CA's Ban On Conversion Therapy Signals Progression Toward Acceptance
This practice, often called gay conversion therapy, treats homosexuality as a psychological disorder. Certified therapists use it with the intention of eradicating their patients’ gay tendencies through unsavory methods, such as aversion conditioning using electric shocks and nausea-inducing drugs. Brown put it lightly when he called the techniques “quackery” and explained that they have no medical or scientific basis.
Thus far, California is the first and only state to ban the practice. However, gay rights groups have begun campaigning for similar laws in New Jersey and other gay-friendly states. It is important that other states follow suit, as gay conversion therapy mislabels homosexuality as a disease and creates unnecessary psychological issues for teens who simply want to accept themselves and be accepted by society.
The existence of conversion therapy enforces the idea that there is something inherently wrong with being gay. It applies the medical model to sexuality, making it seem as if being gay is a disease that can be eradicated through therapeutic treatment. Historically, homosexuality was considered a sexual disorder, and it was listed in the commonly-accepted Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). However, gay rights campaigning in the 1960s and 70s, combined with lack of scientific data, caused the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from the list of psychopathologies in 1974.
Since we decided to officially remove it decades ago, why do certified psychologists still practice conversion therapy? Their logic is outdated, unsupported by science, and deserves to be banned throughout the United States, not just in California.
As long as homosexuality is treated as a disease by even a small number of psychologists, it makes it more difficult for gay teens to accept themselves, rather than view their sexuality as a disease that can be “cured.” This rejection of self, enforced by psychotherapy, can lead to real psychological issues, such as severe depression and anxiety. Left untreated, these real psychological disorders have led to self-mutilation and suicide. Thus, the so-called therapy can actually ruin the mental health of someone who was previously mentally healthy.
Moreover, the fact that the bill specifically bans restorative therapy for those under the age of 18 ensures that our state’s minors cannot be forced into therapy by disgruntled family members. In this way, the law puts gay teenagers back in control of their lives and identities. More importantly, it protects vulnerable teens from being subjected to the whims of anti-gay proponents and protects their freedom to deal with their sexualities as they please.
The fact that the law bans such a practice, and that Brown publicly denounced it to the entire nation, alleviates some of the stigma placed on homosexuality. By passing this law, we are making a statement against the idea that being gay is a choice that is reversible, and we are slowly moving closer to acceptance and equality. The quest for gay rights is by no means over, but at least we are taking steps in the right direction. Hopefully other states will follow our lead and take a stand for the freedom of gay teens everywhere.
Reach Contributor Deena Khattab here.