California’s attempt to halt reparative therapy for queer youth under the age of 18 is noble and important. But this attempt to stop reparative therapy doesn’t go far enough. It should be illegal for reparative therapy to be offered at any age.
And what about the non-professionals who offer variations on reparative therapy? The bill does nothing to stop them. Religious advisers and homophobic cults have long made attempts to alter some people’s sexual preferences. These approaches may not call themselves reparative therapy, but they amount to the same thing.
Should it be legal for anyone at any time to offer reparative therapy or anything similar? One group, the Aesthetic Realists, have been attempting such changes since the 1940s (with their most intensive attempts at a kind of reparative therapy in the 70s and 80s). They’ve written books and published advertisements about their program. They claim on one of their websites that they have succeeded in “changing” homosexuality. And they claim they only did this for queers who “wanted” to become heterosexual.
Why any organization should be permitted to play into people’s internalized homophobia is beyond comprehension. Many public health organizations, including the World Health Organization, decry reparative therapy. Mental health experts say reparative therapy causes great psychological damage.
Some religious cults have gone so far as to perform exorcisms on queer youth! This takes reparative therapy beyond the fringes of surrealism. Can you imagine the damage done to anyone who has undergone this process?
Under California’s proposed Bill Number SB-1172, “…any sexual orientation change efforts attempted on a patient under 18 years of age by a mental health provider shall be considered unprofessional conduct and shall subject the provider to discipline by the provider’s licensing entity.”
It’s a good beginning, a good attempt to eliminate reparative therapy. But we’ve also got to eradicate this faux-scientific scourge from all populations at any age and in any location. And we’ve got to go after the “under-the-radar” attempts at reparative therapy, too. Licensed professionals are not alone in their attempts to conduct reparative therapy. As lawmakers construct new laws around the country (hopefully) they must consider the broad range of harmful practices that attempt to alter sexual orientation.
Reparative therapy in all its forms and under all its names must vanish from our lives.
Hal W. Lanse, PhD is the author of the upcoming book ERASING REASON: INSIDE AESTHETIC REALISM – A CULT THAT TRIED TO TURN QUEER PEOPLE STRAIGHT (Queer Street Books, Inc., November 2012).