‘Gay conversion therapy’ challenged by Rep. Sims and Sen. Williams at the Attic Youth Center
During a press conference at the Attic, an LGBT youth center in Center City, state Rep. Brian Sims and state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams stressed the importance of passing a ban on “gay conversion therapy” in the state of Pennsylvania—and noted that it can and should be done during this session of the Legislature, with this governor.
“This is quack science,” said Sims, a Democrat from Philadelphia and the first openly-gay legislator elected in Pennsylvania history.
“When you talk about this type of therapy, it is very, very, very aggressive in nature. That’s why it’s been outlawed in two states,” said Williams, a Philadelphia Democrat who also related the LGBT struggle to that of civil rights. “This is not simply a preacher sitting down with a son or daughter and talking about perspectives, because they would be allowed to do such … But what they will no longer be able to do is go out and hire someone who will physically intimidate their child, torture their child, punish their child and do it with the sanction of the state.”
Gay conversion therapy is a broad term for a discredited treatment which seeks to “cure the gay” out of minors whose parents believe they may be struggling with sexual orientation or gender identity. The practice treats these traits of one’s life as a disease, even though it has not been labeled as such by the American Psychological Association since 1973.
In 2009, an APA task force looked into conversion therapy and found, in the vast majority of cases, there was little to no evidence to back up anyone being “cured” of their attractions or identity issues.
“These studies show that enduring change to an individual’s sexual orientation is uncommon,” the task force wrote in their 2009 report. The participants continued to report same-sex attractions after the conversion therapy, weren’t more attracted to the opposite sex afterwards and, it was found, the therapy could be harmful to the patient.
This is all pretty much well documented and well known at this point. New Jersey and California recently became the first states to ban the practice.
As we’ve written in the past, Sims noted well before being inaugurated that he’d planned on introducing a ban on such therapies in Pennsylvania.
LGBT youth, noted Williams at the press conference, “suffer in a multitude of states across this country. Pennsylvania should be third in line to outlaw this kind of behavior.”
Williams introduced the Senate version of the bill in April 2013. Sims’ bill will likely be introduced, with Rep. Gerald Mullery (D-Luzerne) as a co-sponsor, after the Legislature comes back into session next week.
The general means of banning the therapy and enforcing that is not yet set in stone. What the final House bill will do, however, is make sure those caught practicing conversion therapy to young adults or teens are punished.
Many gay conversion centers are unlicensed, and, therefore, difficult to track.
“This is about making sure that a medical practitioner … isn’t saying to a parent, ‘Hey, it sounds like you may be dealing with issues of your daughter being a lesbian. We can fix that,” said Sims.
He additionally noted that many reparative therapy spots don’t necessarily advertise as such. But those who attempt to “cure the gay” are already medically-licensed practitioners who may make a deal with parents on the side.
Diane Gramley, the head of the Pennsylvania American Family Association, has told Philadelphia Weekly that gay conversion therapy, sometimes called “reparative therapy,” not only works, but that she knows “a number of ex-gays.”
“The truth is, the more we talk about it, the more people will become educated about it,” said Williams. “We want to make sure we move minds through an educated process.”
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