Opinion: Conversion 'therapy' a devastating practice

McMorrow

Think back to the first time you fell in love.

Not what you expected out of this op-ed? Well, stay with me.

Think back to long before you were sitting here reading this article. Back before your first job. Maybe you’ve got kids now, or maybe you’re married.

Think about the first time you looked at someone else and something stirred in you so deep that all you wanted to do was spend every moment with that person.

Remember how complicated it was? How awkward and unsure you were? Remember trying to understand these new feelings while you were also trying to figure out who you were, what you believed, where you fit in to social circles and what made you … you?

Bring yourself back to this time in your life. Now, imagine someone telling you everything you feel, believe and know to be true to your core is wrong. That you are wrong. That you are broken.

Conversion therapy is a devastating practice based on the idea that someone can be cured of their sexual orientation and converted from gay or queer into someone who is heterosexual.

But this “therapy” isn’t therapy at all.

The unequivocal consensus from the medical and mental health community — including The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists and the National Association of Social Workers — is that homosexuality is not something that can be or, more importantly, needs to be cured.

Studies show that people who have participated in such programs report higher levels of anxiety, depression, lower levels of self-esteem, and even lower levels of education and income into adulthood. Kids whose parents try to change their sexual orientation attempt suicide at more than double the rate of their LGBTQ peers. The suicide rate is nearly triple among young people who deal with intervention that includes attempted conversion.

Yet, this practice is frequently offered to children during their most vulnerable, formative years.

Sixteen states have already banned conversion therapy. New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a ban into law in 2013, and Washington’s Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee signed one in 2018.

Allowing this dangerous practice to continue sends a message to LGBTQ people that they are not welcome in Michigan. That message hurts us culturally and economically. Millennials and Gen Z are moving to places that are more welcoming and open-minded, taking their talents, skills and spending power with them.

In an op-ed last year, Michigan State University Professor Ronald Fisher detailed the harsh reality facing our state: “In 2015-16, Michigan tied for fifth-lowest among all states in the proportion of its population who are young adults age 26 to 34, the group targeted for modern skills … By contrast, Michigan ranks fifth-highest among all the states in the percentage of the population 55 years and older.”

Fisher added, “Millennials have revealed their preferences both by their choices and in surveys … Diversity is in; exclusion is out.”

Baby Boomers willsoon be retiring, if they haven’t already. Unless we have young residents who pick up where they leave off, our economic future and ability to attract new businesses looks bleak.

It’s time for Michigan to break down the partisan wall and ban this dangerous practice once and for all.

For our LBGTQ residents. For the protection of our kids, and for Michigan’s future.

About the author: Mallory McMorrow is a state senator representing Michigan’s 13th District, which covers part of Oakland County.

This guest commentary first appeared in Bridge Magazine, an online publication of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Center for Michigan.