State measure would ban ‘conversion therapy’ for gay and lesbian youth

OLYMPIA — Can sexual orientation be changed? It’s a question that’s now in front of state lawmakers in Olympia, where there is move to ban “conversion therapy” for gay and lesbian youth.

“Conversion therapy” is the controversial practice of counselors trying to change the sexual orientation of their patients — patients who are often forced into therapy by their parents who want their child to be heterosexual.

No one knows how widespread the practice is in Washington. Those therapists who claim to offer this service don’t advertise widely because it is controversial. Some patients say they have put their homosexuality “behind” them through counseling, but the view held by the vast majority in the profession is that “conversion” therapy is ineffective and even harmful.

“These beliefs have long been discredited by all the major mental health organizations,” said Doug Haldeman, a clinical psychologist and member of the Washington State Psychological Association. He testified Thursday before lawmakers.

“I have never seen it work, never,” Haldeman said after the hearing. “It’s like mission impossible, and when you put a kid through that, that sense of shame and failure and depression can last a lifetime.”

State Rep.Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, is urging his colleagues to support a measure that will pave the way to banning conversation – sometimes called “reparative” therapy. “Sexual orientation change efforts are dangerous,” Liias said.

The bill creates a task force to find ways to end or at least regulate the practice when it comes to anyone under 18. The group would report to the Legislature by the end of the year.

“No one should be forcing a child to  participate in something that could be dangerous to them,” Liias said.

During nearly 30 minutes of testimony at Thursday’s hearing, no one showed up to oppose the measure.

The 15-person task force that would be created would have to make “reasonable efforts” to recruit one member who actually practices the technique to ensure that that viewpoint is represented.

California is the only state that has banned conversation therapy, but it has faced legal hurdles. It’s been put on hold by a federal court pending a full trial. The claim by those who brought the lawsuit is that it violates the rights of parents to raise their children how they want, and that it violates the rights of therapists to practice what they want.

13 comments

  • guest

    If your child is messed up, help shouldn't be against the law. It is the parents job to decide what is right for their child and nobdy elses.

    • Bucephalus

      A child should not be forced into harmful self loathing just because that child's parents are delusional enough to believe that homosexuality is "messed up" to use your words. Besides, gay conversion therapy does not work. It has never worked. It will never work. People are gay or they're not. You could no more make a gay person straight than you could make a straight person gay. It cannot be done, and it does not NEED to be done, because there is nothing bad or shameful about being gay – end of.

  • Kate

    Parents do enough to screw with their kids' heads, they should not be allowed to cause damage that could last well into adulthood if not for life.

  • guest

    my experience though admittedly limited has been that people, exposed to anything long enough begin to view it as normal. that I believe is the root of the whole gay movement.

  • Redeemed

    Same sex attraction is a deviation from the norm, thus not normal behavior. If parents want to address behavioral issues of their children that is their preoperative as parents. As long as there is no abuse in the process of addressing their concerns.

  • Redeemed

    spell checker preoperative should be prerogative…

    Same sex attraction is a deviation from the norm, thus not normal behavior. If parents want to address behavioral issues of their children that is their prerogative as parents. As long as there is no abuse in the process of addressing their concerns.

  • guest

    WA state has no business getting involved in this. How about working on something like, I don't know, stop drivers from going the wrong way on 520 and killing innocent drivers.

  • guest

    I am educated (MA in Human Development & Education), gay, and a christian. I also experienced Exodus International for two years. I can tell you that they misquoted the bible often (not just mistranslated but made things up), and practiced little to no logical psychology. The focus of my experience was inspired by a religious passion, not by the best interest of the patient.

    It boils down to the health of the youth subjected to this therapy. Conversion therapy, not adhering to standards other than their own, classifies their practice as "psychobabble."

    I appreciate the passion and concern for the individual, and I even support one's decision to become celibate, or alter sexual preferences (it is non of my business to regulate other adults). Conversion therapy however, targets children because to them they see it as the easiest time to influence the child's sexual development. This is harmful, and high suicide rates prove the danger associated with such therapies.

    I remind you all that I have experienced this. Watch "But I'm a Cheerleader." Look at YouTube. These shows seem ridiculous but I assure you they are very real. I am 26 and attended conversion therapy from 2001-2003.

    I will leave you with a few select therapies I was exposed to from the age of 14, followed by the resulting symptoms I still face today:
    – I was convinced that I had a subconscious sexual attraction to my father that I needed to suppress through masculine activities like football.
    – My mother was too dominant so I needed to distance myself.
    – I was not supposed to wear effeminate (tight) clothing or listen to broadway musicals.
    – I was not supposed to play music
    – I was supposed to get involved with sports
    – I was supposed to seek out girls and be affectionate (even physically) with them
    – My homosexuality was my alcoholism, and I received incentives the longer I stayed "celibate"
    – I suppressed my emotions with a pocket cross, by saying a prayer each time I had gay feelings.

    – To this day, I have symptoms that have been classified as PTSD
    – As a result of my PTSD, I have developed extreme OCD and Anxiety disorders
    – I have trichotillomania, which had developed around the end of my therapies at Exodus. I literally pull out my hair.
    – I attempted suicide many times, and at the age of 18 was almost successful.
    – I am very happy with who I am, and I know that God loves me. Despite all of this, I am extremely bitter and fall shy of any established religion

    Educate yourselves and proceed with caution.

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