California recently became the first state in the nation to ban conversion therapy for LGBT people. This good news has caused me to remember my own coming out process and how difficult that was.
I came out of the closet as a gay man when I was 36 years old. My marriage was falling apart. My failed relationship somehow gave me the permission I needed to get honest about my own sexual orientation.
While that was one of the most difficult times of my life, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for someone who has been tortured by well-meaning religious zealots and Christian counselors who have subjected them to electrical shocks just for getting aroused by a picture of an attractive person of the same sex.
Electroshock therapy is one form of negative reinforcement commonly used in reparative therapy. Small acupuncture needles are inserted in the hands and electrodes, connected to a generator, are hooked to the needles. Other aversive treatments include electric shock to the genitals, nausea-inducing drugs and tying the patient's hands down with blocks of ice on them while forcing to patient to watch presentations of homoerotic stimuli.
There is also masturbatory reconditioning, visualizations, social skills training, psychoanalytic therapy and spiritual interventions, like prayer and peer pressure. All of these have been used in an attempt to stop this so-called "gay epidemic."
These tortures are the behavioral equivalent of spanking a child for wetting her pants before the child is potty trained. You are punishing that child for doing a normal and natural biological act. Any competent child psychologist would tell you how damaging this is to a child's development and that there are long-term consequences that result from such treatment.
If that isn't enough, the Brisbane Times recently reported that Exodus Global Alliance, an anti-gay group, relies on "exorcisms, hugging, behavioral management and [forced] marriage," to treat homosexuality. If these types of practices were performed on any other group of people, there would be loud hue and cry about civil rights issues, discrimination and torture.
More about attraction from YourTango Experts:
- The 4 Types Of Attraction
- Survey: 90% Of Americans Believe Attraction Can Be Rekindled
- The Scent of Attraction
Society doesn't approve of homeless people being put away just because we don't like them or of doctors giving syphilis to poor black men just to see what happens or lobotomies to the mentally ill. Yet our society has been strangely quiet on this issue until Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill banning this type of torture into law in California.
My own shame kept me from coming out, even to myself. I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family pre-Internet. There was no reference for living a healthy gay lifestyle; it wasn't even portrayed in the movies. Yet I somehow knew that being gay was not okay, even though it was never discussed.