COLUMBUS – It’s been 10 months since an Ohio transgender girl took her own life after undergoing conversion therapy, and evidence is building against the use of the controversial practice.
The story of Leelah Alcorn went viral, drawing attention to the dangers of the mental health practice designed to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
President Barack Obama called for a ban on the practice earlier this year, and a government report released last week similarly determined conversion therapy should not be used on children or young adults.
According to Grant Stancliff with Equality Ohio, the practice can cause serious psychological harm.
“We have seen nothing but bad outcomes from this type of therapy,” he says. “I can’t think of a single incident where somebody has come out more psychologically sound with better health outcomes as a result of this therapy.”
The findings from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration concluded the practice is not effective because it is based on a false premise that there is something wrong with being gay or lesbian. In Ohio, Senate Bill 74 would prohibit mental health professionals from using conversion therapy when treating minors.
While struggling with his sexual orientation over a decade ago, Josh Holbertson of Westerville underwent a faith-based experience similar to conversion therapy – but says he realized he couldn’t continue down a path of denying a basic part of his identity.
“It’s the inauthenticity piece that really strikes me,” he says. “People need to be encouraged to be whole and authentic as they are, and not asked to sever a piece of themselves or deny a piece of themselves in order to conform with mainstream society.”
According to 2012 findings from the American Psychological Association, people seldom switch sexual orientation even after years of conversion therapy.