Germany just passed a nationwide ban on gay conversion therapy for minors
via Soonfeed Europe / Twitter

Gay conversion therapy is an attempt to change a person's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. It's most often pushed onto teenagers by religious parents who can't accept their child's sexuality and believe that it can be prayed away or altered through therapy.

These practices can include electroshock therapy and sometimes involve a variety of shaming, emotionally traumatic or physically painful stimuli to make their victims associate those stimuli with their LGBTQ identities.

Not only are these practices completely inhumane but studies show they are ineffective.


A 2007 report by an American Psychological Association task force found that "results of scientifically valid research indicate that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce same-sex attractions or increase other-sex sexual attractions through [sexual orientation change efforts]."

Conversion therapy enacts a tremendous psychological toll on teens and has been shown to lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide.

Archibald Jude / Flickr

One of the most traumatizing elements of the therapy is that teen believe they are being rejected by their families who do not support their sexuality. These teens are eight times more likely to have attempted suicide. Nearly six times as likely to report high levels of depression and three times more likely to be at high risk for HIV and STDs.

Due to its overwhelmingly negative psychological effects, gay conversion therapy is banned in Switzerland and parts of Australia, Canada, and the U.S.

Germany has just joined the group of countries with bans on the practice. The country's parliament passed a law making conversion therapy illegal for anyone under the age of 18.

Before the law was passed approximately 1,000 German teens were forced into conversion therapy every year in Germany.

Those who break the law can face up to a year in person or a €30,000 ($32,535) fine.

The parliament passed a strong bill so that it could stand during court challenges and let the LGBT community know that the practice is unacceptable.

"They should feel strengthened when the state when society when Parliament makes it clear: we do not want that in this country," German Health Minister Jens Spahn said.

Some critics argue that the law didn't go far enough. Germany's Green party believes that the law should extend to those 26 years of age. The Left Party believes it should be illegal for anyone 27 and under.

In the U.S., 21 states have laws that ban conversion therapy for minors in some form or another. Twenty-nine states have no law or policy. According to LGBTMap, approximately 50% of the country's LGBT population lives in states with no laws or policies banning conversion therapy for minors.

The American Medical Association announced last November that it supports a country-wide ban on gay conversion therapy. "It is clear to the AMA that the conversion therapy needs to end in the United States given the risk of deliberate harm to LGBTQ people," said AMA board member William E. Kobler in a statement.

Last year, Democratic Representative Ted Lieu of California introduced the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act of 2019 which would ban the practice throughout the entire country. It has 135 Democratic co-sponsors and awaits a vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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