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Except Where Banned, Conversion Therapy Still Peddled to “Cure” LGBT

June 27, 2018 Featured No Comments
Top of the Civil Courts building in rainbow colors for PrideFest2013

I know many of you didn’t like the recent Sunday Poll, I haven’t liked hearing for decades that I wasn’t born gay — I made a lifestyle choice. The only choice I made was to recognize who I am and live my life accordingly. Coming out in Oklahoma in 1983 wasn’t easy — but it was such a huge relief.

Here’s the non-scientific poll results:

Q: Agree or disagree: People aren’t born homosexual/bisexual/transgender — that’s a lifestyle choice.

  • Strongly agree 0 [0%]
  • Agree 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat agree 1 [3.57%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree 0 [0%]
  • Disagree 4 [14.29%]
  • Strongly disagree 20 [71.43%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 3 [10.71%]

I was relieved only one answered “somewhat agree”, usually about 15% take the opposite view each week. So why did I pick this phrasing for Pride Sunday? Because many people still think those of of us who’re LGBT make a choice to be so. Look at recent news stories:

Before the Palm Beach County Commission in December passed a law banning therapists from trying to convince gay youths they can become heterosexuals, County Attorney Denise Nieman warned her bosses they were inviting a lawsuit.

Her predictions were borne out this week when a conservative Christian group sued the county and the city of Boca Raton over their separate bans on so-called conversion therapy. In the suit filed in U.S. District Court, the Liberty Counsel claims the measures unconstitutionally restrict free speech and infringe on people’s religious beliefs. (Palm Beach Post)

The Texas Republican party just adopted their platform:

As it did in 2016, the platform says the party believes in “self-sufficient families, founded on the traditional marriage of a natural man and a natural woman” and calls for the overturning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. And it repeats language from previous platforms about so-called conversion therapy: “No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to sexual orientation counseling for self-motivated youth and adults.” (Advocate)

Of course, conversion therapy and the belief it could work is nothing new:

In 1899, a German psychiatrist electrified the audience at a conference on hypnosis with a bold claim: He had turned a gay man straight.

All it took was 45 hypnosis sessions and a few trips to a brothel, Albert von Schrenck-Notzing bragged. Through hypnosis, he claimed, he had manipulated the man’s sexual impulses, diverting them from his interest in men to a lasting desire for women.

He didn’t know it, but he had just kicked off a phenomenon that would later be known as “conversion therapy”—a set of pseudoscientific techniques designed to quash LGBTQ people’s sexuality and make them conform to society’s expectations of how they should behave. Though it’s dismissed by the medical establishment today, conversion therapy was widely practiced throughout the 20th century, leaving shame, pain and self-hatred in its wake. (History.com)

More from the same article:

There were plenty of theories as to why people were homosexual. For Eugen Steinach, a pioneering Austrian endocrinologist, homosexuality was rooted in a man’s testicles. This theory led to testicle transplantation experiments in the 1920s during which gay men were castrated, then given “heterosexual” testicles.”

Others theorized that homosexuality was a psychological disorder instead. Sigmund Freud hypothesized that humans are born innately bisexual and that homosexual people become gay because of their conditioning. But though Freud emphasized that homosexuality wasn’t a disease, per se, some of his colleagues didn’t agree. They began to use new psychiatric interventions in an attempt to “cure” gay people.

Some LGBTQ people were given electroconvulsive therapy, but others were subjected to even more extreme techniques like lobotomies. Other “treatments” included shocks administered through electrodes that were implanted directly into the brain. Robert Galbraith Heath, a psychiatrist in New Orleans who pioneered the technique, used this form of brain stimulation, along with hired prostitutes and heterosexual pornography, to “change” the sexual orientation of gay men. But though Heath contended he was able to actually turn gay men straight, his work has since been challenged and criticized for its methodology.

An offshoot of these techniques was “aversion therapy,” which was founded on the premise that if LGBTQ people became disgusted by homosexuality, they would no longer experience same-sex desire. Under medical supervision, people were given chemicals that made them vomit when they, for example, looked at photos of their lovers. Others were given electrical shocks—sometimes to their genitals—while they looked at gay pornography or cross-dressed. (History.com)

The methods have changed, but the efforts to change LGBT people continue.  To counter this, Hawaii just became the 12th state to ban conversion therapy for minors. Other states are working on legislation to ban it. Religious groups that promote conversion therapy fight bans at all levels.

This is a current issue, the fight continues.

— Steve Patterson



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