To protect our children, Arizona must ban the physically and emotionally harmful practice of “conversion therapy.” Democratic Senator Sean Bowie has introduced, and Republican Sens. Kate Brophy McGee and Heather Carter have co-sponsored, a bill to ban “conversion therapy,” a harmful practice during which mental health providers attempt to change a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This practice can involve administering electric shocks, inducing nausea or vomiting, or snapping elastic bands on the child’s skin in an attempt to alter the minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Conversion therapy is not only physically harmful, but also socially and emotionally harmful to our children. Major health and counseling organizations have denounced these dangerous practices. In a report released by the American Psychological Association and endorsed by 12 health, counseling, social work, and education organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of Social Workers, and the National Education Association, the APA states “such efforts have serious potential to harm young people.” According to the APA, the practice “is based on a view of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major mental health professions.”
Conversion therapy advocates hold the outdated view that being LGBTQ is somehow a problem. However, homosexuality has not been classified as a mental disorder for more than four decades and is not – and has never been – something that can or needs to be “cured.” The medical community has banded together to denounce conversion therapy and its practitioners, but some mental health providers continue to engage in this dangerous practice, both with willing adults and with children, who have little or no legal say in their mental health care.
David Matheson, a once-prominent conversion therapy advocate, who spent years as a practitioner of the practice, recently affirmed his personal sexuality and now lives life as a gay man. Though years of practicing what he preached failed to succeed in making the desired change in his sexual orientation, Mr. Matheson had the opportunity as an adult to say, “no more,” and discontinue this treatment. Children do not have that right in Arizona, even though they know themselves better than any parent or guardian.
Conversion therapy of minors is currently illegal in 15 states, protecting only 40 percent of the U.S. population, and is not sanctioned by mainstream mental health organizations. Our children are born perfect, and Arizona has the duty to protect each one, joining these states to stop this disgraceful practice. Our legislators have the opportunity today to defend Arizona’s children by supporting Senate Bill 1047 and we must call on them to do so. Protect our children now – ask your representatives to represent you, and every child in Arizona.
— Casey Clowes is an attorney who lives in Tempe.