Tuesday, 4 December 2012

California's Ban On Ex-Gay Therapy For Teenagers

In September, California's Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 1172 which banned ex-gay therapy for minors within the state. A laudable goal indeed. Regardless of ones views on the success, legitimacy or rights to exist of reparative therapy, there is just something rather disturbing about parents sending their kids to such therapists just because of who their children find attractive.

Whilst I will happily support the rights (on libertarian grounds) of LGBT people who freely seek to "change" or "control" their sexuality, I am personally deeply opposed to parents sending their children to such programmes or pressuring their kids into "volunteering" for them. These places have a history of sexual abuse against clients and a very low "success" rate (I'd argue nearly zero but that is just based on my own bias).

However I find attempts to legislate against it bizarre, simply because of the inconsistency. There are plenty of other forms of "therapy" that aren't just useless but harmful. Homeopathy, for example, has zero effect beyond a placebo and can cause real treatment to be delayed. Of course this only manifests itself on the public stage in those truly severe cases where a child actually dies, but I'm sure that parents who use homoepathy on their children are extending (if not worsening) suffering for minor ailments quite unnecessarily.

Or take "sex addiction" therapy. Is sending your heterosexual son off to "sex addiction" therapy because he likes to look at porn, jerk off or some other minor teenage transgression really "effective"? I doubt it. But I suspect plenty of Christian parents do send their children off to such, often Christian led, therapy or prayer sessions.

Why are LGBT kids more worthy of protection from heartless (and often stupid) parents than any other? The inconsistency is not lost on ex-gay proponents. Joshua Johanson, poster child for the Mormon ex-gay community, makes the point on "sex addiction" in this podcast. By banning ex-gay therapy for minors but ignoring other harmful therapies, we end up making such people look like martyrs.

Now I'm sure many who have fought for this ban are also opposed to the other forms of "therapy" highlighted above (along with many others!). They'd probably happily agree this is only a partial success. But sadly it may also be an illusionary one. A court is currently considering a legal challenge to the ban and has temporarily overturned it for those "therapists" leading the challenge. It will be remarkably easy for them to fight this ban as there still hasn't been sufficient academic study highlighting the harms of this therapy and this LGBT only approach allows them to claim religious persecution.

The lesson here may be pursue a broader protection for kids from their parent's stupid healthcare decisions (a tricky subject all round of course!) and creating a stronger body of evidence showing exactly how harmful these therapies can be. I must make it clear, I really am opposed to ex-gay therapy for kids. I just do not see how legislating for it alone helps protect them from it forever.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

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