Ban conversion therapy for minors in Wisconsin!

Ban conversion therapy for minors in Wisconsin!

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Stephanie Crane started this petition to Mark Rohloff

Problem Statement

Conversion therapy has been denounced by the medical and mental health fields for more than three decades, and there is a resounding lack of credible research to substantiate the practice.  These therapies are not only ineffective, but also potentially dangerous, as individuals who undergo these treatments often suffer physical and psychological consequences.  Despite these factors, these types of treatment continue to occur. While several states and local municipalities have passed legislation to protect children from these practices, many more remain without safeguards; thus, advocacy efforts will be made to garner support for a bill which would protect LGBTQ youth in Wisconsin.

Contextual Background

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) formally eliminated homosexuality as a mental illness from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, normalizing it as a part of a continuum of human sexuality which is both healthy and natural (LGBTQ Issues Committee, 2011). At the turn of the millennia, the APA also publicly opposed psychological treatment aimed at altering a person’s sexual orientation through conversion therapies, noting the absence of research to substantiate these practices (LGBTQ Issues Committee, 2011).  In fact, according to the American Counseling Association (2013), there is “no scientific evidence” that supports the efficacy of conversion or reparative therapies (para. 8). 

However, the American Counseling Association (2013) also notes that peer-reviewed studies do exist which suggest that these therapies may be incredibly harmful to those who are subjected to them.  The use of conversion therapies (which endeavor to alter a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression) involve not only ineffective, but also detrimental and destructive practices such as aversion therapy, shock therapy, hypnosis, masturbatory re-conditioning, harassment/shaming and even physical violence (NASW, 2018).  The Center for Disease Control (2017) reports that LGTBQ youth need to feel supported and safe in order to maintain good physical and mental health, and yet these tactics have been demonstrated to amplify a participant’s experience of rejection and isolation, if not jeopardize their physical safety.  Individuals who experience this lack of safety and support also suffer increased rates mental and physical health issues (NASW, 2018). 

The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that this type of “stigma, discrimination, prejudice, denial of civil and human rights, abuse, harassment, victimization, social exclusion and family rejection” contributes to minority stress which excessively impacts the LGTBQ community (2018, para. 7).  They note that this disparity contributes to disproportionately high rates of mental health issues among the LGTBQ population.  In fact, those in this demographic are three times as likely to experience Major Depression or Generalized Anxiety Disorder (NAMI, 2018).  Approximately one third of LGTBQ individuals (compared to one tenth of the general population) abuse substances (NAMI, 2018).  LGTBQ youth are four times as likely as the general population to engage in self-harm and have suicidal thoughts (NAMI, 2018).  Suicide is in fact one of the leading causes of death among this group (NAMI, 2018).  NAMI (2018) states that those who face rejection upon coming out were eight times as likely to attempt suicide as those who received support. 

Despite the general denouncement of conversion therapy, the lack of research to substantiate the practice, and the potential harm that those in conversion therapies face, homosexuality is still being forcibly (and legally) “treated” in children (NASW, 2018).  In a 2018 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA, it was estimated that, to date, almost 700,000 individuals in the US have received conversion therapy, half of which occurred in adolescence.  If safeguards are not put into place, these practices will continue to negatively impact the LGTBQ community (including and especially youth).

Advocacy Objectives

To protect LGBTQ youth from its deleterious effects, the use of reparative therapies on minors is being regulated across the nation (Miller, 2018).  USA Today reports that a record number of jurisdictions have addressed this issue recently, with fifty bills across twenty-four states supported by organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Counseling Association have aimed to outlaw the use of conversion therapies (Miller, 2018). As of May 2018, eleven states (Maryland, Connecticut, California, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington) and the District of Columbia all had laws or regulations banning conversion therapy for juveniles (Miller, 2018).  Local jurisdictions across the US have also introduced and successfully passed bans regulating the practice of conversion therapy, one of which was in the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Miller, 2018).

The Williams Institute (2018) estimates that 6,000 children have been spared these practices in the states that currently offer protections; twenty-thousand children, however, will be subjected to conversion therapy in the remaining states that do not have current legislation regarding this issue.  Following the precedents set by other states in the nation, conversion therapy for minors should be prohibited by law in the state of Wisconsin.  Wisconsin Bill 349 which was proposed to the State Assembly in the 2017/2018 session and which would have ban practitioners from utilizing these therapies with children and allow for disciplinary action by appropriate professional credentialing boards if violated was opposed (NASW, 2018).  This advocacy campaign will strive to promote education and awareness to the public as well as decision-makers in order to garner support for this bill (or other similar bills) moving forward.

Conclusion

Despite the lack of evidence to support its practice, conversion therapy remains a treatment modality which threatens the health and safety of LGBTQ youth in the state of Wisconsin.  Advocacy efforts will be developed and rendered in order to garner support for legislation banning the practice of conversion therapy for minors within the state.

0 have signed. Let’s get to 2,500!
At 2,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!