Study shows why GOP efforts to protect anti-LGBTQ 'therapy' are so dangerous

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LGBTQ youth were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide if they had experiences with 'conversion therapy,' compared to those who did not.

A new survey has shed light on the real harms of "conversion therapy," a dangerous practice that claims to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

The practice involves a range of methods, including the use of something painful or unpleasant to punish someone for their behavior and associate bad experiences with the actions conversion therapists want to change. Often, the process involves using religious texts and 12-step programs to try to rid the person of their sexual orientation or gender identity, or telling LGBTQ people they only feel the way they do because of past abuse.

The Trevor Project, an organization focused on suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth, released a survey on Wednesday of nearly 35,000 people aged 13 to 24. The survey collected data between October 2020 and December 2020 and included questions on considering and attempting suicide in the past 12 months.

According to the survey, LGBTQ youth were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide if they had experiences with "conversion therapy," compared to those who did not.

Eighteen percent of transgender and/or nonbinary youth said they were subjected to the practice compared to 9% of cisgender lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth. Overall, 13% of LGBTQ youth said they had been put through "conversion therapy" in the past year.

The survey also showed that a higher percentage of Native and Indigenous people, Black people, Latinx people, and people of more than one race/ethnicity said they had been put through "conversion therapy" compared to white people, Asian people, and Pacific Islanders.

The group that reported the highest percentage was Native and Indigenous people, at 21%.

The survey results come at a time when national anti-LGBTQ groups and GOP lawmakers are pushing anti-LGBTQ legislation at the state level, much of which targets transgender people's health care and education.

Arkansas, for example, enacted legislation in April that prohibits gender-affirming health care for transgender and/or nonbinary minors, including hormone therapy and puberty blockers. It was the first bill of its kind in the nation.

And earlier in May, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed legislation that makes it more difficult for kids to learn about LGBTQ people in school, as well as a bill that encourages people to sue schools with trans-inclusive bathroom policies and a measure that stops prepubescent children from receiving hormone treatments.

Children do not receive hormone treatment before puberty.

Overall, more than 250 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced across the country, at the state level, in 2021 alone.

A number of so-called pro "conversion therapy" bills are among them.

Oklahoma, North Carolina, Arizona, and Texas have all introduced such legislation, according to HuffPost. Mathew Shurka, co-founder of the National Center for Lesbian Rights' "Born Perfect" campaign, which aims to end the practice, told the outlet in April, "This is the first time we're actually seeing pro-conversion therapy laws be introduced, assigned to committees and get hearings, then passing out of committees."

The legislation doesn't refer to "conversion therapy" explicitly and typically uses vague language to prohibit the government from telling health care professionals how to conduct themselves.

Just 20 states and the District of Columbia prohibit this so-called "treatment" for minors, according to the Movement Advancement Project.

Not every pro "conversion therapy" bill has made it past their respective state legislatures. Arizona's S.B. 1269, which protected those who provide such "treatments," hasn't advanced since March. A North Carolina bill that prohibited transition-related care for people under 21 years of age, S.B. 514, and protected people who practice "conversion therapy," was also halted in the state Senate, according to the News & Observer.

However, in Wisconsin, the Legislature blocked a rule in March that would have banned "conversion therapy" in the state.

Oklahoma's H.B. 1004, which would have also protected "conversion therapy" practitioners, flatlined in committee back in February, but LGBTQ advocates are still worried that state Republican lawmakers determined to pass the bill might still try to move on it in this session or next session. The Legislature adjourns on May 28.

I believe that this bill will come back next year and will come back until the people responsible for writing the bill are out of the Oklahoma legislature," Morgan Allen, center director of Oklahomans for Equality, told the American Independent Foundation in April.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.