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Protect LGBT Youth from Conversion Efforts and Secure Basic Civil Rights for Transgender New Yorkers

This petition had 12,338 supporters


"The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights.”

These were among the last words of 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn, who tragically ended her own life just before the New Year. In a public suicide note, Leelah painted a picture of isolation and hopelessness, explaining that after she came out to her parents as a transgender girl at age 14, she was told she was “wrong,” and forced into conversion therapy in an attempt to keep her from growing into the person she was meant to be.

In remembrance of Leelah and the many young transgender, lesbian, gay and bisexual New Yorkers who may have been subjected to the damaging and discredited practice known as conversion or reparative therapy, as well as the many transgender New Yorkers who continue to experience discrimination and prejudice because New York lacks basic civil rights protections, we call upon Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and the entire New York State Legislature and Governor Cuomo to swiftly pass two bills: (A4958/S121) to stop state licensed therapists from harming our youth through conversion efforts, and the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) (A4558/S61) to protect transgender New Yorkers from discrimination.

Every major medical and mental health professional association, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, has condemned conversion therapy, citing not only its many negative effects, including anxiety, depression and suicide, and also the fact that efforts to change a person’s innate gender identity or sexual orientation simply do not work. Survivors of conversion therapy have reported being subjected to a range of heinous practices including isolation from friends or family members; harsh punishment of “gender inappropriate” actions, such as playing with the “wrong” toys; inducing nausea, vomiting, or paralysis while showing the minor images that would otherwise be affirming of their gender identity or sexual orientation; shock therapy; and many other tactics that cause these children to feel shame, guilt, and even physical pain for embracing or expressing who they truly are. Many parents who bring their children to practitioners of conversion therapy have no idea that it is dangerous, discredited, and ineffective – they simply want to help their children and believe that a state licensed therapist would never be permitted to engage in practices deemed to be harmful or even torturous.

Yet in New York, mental health professionals licensed by the state are still allowed to engage in this quack, life-threatening practice.

Affirming therapy has been proven to help LGBT young people navigate the process of discovering their gender identities and sexual orientations. LGBT youth that grow up in homes with supportive parents, schools and friends and have access to affirming therapy are more likely to grow into happy, healthy, productive members of society. 

All LGBT youth face considerable challenges in a world that is not yet fully accepting, but transgender youth are uniquely vulnerable, with 75% of transgender students reporting harassment at school, and 35% reporting physical assault. As they seek to grow and become members of society, they face persistent discrimination – 20% of transgender New Yorkers have been fired from their job, 37% not hired because of their gender identity; 19% have been denied a home or apartment, and 18% have become homeless at least once; 53% had been harassed or refused service in a place of public accommodation like a restaurant or movie theater; 17% had been denied medical care.

It is still legal to discriminate against someone simply for being transgender in New York.

Under the leadership of Assembly Member Deborah Glick, the Pride Agenda helped pass the bill to protect LGBT youth from conversion therapy through the State Assembly in 2015 with signification bipartisan support. Under the leadership of Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, the Pride Agenda has also helped to pass GENDA through the State Assembly – eight years in a row. Governor Cuomo has voiced his support for both bills and for the need to protect our youth and transgender New Yorkers.

The New York State Senate has consistently failed to bring either bill to the floor for a vote.

Because of parental rejection, social stigma, widespread discrimination, and lack of access to proper mental and health care, more than 30% of LGBT youth have attempted suicide in the past year. For transgender youth, the numbers are even worse – over 50% will have attempted suicide by the time they are 20 years old. This is an epidemic, and we have the power to end it – by making sure no LGBT youth is made to feel as if they are broken simply for being who they are. That means protecting vulnerable youth from dangerous conversion therapy. And it means ensuring that all youth have a chance to grow up in a society that regards them as equal.

California, New Jersey and Washington D.C. have already passed laws prohibiting conversion therapy. These states, plus sixteen others, as well as Puerto Rico, have also passed laws protecting residents from discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

It’s time New York steps up and preserves its reputation as a state that protects its young people from harm. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and the New York State Senate have the power to save the lives of our kids this year.

Please consider sharing and signing this petition. Together we can make New York a safer place for LGBT youth.

“My death needs to mean something,” Leelah said in her note. “Fix society. Please.”



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