News about conversion therapy is normally super depressing. But this time it's something worth celebrating.
Conversion therapy, which falsely claims to be able to "fix" LGBT youth by "converting" them into straight, gender-conforming citizens, has been widely disavowed as harmful by medical professionals -- but it's unfortunately still legal in most of the U.S. and Canada. Thankfully, though, a prominent Canadian clinic offering anti-trans "therapy" for youth and families is closing its doors.
According to a report from ThinkProgress, the Child, Youth, and Family Gender Identity Clinic (GIC) at Ontario's Center for Addiction And Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto has spent over 30 years subjecting kids to things like "play therapy in which they were forced to play with gender-conforming toys," in an effort to "correct" their gender non-conforming behavior.
Earlier this year, an independent review of the clinic was launched because community partners expressed concerns over their techniques. The investigation uncovered that, as per usual with conversion therapy, the practices at GIC relied heavily on shaming trans and gender-nonconforming kids and teens about their gender variance, noting that patients reported being openly mocked by clinicians and told things like, "You're too smart to be trans" by clinic head Dr. Kenneth Zucker -- who is now no longer working at CAMH.
“This report is damning, and long overdue,” trans equality advocate Brynn Tannehill told ThinkProgress. “The transgender community has been saying the same things the report concluded for over a decade. Given the unethical, unscientific, and damaging nature of the work done at CAMH and revealed by this report, the research done there by Dr. Zucker and his cohorts there will be relegated to the dustbin of junk science, where it should have been all along.”
Disturbingly, many conversion therapy clinics in Canada retain non-profit status because they're run by religious organizations -- meaning they're tax exempt. A few non-profit organizations in the U.S. offering conversion therapy servies have lost their tax-exempt status, but many of the religious organizations offering such "services" still retain their legal non-profit status here, too.
Conversion therapy was banned in Ontario in June of this year, joining Manitoba to become the second Canadian province to ban the practice (which is currently banned in only four U.S. states). The independent report on GIC stated, “We cannot state that the clinic does not practice reparative approaches (if not outright therapies) with respect to influencing gender identity development," which probably has something to do with the fact that the clinic announced it would be shutting down within a few weeks the report coming out.
CAMH, which is the largest mental health organization in Canada, has at least been admirably transparent about the failures of their gender identity clinic. After making the results of the independent investigation publicly available, they also issued an apology and have promised to change their model to match current standards of care and "make a positive contribution going forward" by encouraging parents to support and accept trans and gender-nonconforming children.
We can only hope this change signals the beginning of the end for the other conversion therapy organizations still peddling the dangerous and ineffective practice in the U.S. and Canada. Then we can really celebrate.