Cincinnati, Ohio made headlines recently for becoming the first city to pass a ban on LGBT conversion therapy -- that cruel and damaging practice where religious folks try to "cure" mostly young gay and transgender people through shame, manipulation and sometimes even physical abuse.
This is great news for Cincinnatti, but it also made us wonder -- if we're resorting to banning conversion therapy on a city-by-city level, despite the fact that the White House strongly condemned the practice earlier this year -- where is this super f-cked up practice still legal and regularly taking place in the U.S.?
Unfortunately, it turns out the answer is that conversion therapy is still legal almost everywhere in the U.S.. According to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), a think tank that provides "rigorous research, insight and analysis that help speed equality for LGBT people," there are only four states where conversion therapy has been outlawed: Oregon, California, Illinois, and New Jersey -- plus D.C. and now Cincinnati. Which means that 77 percent of the LGBT population lives in states with no laws protecting LGBT youth from the potentially devastating effects of conversion therapy.
This is pretty disturbing news. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), conversion therapy "has been discredited by virtually all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations" because "people who have undergone conversion therapy have reported increased anxiety, depression, and in some cases, suicidal ideation. It can also strain family relationships, because practitioners frequently blame a parent for their child’s sexual orientation."
Cincinnati passed their ban on conversion therapy primarily in honor of Leelah Alcorn, the trans 17-year-old who wrote a heartbreaking letter begging us to "fix society" before she died of suicide in 2014. Leelah was from a small town near Cincinnati, and prior to her death, her family forced her to undergo conversion therapy, leading many, including Time magazine to finally state unequivocally that "Conversion therapy is child abuse."
It's also worth keeping in mind that 40% of homeless youth nationwide are LGBT. Many of those teens have left home because their families rejected them when they discovered their sexual orientation or gender identity. According to the advocacy organization SafeHorizon, "Every year, approximately 5,000 homeless young people will die because of assault, illness, or suicide while trying to survive."
A number of other states are currently considering legislation that would ban conversion therapy, but the process has been painfully slow, considering how damaging the practice can be for LGBT youth.
There's currently a federal bill pending (H.R.2450 - the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act) that would ban conversion therapy for all of the U.S. It was introduced in the House of Representatives in May, but hasn't had a hearing yet, so now is the perfect time to contact your state representative and urge them to support the bill when the time comes.
To learn more about how you can help further efforts to ban conversion therapy, see the National Center For Lesbian Rights' (NCLR) #BornPerfect campaign.