Washington is The Latest State to Ban Gay Conversion Therapy for LGBTQ Children

Posted on: March 30, 2018, by :

By Amy Foxworthy

Washington just became the latest state to ban the abusive practice of conversion therapy for LGBTQ minors.

This means, no licensed healthcare provider can perform conversion therapy on anyone under 18 without legal consequence.  Ten other states and the District of Columbia currently offer some sort of similar protections.

Maryland passed a bill through their State Senate last week, but the legislation has yet to pass the full general assembly.  New York does not currently offer a full ban, but discourages conversion therapy and bans health insurance companies from covering it for minors.  Indiana currently has no law on the books concerning conversion therapy for minors.

Historically in this country, people could be involuntarily committed by their families to psychiatric facilities for being Homosexual.  Once institutionalized, “conversion therapy,” consisting of castration, aversion therapy, being forced to take nausea inducing medication while being exposed to homosexual images, and electroshock therapy, where the purpose was to cause pain associated with homosexual images. Even lobotomies that left patients severely and permanently disabled were performed.  Then, researchers discovered that homosexuality occurs naturally in many animals and it was not a form of psychosis.   It was not until 1987 that homosexuality was removed from the DSM (Mental Health Textbook).  As a result, a split in the psychology community occurred, with some groups advocating to continue to classify homosexuality as a mental disorder. This splintered faction of the psychological community began advocating for conversion therapy.

Opponents of bans on conversion therapy argue it is a violation of free speech and that government has no business telling parents what treatment to provide for their kids.

Legitimate and respected organizations such as the American Psychological Association, The American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Medical Association all oppose gay conversion therapy and dismiss it as ineffective.  According to The Trevor Project, conversion therapy can increase the risk of suicide for young members of the LGBTQ community.

I recently had the privilege to discuss this issue with teenage members of the Central Indiana LGBTQ community and asked them to share a few thoughts on the matter.

When asked for general reactions from them on the concept of conversion therapy, Kadence stated, “In this generation, a lot of the population are accepting compared to 10, 20 or 30 years ago, and people’s beliefs are changing every day.  So when a parent forces their child to go through abusive ‘treatments,’ and tells them they are awful for being who they are, then the parents have failed their child.  They aren’t helping the child in any way, shape, or form and they shouldn’t have children if they can’t accept the fact that their child can be gay, bi, etc.”

Another student, Willow, said, “I am just surprised that it took this long to have any real law against conversion therapy.  And I am still baffled about how it was seen, and is seen, as humane.  I understand practicing religion and having your own interpretation of the Bible, but to extend your beliefs outside of yourself and to the point that it is mentally damaging to another person is impossible for me to understand.  If a therapist was forcing a child to be gay, people would start complaining.”

Jaylynne was direct and poignant, “It’s borderline abuse.  If you’re trying to hurt your children into being an entirely different person, then you shouldn’t have rights to that child anymore.”

When asked, “How would you feel or react if your parents told you they were forcing you to attend conversion therapy?”

“I would be disappointed in my parents. If today’s society has taught us anything it is that homosexuality is natural and ok.  If my father disrespected my right to be attracted to whomever I chose, I would question if he really loved or cared for me.  If he did, he would be able to look past my sexuality and still be a father to me, even If there are a few rough spots trying to figure things out.  I would want him to try to understand, at least, which seems next to impossible.  Yet, if he tried to take an easy way out, I don’t think I’d ever forgive him, because something like that I’m not sure can be forgiven.” – Kadence

“I think I would feel betrayed because it would not be like them making you play a sport after school that you will forget in ten years.  It would be something that would change and manipulate your brain…and it would probably morph into a fear rather than a dent in a made-up problem.  If my parents did that to me…I would most likely not have emotions attached to them and definitely would not view them the same.  A parent is supposed to lead and teach kids to the past they best see fit.  Not shove it down their throats.” – Willow

Conversion therapy sends the message to kids that there is something wrong with who they are.  According to the Olympia Dispatch, proponents of the ban know patients who have been subjected to methods that included nausea and vomiting, days-long ice baths, and rocks placed in one’s shoes. Reverend Manny Santiago, a pastor at the University Baptist Church in Seattle, in a 2014 public testimony said conversion therapy as an adolescent drove him to consider suicide and ‘left me with deep wounds that are still heeling.’”

Given that Indiana is a state that refuses to even pass a hate crime bill to protect basic civil rights of minorities and LGBTQ individuals, it is highly unlikely that we would propose a conversion therapy ban, but it is reassuring knowing that at least some other states in the nation are taking measures to protect our youth and vulnerable populations.  While Hoosiers currently have no federal or state ban enacted, let’s still be the best and most supportive parents we can be, care for our kids, and teach them that there is nothing wrong with them and that regardless of who they might love, that we will always love them.


Amy Foxworthy is an Indianapolis-based writer concerned with cultural, civil rights, and social justice issues.


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