To Whom It May Concern:
Thank you for this opportunity to offer my perspective on this critically important and timely public health issue. As a national certified counselor and LGBTQIA+ advocate/ally, I sincerely and fervently hope that Virginia will join the ranks of states banning conversion therapy.
Conversion therapy has been discredited as an effective means of "therapy." Sadly, it has been shown to have lasting harmful effects. As a counselor, my ethical and first duty is to my clients, to do no harm. Thus, this ban would prevent harm and support ethical, responsible practice statewide for vulnerable youth and marginalized adults. Perhaps this ban could be a step towards decreasing the high rates of suicide in this population. Additionally, it would send a message of support to our neighbors and loved ones, promoting safety and acceptance for all of us.
When we see our neighbors being hurt by an immoral practice by those who say they have the best interest of the client in mind, the whole profession suffers. We cannot begin to erase the stigma on mental health issues if we continue to harm clients. As professionals who lead the way in trying to offer support to our communities, it is our privilege and duty to support every member of that community, starting with those members who cannot always speak for themselves, including children and marginalized groups. Society must be responsible and outlaw any practice that harms its participants. We must make a commitment to learn from our history and past mistakes and move forward, without clinging to outdated and harmful practices. I hope to see the pain inflicted by the practice of conversion therapy to end with this legislation.
I see many parents concerned about their ability to make choices that they believe are right for their children. As a parent, I know that my one priority is to provide for and make the best choices for my child that I can. I do this by completing peer-reviewed research, consulting professionals, and, of course, listening to my son. Many professional organizations and counselors hold the consensus that conversion therapy does harm to children. Let's make the responsible decision to embrace our children as they are and provide resources and support without stigma.
All the best,