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City Council Holds Hearing on Conversion Therapy

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega City Council Holds Hearing on Conversion TherapyConversion therapy survivor Jody Davis testifying at City Council's public hearing.
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Columbus City Council is considering a citywide ban on conversion therapy for minors, making Columbus the third city in Ohio to take local action against the practice. Council held a public hearing last night to hear public and professional testimony against conversion, or “reparative,” therapy, a practice used by mental health professionals intended to change an LGBTQ-identifying individual into a straight or cisgendered person.

“Conversion therapy is self-hate therapy,” said Jody Davis, a transgender woman and survivor of the practice.

Davis’ counselors told her that her crossdressing was a sin, temptation and perversion, and that she was a sex addict. She was told to replace her “habit” with fasting and prayer, and to wear rubber bands around her wrists that she could snap herself with whenever she had thoughts or behaviors that were considered effeminate.

“It was based in this idea that there’s a part of me that’s disordered, that’s wrong,” she said. “Those things don’t work.”

The statistics agree with Davis. There’s a severe lack of empirical evidence supporting the effectiveness of conversion therapy — it doesn’t work. At the same time exists prolific evidence for the damaging impacts it has on LGBTQ youth, which include “anxiety, depression, avoidance of intimacy, sexual dysfunction, PTSD, loss of self-confidence and self-efficacy, shame/guilt, self-destructive behavior, and suicidality,” according to the position statement from the International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses (ISPN).

Ohioan Leelah Alcorn, from Cincinnati, is a well known local example of the danger of submitting minors to conversion therapy. The teen stepped in front of a truck in December of 2015 after several years of familial tension surrounding her gender nonconformity. In her suicide note, set to publish automatically after her death, she blamed the lack of support from family and friends, as well as the biased Christian therapists her parents sent her to.

“Fix Society. Please,” her note concluded.

Further public testimony revealed both the flaws in conversion therapy as well as the positive impact of affirmative therapy. One speaker said if he’d gone through conversion therapy, rather than received the continued support and encouragement throughout his life, he would probably be dead himself.

“A practice like conversion therapy certainly has no place in our community,” said City Council President Zach Klein.

The proposed ban would make the practice of conversion therapy an unclassified misdemeanor, punishable by a minimum $500 (maximum $1,000) fine and up to one year in jail. Its language specifically targets individuals registered, certified and licensed in the state of Ohio, and excludes religious institutions, unless the counselor is a licensed medical professional.

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