More than 600,000 people in the U.S. are survivors of anti-LGBTQ conversion therapy, claims a new report from UCLA’s The Williams Institute.
Researchers Christy Mallory, Taylor N.T. Brown, and Kerith J. Conron find that medical or psychological treatment intended to “cure” the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ people continues to be widespread, even despite being widely discredited.
The just-released study alleges that youth are particularly vulnerable to conversion therapy, which is also referred to as “reparative therapy” or “ex-gay therapy.” Of the 698,000 adults who have been subjected to orientation change efforts, more than halfor 350,000were adolescents during their treatment.
At the time of writing, 41 states allow conversion therapy. In these localities, the pro-LGBTQ think tank claims 20,000 youth currently between the ages of 13 and 18 years old will be forced to undergo the practice.
Across all states, 57,000 young people will be subjected to counseling from a “religious or spiritual advisor” before their 18th birthday.
Conron, a co-author of the study and research director at The Williams Institute, says in a press release that these findings are a call to arms for LGBTQ advocates to ensure that all 50 states ban the practice.
“With such a large number of teens at risk of conversion therapy,” Conron claims, “we must ensure that families, faith communities and service providers have accurate information about sexual orientation and gender identity and work to reduce stigma and promote acceptance of LGBTQ youth and their families.”
Nearly every leading medical association, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and American Psychological Association (APA), has denounced conversion therapy as both dangerous and ineffective at its intended goal.
Survivors of the anti-LGBTQ treatment are eight times more likely than the average person to attempt to take their own lives, as research from San Francisco State University has found. They are also six times more likely to experience extreme depression and three times more likely to report a history of drug use.
Christy Mallory, the state and local policy director at The Williams Institute, claims that outlawing conversion therapy could, thus, “protect tens of thousands of teens.”
This year, several states have already put forward legislation which would do just that. On Jan. 17, House Rep. Tracy McCreery (D-Olivette) introduced the first-ever proposal in Missouri to make conversion therapy illegal. Similar bills have been filed in Arizona, Virginia, and Washington.
An ordinance to outlaw the treatment of sexual orientation or gender identity as a “curable” condition passed in Broward County, Fla. earlier this month.
Although conversion therapy bills regularly stall in local legislatures due to conservative opposition, they are widely supported by members of the general public. In polls from Gravis Marketing, 71 percent of respondents in Florida and 64 percent of Virginians claimed orientation change efforts should be illegal.