On Friday, White House Officials held a question and answer session about its support for a nationwide ban on “conversion therapy” also known as restorative therapy. As the name suggests, this is a range of techniques aimed at changing someone’s sexual orientation – often with tragic and destructive results. Typically children and young adults are forced into this “therapy” by their often conservative “Christian” parents.
There were three White House Officials on hand to answer questions. Valerie Jarret, Senior Advisor to the President and the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.
A major objective of the Q&A was to correct misconceptions about the LGBTQ community and the violent consequences that come from those misconceptions.
witchxwood: what are your plans on helping the transgender community? since a lot of violence seems to be directed towards them, with trans women of colour being the majority of that!
Surgeon General: Being gay is not a disorder. Being transgender is not a malady that requires a cure. If I had been Leelah Alcorn’s physician, that’s exactly what I would have told her. My plan on helping transgender people – including transgender people of color – is to raise awareness about our opposition to conversion therapy and encourage health care professionals to do our part to educate parents and children confronting these issues.
Several questioners asked specifically a nation-wide ban on Conversion Therapy.
fancyduckie : Can we please make conversion therapy illegal at the federal level? States that still think that this is a good idea/legitimate form of therapy will not change their laws just because the President said it should be so. You should also note that this type of “therapy” INCREASES risk of suicide and other mental health issues, which is already alarmingly high among LGBTQ+ youth. Without a federally mandated law, you’re leaving kids in red states behind, and some won’t make it out alive.
Surgeon General: thanks for your question. This is an issue that is personal to me. When I was young, I lost an uncle to suicide because of an untreated mental illness. One of my priorities over the next four years is to bring a greater focus on mental health and emotional well-being. My predecessor, Dr. David Satcher, issued the first Surgeon General’s report on mental health in 1999. We need to advance that work and I am committed to doing so over the next four years while I am in office.
In response to a question by heyimblu, the Surgeon General talked about the importance of education people about the dangers of “conversion therapy.” Not only is it cruel and based on debunked science, it is dangerous. The Surgeon General rightly pointed out that the key to addressing the LGBTQ community is education.
What steps will you be taking to ensure this cruel practice ends? Do you think other laws will be created to help other people in the lgbt+ community? This law bans conversion therapy on minors, but what about adults? Just because they are legally adults doesn’t mean those kind of people will stop trying to convert them in forceful manners.
Surgeon General: the key here – whether we’re talking about parents and their children or about adults – is EDUCATION. As America’s Doctor, my job is to help raise awareness about sound medical practices and the steps we can take together to improve America’s health. Conversion therapy is NOT sound medical practice. Moreover, we all need to work together to build greater understanding and acceptance throughout our society. Doctors can and should be part of that effort.
At another point during the discussion, Valerie Jarret pointed to the several states that have passed or in the process of passing bans on conversion therapy.
A national ban would require legislation from Congress. In the meantime, we’re encouraging actions in the states. California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia have all banned licensed professionals from using conversion therapy on minors. Since last year, lawmakers in 18 other states have introduced similar legislation. We think action in the states is the best route to progress on this issue.
One could not witness this discussion without seeing the pain and suffering experienced by members of the LGBTQ community AND their appreciation for this President as the first President to do something supportive for the LGBTQ community. Several participants said thank you, as reflected in this exchange between jorjor08 and the Surgeon-General.
(1/2) I don’t have a question so much as a thank you. A thank you to the one president who was willing to be a voice for LGBT+ individuals. I have spent the better part of the past 6 years that President Obama has been in office doing exactly what the quote posted on Tumblr described. In the past 2 years however, I have come to an acceptance of myself and come out to my family and friends. While some reacted to the news better than others, every day it gets better.
Surgeon General: Thank YOU for your comment and for your courage in learning to accept yourself. You know, in her suicide note, Leelah Alcorn wrote, ”People say ’it gets better’ but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.” Here’s the thing you and I know. It DOES get better… but only if we all work together to MAKE it better. That takes families and community leaders. It takes elected officials and health professionals. And, it take you. By coming out to your family and friends, you are changing America for the better. So, seriously. Thank you.
This Q&A is the latest step in the White House’s effort to raise awareness about the issues facing young people and adults in the LGBTQ community.
Earlier this week, the White House responded to a petition calling for a nation wide ban on conversion therapy under the proposed name of Leelah’s law, name for 17-year-old Leelah Alcolrn.).
The response began with President Obama’s statement of support for a nationwide ban on conversion therapy.
“Tonight, somewhere in America, a young person, let’s say a young man, will struggle to fall to sleep, wrestling alone with a secret he’s held as long as he can remember. Soon, perhaps, he will decide it’s time to let that secret out. What happens next depends on him, his family, as well as his friends and his teachers and his community. But it also depends on us — on the kind of society we engender, the kind of future we build.”
You can read Valerie Jarret’s full response to the petition here.
Leelah’s parents put her in conversion therapy with the hope, as other parents, that she would be converted from transgender to a heterosexual. Leelah posted a suicide not on Tumblr explaining how her parents pulled her out of school, isolated her and forced her to undergo conversion therapy because they hoped this would change her gender identity. After posting that note, the seventeen year old transgender walked in front of a semi-truck, ending her life.
This “therapy” has had similar consequences for countless other young people because their parents believed that unconventional gender identities are a choice, rather than something their children were born with. They believed that brainwashing the gay a way is the answer. This craziness has to stop because it takes a myth, applies pseudo-science and in the end, does serious harm to young people, forced by their parents, to undergo it. It has to stop.
You can read the full discussion at the White House’s Official Tumblr Account here.