LGBT Youth CANNOT Be Forced Into Gay Conversion Therapy; NJ Gov. Chris Christie Signs Ban

Despite belief that government should 'tread lightly in this area,' Christie did what few GOP do - let science guide his decision on gay conversion therapy. Image @ Salon

Despite belief that government should ‘tread lightly in this area,’ Christie did what few GOP do – let science guide his decision on gay conversion therapy. Image @ Salon

The state of New Jersey has just become a safer place for the LGBT community: Governor Chris Christie, Republican, Catholic, and frequent poster-boy for bucking the GOP party-line, has just signed a bill to outlaw “gay conversion therapy” for minors, making New Jersey the only state besides California to do so. Which puts NJ in front of an LGBT issue that is not only fraught with controversy, but one deemed delusional at best, unsafe at worst.

To be sure, this wasn’t an unequivocal slam-dunk decision for the governor. Not only a Catholic (who believe homosexuality is a choice and a sin), but a politician who openly states his discomfort at intervening between parents and their minor children, Christie acknowledged some reluctance in signing the bill. However, that reluctance was ultimately trumped by his very un-GOP-like ability to look at the science of the matter when considering its impact on his constituents. From The Washington Post:   

Christie said months ago that, despite his personal opposition, he wasn’t sure whether the government should legislate the therapy.

“I still have those concerns,” he plans to say Monday. “Government should tread carefully into this area, and I do so here reluctantly. I have scrutinized this piece of legislation with that concern in mind.”

But, Christie will note, the American Psychological Association has said that gay conversion therapy — also known as reparative therapy — can lead to mental health issues and substance abuse.
“I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate,” Christie will say. “Based upon this analysis, I sign this bill into law.”

The American Psychological Association’s view on this so-called ‘therapy’ has actually been well-established for years, with the passing of a 1997 resolution that clearly defined their definition of this misguided attempt to alter a person’s sexual orientation as detrimental, making these four most salient points:

(Chicago, August 14, 1997). The Council of Representatives of the American Psychological Association (APA) has passed a resolution affirming four basic principles with regard to treatments to alter sexual orientation, so-called conversion or reparative therapies.

These principles are:
• Homosexuality is not a mental disorder and the APA opposes all portrayals of lesbian, gay and bisexual people as mentally ill and in need of treatment due to their sexual orientation;
• Psychologists do not knowingly participate in or condone discriminatory practices with lesbian, gay and bisexual clients;
• Psychologists respect the rights of individuals, including lesbian, gay and bisexual clients to privacy, confidentiality, self-determination and autonomy;
• Psychologists obtain appropriate informed consent to therapy in their work with lesbian, gay and bisexual clients.

The resolution further states that the APA “urges all mental health professionals to take the lead in removing the stigma of mental illness that has long been associated with homosexual orientation.”

Chris-Christie

Removing the “stigma of mental illness,” however, was a suggestion not particularly heeded in more religious, conservative quarters of American culture. In fact, as gays and lesbian became more visible in society and acceptance moved closer to the norm, those who see homosexuals as ‘sinners’ in violation of the Bible, as well as parents who deemed a homosexual child as a travesty to be corrected, turned to “gay reparation” therapies to “pray out the gay”… or any number of other methods to ‘get that demon out.’ It’s well known that Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann’s own husband, Marcus Bachmann, was behind a “Christian counseling center,” Bachmann & Associates, that was very involved in ‘curing’ patients of their homosexuality (and partly on the government’s dollar), with methods that included praying, reading Scripture and “developing masculinity” (in the case of male gays).

The APA took a more current look at these “therapies,” assembling a task force in 2007 to study these and other methods to see if there was any validity, or success, in the continuing efforts. Their findings were conclusive. From The Nation:

After spending two years sifting through the available research—it evaluated eighty-three studies dating back to 1960—the group concluded that there was scant evidence that sexual orientation could be changed. What’s more, it found that attempting to do so could cause depression and suicidal tendencies among patients. Based on these findings, in 2009 the APA voted to repudiate reparative therapy by a margin of 125 to 4.

On their current website, the Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts spells out in footnoted detail their view that homosexuality is not to be mischaracterized as an illness.

For those who might still be less inclined to agree with the APA (and now, it seems, Governor Christie), consider for a moment just a short list of some of the methods gay and lesbian “victims” have endured at the behest of families, churches and ‘mental health professionals’ in their effort to repair, fix or “heterosexualize” a gay person. Here are the bullet points of 11 Ridiculous, Strange, And Terrifying Gay Conversion Therapy Methods For ‘Curing’ Homosexuality

Bicycling: American neurologist Graeme M. Hammond suggests bicycling as a cure for homosexuality. He believed “homosexuality was rooted in nervous exhaustion and that bicycle exercise would restore health and heterosexuality.”

Exorcism: In 2009 Manifested Glory Ministries came under fire when a 20-minute video posted on YouTube showed a 16-year-old being subjected to an exorcism to “cure” him of his homosexuality.

Electroconvulsive therapy (shock therapy): Electroconvulsive therapy has long been a go-to tool for “curing” homosexuality and is still used to this day.

Prostitution: Baron Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, a German psychiatrist who practiced during the 19th century, prescribed a trip to a brothel, preceded by lots of drinking, to cure men of their homosexuality.

Hypnosis: In 1892 the German psychiatrist, Schrenck-Notzing, reported success in treating 32 cases of “sexual perversions.” Of the 32 cases, 12 were classified as “cured,” meaning “the patients were completely able to ‘combat fixed ideas [about homosexuality], deepen a sense of duty, self-control, and right-mindedness.'”

Fetal Intervention:Günther Dorner, who worked with the Institute for Experimental Endocrinology in the middle of the 20th century, believed that homosexuality is “determined by prenatal gendering of the brain caused by endocrinological disturbances.”

‘Overdosing’ On Homosexuality:In the 1960s British psychologist I. Oswald would pump a gay man full of nausea-inducing drugs before surrounding him with glasses of urine and playing audio recordings of men having sex. Oswald was attempting to “overdose” gay men on homosexuality in hopes that they would “turn to women for relief.”

Cold Showers:In June of 2011 Hong Kong reportedly hired a psychiatrist to give a government-sponsored training session on conversion therapy. Among the techniques Hong Kwai-wah suggested for “curing” homosexuality were cold showers, prayer, and abstinence.

Transplants:Eugen Steinach (1861-1944), director of the Biological Institute in Vienna, believed that homosexuality was the result of hormonal imbalances. [Beyond experiments with animals], he also transplanted testicles from heterosexual men into gay men in hopes of “remasculizing the recipient.”

Cocaine, Strychnine, Genital Mutilation: Physician Denslow Lewis believed that women brought up in wealthy 19th century homes could develop “sexual hyperesthesia [excessive sensitivity to stimuli]” and become lesbians. In order to cure these women he prescribed “cocaine solutions, saline cathartics, the surgical “liberation” of adherent clitorises, or even the administration of strychnine by hypodermic.”

Praying:“Pray the gay away!” has become the battle cry of the conversion therapy movement. From Marcus Bachmann’s alleged conversion clinic to an ex-gay iPhone app, those who believe homosexuality is not only wrong but curable rely on the power of prayer to make a miracle happen.

Anyone not beholden to religious dogma or utterly blind to the lunacy of such practices can surely see why legislation is needed to protect minors from being victimized by such methods of ‘conversion’ by misguided, panicked or punitive parents or mentors. As DOMA is struck down, ensuring marriage equality for all; as Prop 8 loses its grip in California, ensuring the same, life becomes more confusing for those who traffic in homophobia and a zealot’s belief in the sinfulness of homosexuality, as they find themselves on the wrong side of humanity… and history.

The minor citizens of New Jersey, however, will now be protected by law from the abusive nature of gay conversion therapy. Kudos to Governor Chris Christie for stepping beyond party politics to do what is right for the LGBT community in his state. May more states follow.