Back in May 2017, Senate Bill 261 and Assembly Bill 349 were introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature.
These bills would ban licensed professionals from using “conversion therapy” on minors in Wisconsin. Conversion therapy is defined as “any practice by a mental health provider that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attraction or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”
Some of the strategies that are commonly used for conversion therapy include electric shocks, inducing nausea and using shame to create aversion to sexual orientations or gender identities. There have recently been serious concerns raised about such programs popping up in the Chippewa Valley.
A growing list of groups has articulated strong statements against conversion therapy: the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, American Counseling Association, American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American School Counselor Association, National Association of Social Workers, Pan American Health Association and World Health Organization.
A review was also conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It concluded that this practice “is not supported by credible evidence and has been disavowed by behavioral health experts and associations. … Most importantly, it may put young people at risk of serious harm.” That potential harm includes depression, guilt, self-hatred, substance abuse and even suicide.
This type of “therapy” has now been banned in nine states and Washington, D.C. Such bans have survived court challenges and have been affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Twenty-nine U.S. municipalities have also banned the use of conversion therapy on minors.
Now more than ever, we must send a clear message to LGBTQ youth that they are loved and supported for who they are. They don’t need to be “fixed.”
To borrow a quote from Harvey Milk, “All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.” Unfortunately, neither bill in Wisconsin has even been scheduled for a committee hearing. It is unacceptable that our state hasn’t taken action to protect LGBTQ youth from this horrific practice.
Please contact your elected officials and encourage them to support SB 261 and AB 349.
Luginbill is an Eau Claire school board member.