LGBTQ conversion therapy, sometimes referred to as “reparative therapy” or “ex-gay therapy,” is a controversial and widely discredited practice that aims to change an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression to fit heterosexual or cisgender norms. The practice is rooted in the belief that being LGBTQ is abnormal or unnatural, and therefore it can and should be “cured” or “changed.”
Here are some important aspects and criticisms of conversion therapy:
- Methods: Conversion therapy can take many forms. It might involve talk therapy, behavior modification techniques, religious prayers or rituals, and even more harmful methods like aversion therapy (e.g., the use of electric shocks or inducing nausea while the person is exposed to same-sex images).
- Harmful Effects: Numerous medical, psychological, and psychiatric organizations have denounced conversion therapy, citing its potential to cause harm. These harms can include depression, anxiety, self-hatred, decreased self-esteem, increased risk of suicide, and feelings of guilt and betrayal.
- Discreditation: Many leading medical and psychological organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the World Health Organization, have stated that conversion therapy is not scientifically valid and have warned against its use.
- Legality: Due to the widely recognized harms and lack of scientific basis, many jurisdictions around the world have banned or restricted the use of conversion therapy, particularly on minors. However, the practice remains legal in many places and continues either openly or in more covert settings.
- Ethical Concerns: Beyond the potential harm to individuals, conversion therapy raises significant ethical concerns. The practice is often predicated on religious or cultural beliefs that see being LGBTQ as immoral or wrong. As such, individuals subjected to conversion therapy often experience a deep conflict between their authentic self and societal or religious expectations.
- Survivor Narratives: Many people who’ve undergone conversion therapy and later rejected its principles have shared their stories, highlighting the long-term emotional and psychological damage they experienced. These narratives have been instrumental in raising awareness about the dangers of the practice.
It’s essential to approach the topic of conversion therapy with a critical perspective, recognizing the significant body of evidence pointing to its potential harm and lack of efficacy. Individuals seeking support regarding their sexual orientation or gender identity are encouraged to seek affirming and reputable mental health resources that respect and validate their experiences.