These children don't need to be "fixed," they need to be loved for who they are:
The bill (HB 516/SB 426) would protect young people in North Carolina from the discredited practice of “conversion therapy,” which purports to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Techniques can be extreme and barbaric, including institutionalizing young people against their will, using electroshock treatment and encouraging young people to feel shame about a central part of themselves. The emotional and psychological trauma inflicted on LGBTQ minors often follows them for the rest of their lives.
It's hard to believe we're still having this discussion in 2019, but here we are. I don't have a problem with "religious freedom," until it crosses the line into abuse. And that includes "blasting," where a bunch of zealots stand around a young person yelling in their ears. Don't take my word for it, listen to the survivors:
I ended up going to an Assembly of God in Arkansas. It was supposed to be a three-hour process. It turned out to be six and a half hours and involved three adults — a woman and two men, including the main pastor. I had fasted for 36 hours. I was only allowed to wear certain clothes and jewelry because there is this fear that somehow evil would be attached to me. I still don’t quite understand that, but they were very specific about the type of clothes.
In a back room in a pretty large church, there were only chairs in a completely bare white room. What began pretty quietly turned quickly into a very violent and abusive situation where I was being held down against my will. My head and my face were being grabbed at, and they were coming at me forcefully, screaming in my eyes with the belief that they were praying away the gay in me. This went on for hours. It was extremely frightening and I felt trapped.
But still, I was very much was trying. I remember thinking, If this is what works, and then simultaneously thinking, This is so freaky. Toward the end, I finally began imagining a wedding. I still don’t even know how that all came about, except for that I was tired. They started screaming “Hallelujah” and saying that it that it had worked. But I was actually having a fantasy or vision of marrying Lauren, who would become my wife afterward for many years.
The thing to keep in mind: Many religious people suppress their anger and frustration with the world, but an event like this gives them an opportunity to let go. They are doing "God's work," so no matter what they actually do or say, it's justified (in their minds). Cruelty, arrogance, violence, it's all covered. Nothing to be ashamed of.
And that's why laws like the ones proposed need to be passed. Because in that room, the rights (not to mention safety) of the person being "converted" are disregarded. But aside from the dangers individuals are exposed to during the so-called "therapy," the lasting damage to their mental health, and the increased risk of suicide afterwards, should be more than sufficient to outlaw the practice:
I was 21-years-old when I had my last conversion therapy session. It was 2009, and the secret ate away at me. I thought there was no one I could talk to about what I lived through, a part of my life when I was berated by people who told me that who I was attracted to was wrong, that there was something wrong with me. I felt isolated.
But the fact of the matter is that I wasn’t alone. Nearly 700,000 people in the United States have been through conversion therapy, with 350,000 of those who faced it during their adolescence. And plenty more will continue to go through it. According to a study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, an estimated 20,000 LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 and 17 will undergo conversion therapy from a licensed health care professional before turning 18; about 57,000 youth will receive the treatment from a religious or spiritual advisor.
And despite the fact that a number of major medical and mental health organizations— including the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, and American Psychiatric Association — have denounced conversion therapy as harmful and ineffective, many licensed therapists in the United States continue this so-called practice. Those who have been exposed to conversion therapy are likely to become depressed and are 8.9 times more likely to develop suicidal ideation. Clearly, conversion therapy puts people in danger.
No doubt the religious nut-jobs will oppose this legislation, and try to cast it as an attack on their freedoms. But lawmakers need to remember, that actually equates to a "freedom to abuse" some other person, usually a child, and protecting children from abuse is kind of important for government leaders in America. Shouldn't have to remind them, but again, here we are.