/public-policy#conversion-therapy.
- Coolican, J. Patrick, Van Oot, Torey. Gay conversion ban gets personal for lawmakers in emotional debate. StarTribune. May 10, 2019. Retrieved from https://www.startribune.com/gay-conversion-ban-gets-personal-for-lawmakers-in-emotional-debate/509765022/.