|Action||Unprofessional conduct - conversion therapy|
|Comment Period||Ends 9/30/2020|
On behalf of the youth and families of Side by Side (formerly ROSMY), I write in support of protecting youth under the age of 18 from so-called “conversion therapy” in Virginia. 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.
Ted Lewis, Executive Director
Side by Side, VA
As a pediatrician, I am concerned that children who are questioning not only sexuality, but basic identity (who am I, do I have purpose, do I matter), be able to have a conversation where they can voice being uncomfortable with same sex attraction or transgender feelings without a practitioner feeling as if their sole recourse is to affirm the discomfort as inevitable. These questions and struggles are common among adolescents and require restrained listening and support for the child without channeling and promoting decisions that the child may come to renounce.
I am particularly concerned about what I perceive in our media culture as a rush to affirm gender confusion and the medical interventions that can follow when the vast majority of children with gender confusion reconcile with there natural gender by the time they approach adulthood. Adult decisions about medical therapies and surgeries to alter sexual phenotypes are serious and permanent. I would rather see a medical system that shows excessive restraint in pursuing these modalities until the child is the adult who can appropriately own the consequences.
I want to be able to affirm my patient's humanity and worth above and beyond their questions of sexuality as the former well informs the latter. The converse is never true. Trying to base an identity on sexual attractions and preference is fraught with peril as the data for depression and suicide among those who identify as LBGTQ seems to demonstrate.