This week, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy (D) signed HB6695 into law, making it illegal for licensed mental health professionals in the state of Connecticut to practice conversion therapy for LGBT youth. The bill passed a unanimous vote in the Connecticut Senate.
Conversion therapy (also called reparative therapy) refers to any attempt to change a youth's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The bill makes Connecticut the eighth US state to take action against conversion therapy, joining the company of California, The District of Columbia, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Illinois, Oregon, and Vermont.
Political attention to conversion therapy increased in 2015, when 17-year-old transgender girl Leelah Alcorn tragically ended her life by jumping in front of a tractor-trailer near her home in Kings Mills, Ohio. It was later found that she wrote an online suicide note, explaining that religious therapists had been trying to convert her to being cisgender through "conversion therapies."
Soon after the incident, Barack Obama called for an end to conversion therapy for both gay and transgender youth.
Public hearing testimony for the Connecticut bill included statements by two pediatric gender identity experts from Yale School of Medicine. Dr. Christy Olezeski, director of the Yale Pediatric Gender Program, further explained the dangers of conversion therapy and lack of affirmation for LGBT minors:
"Lack of affirmation (i.e. acceptance of who they are) can lead to an increase in depression, anxiety, body image issues, PTSD, substance use difficulties, and suicidal thoughts. Rates of attempted suicide are particularly high in the transgender and gender variant population, ranging from 20-30% of youth attempting suicide under the age of 18, to 40% of individuals over 18, in contrast to 4.6% of the adult population."
Joining Dr. Olezeski in her support of the bill was Yale pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Susan Boulware, who explained that "conversion therapy programs have caused great harm to thousands of people."
The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Medical Association, The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, The American Psychiatric Association, among others have labeled conversion therapy dangerous and unethical. The practice has been repeatedly shown to be ineffective, and non-acceptance of a youth’s sexual orientation or gender identity dramatically increases the risk of mental health problems.
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