To Whom It May Concern:
On behalf of the youth and families of Side by Side (formerly ROSMY), I write in support of Guidance Document 125-9, which would protect youth under the age of 18 from so-called “conversion therapy” in Virginia psychological practice. For over 25 years, Side by Side has provided support and mental health counseling to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth ages 11-20 in Central Virginia. We have witnessed first hand the damage “conversion therapy” has on the mental health and stability of LGBTQ+ youth.
Being LGBTQ+ is not a psychological disorder that needs to be “converted” or “changed.” This practice sends a message that there is something wrong with who LGBTQ+ youth are and that they need to be “fixed,” when in fact if they are loved and accepted they can truly flourish. Instead of offering to change someone’s sexuality or gender identity, LGBTQ+ youth should be affirmed in who they are and provided emotional peer and adult support.
Additionally, there is no credible evidence that this type of therapy works at all. Interestingly, Robert Spitzer, one of the initial leaders in “conversion therapy” has come out against the practice stating in an April 2012 letter to the editor of Archives of Sexual Behavior:
“I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of [conversion]/reparative therapy. I also apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of [conversion]/reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that [conversion]/reparative therapy works…”
Even though this form of therapy does not work and even though there is nothing wrong with a young person being LGBTQ+ or questioning their gender or sexuality; LGBTQ+ youth still face intense bullying, harassment, and even violence both at school and sometimes at home. Parents of LGBTQ+ youth may turn to “conversion therapy” as a means to stop the pain their child is enduring. They deserve to know the dangers of this practice and that it will not and cannot change their children. These parents and their children deserve to see counselors who can affirm who they are and provide the emotional support and guidance they need.
We implore you to consider adopting this ban on “conversion therapy” and ensuring LGBTQ+ youth in Virginia are protected, affirmed, and shown the love they deserve.
Side by Side, VA