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.
The messages from church, school and society were clear but subtle. I didn't even realize I was being brainwashed. My shame was toxic; it permeated my life and as a result caused me to feel that I was not worthy of a good life. This ended up causing me to make choices that were self-destructive and sometimes harmful to the other people in my life.
Most teens and many adults from very religious backgrounds are already confused, guilty and ashamed of themselves. These teenagers then find themselves undergoing reparative therapy without even being told it was conversion therapy. This abuse adds another layer of guilt and shame on top of the guilt and shame accumulated from growing up gay in a heterosexual and homophobic world.
The negative reinforcement of reparative therapy reinforces the belief that the patient is a bad and defective human being at his or her core. No wonder the suicide rate among this population is so high.
Opponents of California's new law against reparative therapy don't voice much concern about the teenagers and young adults they believe should be subjected to these forms of mind manipulation. Matt Staver, founder of the Liberty Counsel, one of the proponents of conversion therapy, recently stated to the press, "If the bill is signed into law, it will harm minors, undermine parental rights and interfere with the rights of counselors. Under this bill the counselor will be forced to disregard a client's religious beliefs or change them."
It sounds like Mr. Staver is concerned for the civil rights of parents, counselors and the church ... but what about the LGBT people he wishes to perpetrate this abuse on?
The American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973 and declared it a normal variant of human sexuality. They further declared that "[e]thical practitioners refrain from attempts to change individuals' sexual orientation" and expressed concern over conversion therapy and consider it "potentially harmful."