And get this: Not only has the research been debunked and abandoned by its lead researcher, but the practice itself has been rejected by the every major mental health profession. So why's it still happening?
WARNING: There is a graphic testimonial by a person who went through this so-called "therapy" from 1:40 to 2:25 and in the text below. If that might be triggering for you, I recommend skipping over it.
Conversion therapy claims to convert homosexual people to heterosexual people and transgender people to cisgender people.
We know that conversion therapy does not work.
And that makes what these so-called "therapists" put their "patients" through so much worse. For example...
Patients are forced to adhere to traditional gender roles.
For example, male patients are told to participate in manly things like sports (and beer drinking and farting contests, probably) and attend men's church group meetings and avoid activities that are super gay like going to museums or the opera or having sex with other men.
Male patients should also avoid women "unless it is for romantic contact." The patient is considered "cured" when he gets married (to a woman) and has children (with a woman).
Of course, this line of thinking totally ignores the difference between gender expression and sexual orientation:
And anyone who doesn't conform to strict, traditional gender roles is given the cold shoulder.
This. Is. Not. Real. Therapy.
Some patients are forced to endure painful sessions of physical aversion therapy.
TRIGGER WARNING: Graphic description of aversion therapy in the next three GIFs.
Unfortunately, aversion therapy *does* work. Kind of.
A hug could probably do a lot more good in this situation than ice blocks. Just sayin'.
To recap: "Ex-gay" or "conversion" therapy is basically torture and does not work. And yet...
It's still legal in 48 states.
Even though it's been rejected by pretty much every major body of mental health experts.
The American Psychological Association found that patients come out of conversion therapy with all sorts of psychological side effects:
And these are just the things I could fit on one gif.
My sarcasm detector is pinging off the charts right now.
It's not all bad news, though.
Exodus International, one of the leading proponents of conversion therapy, closed its doors in 2014 and issued an apology from their president for all the pain, suffering, and death that their "therapy" had caused (emphasis added):
"I am sorry for the pain and hurt that many of you have experienced. I am sorry some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt when your attractions didn't change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry I didn't stand up to people publicly 'on my side' who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him, I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.
More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God's rejection.
I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives."
But it's not enough for just one organization to shut down.
There are still organizations out there using these same horrifying methods in a futile attempt to "cure" something that can't be changed. There are still parents out there willing to subject their children to this — and people out there willing to subject themselves to it — because they're growing up in a society that tells them they're broken or wrong, but they're not.
Take it home, Laci:
The answer, of course, is zero more kids.
You can help end LGBTQ+ conversion therapy by signing this White House petition to enact Leelah's Law, named in honor of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old trans girl who committed suicide in December 2014 after her parents pulled her out of school and forced her into conversion therapy.