Therapy

Massachusetts Bans Conversion Therapy for LGBT Youth

Sexual orientation and gender identity conversion therapy are now illegal.

Posted Apr 12, 2019

This week, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed H.140: An Act relative to abusive practices to change sexual orientation and gender identity in minors into law, making it illegal for licensed health care professionals in the state of Massachusetts to try to change a minor's sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill had overwhelming support in both the Massachusetts House (147-8) and Senate (34-0).

Conversion therapy (also called reparative therapy) refers to any therapy with the explicit goal of changing a minor's gender identity or sexual orientation. Typically, this refers to attempts to change a person's sexual orientation to heterosexual or their gender identity to cisgender. 

Massachusetts joins fourteen other states as well as Washington D.C. in outlawing the practice. The Human Rights Campaign has created a map that can be viewed here that shows that conversion therapy bans have been signed into law mostly on the U.S. coasts. 

Attempts to change a person's sexual orientation have been shown to increase the risk of suicide attempts. In a recent study in the Journal of Homosexuality, researchers found that those whose parents tried to change their sexual orientation had a three-fold higher odds of ever having attempted suicide. Those whose parents enlisted the help of a professional to change their sexual orientation had a five-fold increased odds of having attempted suicide. 

Attempts to change a person's gender identity from transgender to cisgender have also been shown to be associated with an increased odds of having attempted suicide, as well as the odds of having had severe psychological distress in the past month. 

Political attention to the issue of conversion therapy increased when Barack Obama called for an end to conversion therapy for both gay and transgender youth in 2015, following the death of Leelah Alcorn from suicide after religious therapists tried to change her gender identity from transgender to cisgender. 

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. 

References

Turban, J. L., Beckwith, N., Reisner, S., & Keuroghlian, A. S. (2018). 4.10 Exposure to Conversion Therapy for Gender Identity is Associated With Poor Adult Mental Health Outcomes Among Transgender People in the US. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 57(10), S208.

Ryan, C., Toomey, R. B., Diaz, R. M., & Russell, S. T. (2018). Parent-Initiated Sexual Orientation Change Efforts With LGBT Adolescents: Implications for Young Adult Mental Health and Adjustment. Journal of homosexuality, 1-15.