The Los Angeles LGBT Center participated in a roundtable discussion hosted by U.S. Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County), who is introducing legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to federally ban conversion therapy.
“If we are truly, as a community, going to thrive as healthy, equal, and complete, conversion therapy needs to stop—and it needs to stop now,” the Center’s Terra Russell-Slavin said at the roundtable, held at UCLA School of Law on June 6.
Russell-Slavin, director of policy and community building at the Center, described the practice as “barbaric and inhumane.”
“The trauma is not being LGBT, it’s being rejected and being put through conversion therapy,” Slavin said.
Lieu believes the issue can get bipartisan support in the Republican-controlled Senate “if people rise up and say this is evil and crazy wrong, they could also pass it.”
With conversion therapy already illegal in 18 states, the federal Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act would allow the Federal Trade Commission to recognize for-profit conversion therapy as a fraudulent practice and create a precedent for banning conversion therapy nationally.
Panelist Jocelyn Samuels, executive director of the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, said the number of LGBTQ people across the U.S. who have subjected to treatment is now close to 700,000. Of those, 350,000 had been subjected to it when they were adolescents.
Casey Pick of the suicide prevention organization The Trevor Project stated that LGBTQ people are eight times more likely to attempt suicide if they come from a family that rejects them.
“Some of these LGBT youth reach out because their parents are actively threatening to send them to conversion therapy,” Pick said. “Others call us because they’ve tried conversion therapy, it is not working, and feelings of isolation and failure contribute to suicidal thoughts.”
Another panelist, marriage and family therapist James Guay, is a survivor of conversion therapy and is now chairman of the National Center for Lesbian Rights’ efforts to ban it.
“The shame and rejection of self leads to anxiety, depression, addiction and suicidal ideation,” said Guay, who went through conversion therapy at age 16.
Lieu sponsored a bill to ban conversion therapy practices on minors in 2012 when he was a state senator, which then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law. California was the first state to successfully ban conversion therapy as a result of Lieu’s bill.