A Brief Look at the Dangers of Conversion Therapy

by Cristi Casella

In an effort to change the sexual orientation of someone who has expressed same-sex preferences, it was at one time a common practice to take that person to counselling sessions labelled Conversion Therapy. Sometimes referred to as Reparative Therapy, the object was to ‘restore’ them to what was understood as ‘normal’ sexual behaviour.

Rarely was conversion therapy effective in changing the person’s sexual orientation, but what is even more disturbing is the impact this type of therapeutic intervention had on the subject. Although rare, there are still practitioners who use this approach, even though literally every major medical and psychiatric authority in the world has disavowed the safety and efficacy of such practices.

First a Word on Human Rights

Before delving into the dangers of Conversion Therapy, it should be stated unequivocally that this abhorrent practice is in direct violation of our basic human rights. There are certain countries where this type of therapy is more common, and often, the quality of human rights coincides with research from SOAS University, which states that there is a correlation between the quality of human rights and levels of democracy in a country.

What they found was that even countries professing to be democracies are still opposing the rights of this segment of the population. While there ‘should’ be a direct correlation between LGBT rights and a democratic government, this is often not the case. Having said that, this is why it is vital to understand the dangers of reparative therapy.

Disturbing Statistics of Note

According to the Human Rights Campaign website, one study conducted by San Francisco State University sought to compare young people whose LBGTQ preferences were accepted by family and friends with those who were ostracised for their sexual orientation. What they discovered was alarming, to say the least. The study showed that young people rejected for their sexual orientation were:

  • Eight times more likely to have attempted or considered attempting suicide.
  • More than six times more likely to suffer depression.
  • Three times more likely to self-medicate through the use of illegal drugs.
  • Oddly, more than three times the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS

How disturbing is that? Consider for a moment what acceptance means to your son or daughter.

How Parental Attitudes Affect Their Children

While you may not embrace their choice of lifestyles, young people are highly affected by their parents’ approval or lack thereof. It is hard to imagine that any parent would subject their child to dangerous Conversion Therapy knowing that their lack of acceptance, above and beyond the questionable techniques, is likely to be a contributing factor in suicide. And, then there’s depression to consider. While a major depressive episode may not result in attempted suicide, your child cannot live a happy and fulfilling life if suffering from severe depression. Is that what you want for your child?

Well-meaning parents may still be operating under outdated understandings of sexual orientation. They don’t yet understand that it isn’t a mere matter of choice, you are looking at who they are. It is intrinsic to their biological makeup. If you can’t accept them for who they are based on gender bias, then they see that as rejecting them as a person. That is the real danger behind Conversion Therapy but when added to the highly questionable methodology of such interventions, the outcome could lead to somewhere you don’t want to go as a parent.

Now, That’s a Thought!

Maybe it’s time for parents to be repaired. Why not reparative therapy for parents? No matter who your child chooses to love, you should always know they love mom and dad as well. Don’t subject them to the dangers of Conversion Therapy – subject them to your love and acceptance. That’s what they need most of all and if you want them to be healthy, happy and whole, accept them for who they are, not for whom you’d like them to be. You can’t fix what isn’t broken, but you sure can break something which should be whole.

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