GLAAD Media Reference Guide - In Focus: "Conversion therapy"

Anti-LGBTQ activists have argued for years that sexual orientation is a choice and changeable – but only for people attracted to the same sex, not heterosexuals. They often claim "homosexuality" is not real, but rather a form of mental illness or an emotional disorder that can be "cured" through psychological or religious intervention. Anti-LGBTQ activists claim that being attracted to the same sex is a curable condition, and therefore people attracted to the same sex do not need or deserve equal treatment under the law or protection from discrimination.

Such programs have come under increased scrutiny recently. The largest program, Exodus, closed in 2013, apologizing for the harm that was caused by those who participated in its programs. Additionally, lawsuits have been filed against other "exgay" programs, noting that they did not produce the orientation change promised, but instead brought great harm to those who participated.

American Psychiatric Association
The American Psychiatric Association has condemned the "treatment" of "homosexuality," saying, "The potential risks of 'reparative therapy' are great, including depression, anxiety and selfdestructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient."

American Psychological Association Report (2009)
In 2009, a task force of the American Psychological Association drafted a landmark report on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. Following a comprehensive analysis of peer-reviewed research on what the APA labeled "sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE)" the APA "concluded that efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm, contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates." The APA's governing body adopted the report's recommendations by an overwhelming 125-4 vote. In addition, the American Medical Association, the National Mental Health Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have also spoken out against these attempts to "cure" lesbian, gay men and bisexual people.

States banning "conversion therapy" for minors
Many anti-LGBTQ activists claim that they only help people who want to live their lives in accordance with their religious beliefs, and that they only offer their programs for people who want to change. However, many participants in "conversion therapy" programs are youth who do not enroll in the programs of their own will, but who are forced into such programs by parents who have been told by religious leaders that they must change their child. A handful of states have begun examining the harm done by "conversion therapy" programs that seek to change the sexual orientation or the gender identity of a minor. At the time of this writing, six states (California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Vermont) and the District of Columbia have now taken steps to ban the harmful practice on anyone under 18 years of age.

In reporting, the terms "conversion therapy" or "reparative therapy" should be placed in quotation marks or avoided altogether, as the terms are most often used to insinuate that people attracted to the same sex, or who are transgender, are "disordered" or "broken" and need to be "repaired." It is usually best simply to describe the actions and motivations of those who seek to change the orientation of people attracted to the same sex and/or someone's gender identity.

Conversion Therapy Survivors
Any story about "conversion therapy" programs should include the perspective of those who survived it. For each "success story" featured by "conversion therapy" activists, there are hundreds who have gone through the programs with no change in orientation or gender identity, but who have suffered trauma, depression, even suicidal thoughts or actions. Networks like Beyond Ex-Gay have been created to provide support and healing for those who have been harmed by ex-gay programs. Beyond Ex-Gay has surveyed survivors of "ex-gay" programs, and the results may be found on the organization's website.

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