Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Health Professions
Board of Counseling
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4/9/19  8:35 pm
Commenter: Erin Brewer

A Ban On Conversion Therapy Can Be Harmful

I would like an opportunity to share my concerns about conversion therapy legislation

Many people want to stop conversion therapy, if gender orientation is included in this legislation it would require doctors to affirm the mental disfunction of a child with gender dysphoria. 

LGBTQ activists insists that gender identity is fixed, that a child can be born in the wrong body, and the only treatment for this condition is to affirm the child’s gender dysphoria and support them in transitioning, first socially and then medically.

From my own personal experience with childhood gender dysphoria as well as from dozens of others who have talked publicly about their experience with gender dysphoria, I know that the activists are wrong.

As a child, I developed gender dysphoria as a result of a sexual assault in the summer prior to first grade. During first grade the school psychologist evaluated me because of my insistence that I was a boy. I am thankful the psychologist didn't recommend that my mother and teachers "affirm" my gender dysphoria. Instead, my mother and teachers were asked to provide me with positive female role models. At the time, there were not therapists who specialized in cognitive behavioral therapy or other therapeutic techniques that help resolve dysphoric and dysmorphic feelings. 

I would have benefited from what many consider conversion therapy if it was available. It took years before I met with a therapist who connected the sexual assault to my resulting gender dysphoria. 

Before getting appropriate mental health services, I developed deep seated self-hatred. I engaged in self-harm. I did everything I could to present as a boy because in my mind, I would not be vulnerable to another sexual assault if I was male. 

Sexual assault isn't the only cause of childhood gender dysphoria. 
Gender dysphoria can result when homophobic parents fear that their child is gay or lesbian and decide to transition their child so that the child will present as heterosexual. 
Gender dysphoria can result when children sense that their parents prefer the opposite gender. 

Gender dysphoria can result when a child with autism struggles with conforming to stereotypical gender roles. 

Dr. Lisa Littman recently identified another cause of gender dysphoria, rapid onset gender dysphoria (ROGD). Littman has suggested that ROGD might be the result of a social contagion. 

I have heard adolescent girls who are going through the normal struggles of accepting the discomfort of their periods being told that they are gender dysphoric and need to transition to alleviate the negative feelings they have about their periods. 

Children who are gender non-conforming are now being labeled as gender dysphoric just because they don't adhere to traditional gender stereotypes.

All of these children would be harmed if mental health providers were legally compelled to "affirm" a child’s gender dysphoria. In addition, in states that have passed similar legislation, parents are threatened with having their children removed by protective services if they don’t “affirm” their child’s gender dysphoric feelings.  Doctors are compelled to provide puberty blockers and cross-gender hormones to children as young as eight years old. Taking hormones at such a young age renders a child sterile. In addition, children’s reproductive organs start to atrophy, becoming extremely painful and have to be surgically removed. Girls as young as thirteen are getting double mastectomies to have their healthy breast tissue removed.

There is no other instance where therapists are required to affirm the magical thinking of children. There is no other instance where therapists have to affirm a child's self-hatred, disconnection and/or disassociation with their body. Requiring therapists to do so will have untold harmful effects on children for whom gender dysphoria is a symptom of an underlying issue.

I made a video about my experience with gender dysphoria, and the dangers of passing conversion therapy legislation. The link to it is:

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

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