UN calls for end to 'cruel' 'conversion therapy'

People walk in front of the United Nations Headquarters in New York July 31, 2008.
People walk in front of the United Nations Headquarters in New York July 31, 2008. | (Photo: REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID)

The United Nations is urging nations around the world to ban what opponents call “conversion therapy,” which involves therapy for those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction and gender confusion, saying it can amount to “torture” and “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

A U.N. report says “conversion therapy” is “an umbrella term to describe interventions of a wide-ranging nature, all of which are premised on the belief that a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity, including gender expression, can and should be changed or suppressed when they do not fall under what other actors in a given setting and time perceive as the desirable norm, in particular when the person is lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or gender diverse.”

The report, released in May, suggests that “conversion therapy constitutes cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment when it is conducted forcibly or without an individual’s consent and may amount to torture depending on the circumstances, namely the severity of physical and mental pain and suffering inflicted.”

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“All practices of ‘conversion therapy,’” it adds, “take as a point of departure the belief that sexually diverse or gender-diverse persons are somehow inferior – morally, spiritually or physically – than their heterosexual and cisgender siblings and must modify their orientation or identity to remedy that inferiority.”

The report goes on to say that “children most often undergo practices of ‘conversion therapy’ as a result of the desire of parents or guardians to have them conform to expectations, either theirs or their communities,’ regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.”

These therapies, the U.N. says, “are, in many cases, a lucrative business for providers around the world. In the United States, the cost for a single episode of ‘conversion therapy’ may range from no cost to $26,000.”

American psychological organizations have also rejected it as harmful and several left-leaning states, beginning with California, have banned it for minors.

While 20 states and the District of Columbia have passed bans on “conversion therapy” for youth, which have so far survived legal challenges, some localities that had similar measures have repealed them in light of litigation.

New York City decided last September it would move to repeal its ban on the practice following litigation brought by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of a licensed psychotherapist.

In May 2018, a small group of former LGBT individuals held a rally in Washington, D.C., to spread awareness of their community days before Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed a bill banning conversion therapy into law.

Known as The Freedom March, the event was organized by Jeffrey McCall, who formerly identified as gay and then transgender.

“This country does not give a platform to people that have come out of the LGBTQ life. They just always talk about ‘conversion therapy’ and try to make it sound like it’s all about hurting people,” explained McCall in an earlier interview with The Christian Post. “But what I want people to know is all of these stories that will be told at the Freedom March are so unique. Every single story is different but it’s completely wrapped in love.”

He further stressed, "It's not about conversion therapy. It's about following the Holy Spirit. And as I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ, I changed. My ideas of who I was changed. The Lord showed me that He created me as Jeffrey McCall and He showed me how much He loved me specifically as Jeffrey."

In an op-ed, Christopher Doyle, a political consultant with Equality And Justice For All and a licensed clinical professional counselor, argued that the media often fail to distinguish between unlicensed “pastors” operating reform schools for troubled youth, some of whom identified as gay or lesbian, and licensed therapy for youth struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions and gender confusion. He rejected unlicensed practices such as intimidation and isolation.

“In my clinical experience, I have worked with hundreds of parents and teenagers struggling with sexual and gender identity,” he wrote. “Not once have I ever allowed a parent to force or manipulate their child to change.”

Doyle added, “As a former homosexual …, I understand that same-sex attractions and gender confusion are the results of many underlying factors; and when parents heal the wounds and work through dysfunctional patterns within the family, relational and emotional healing occurs with the child. In some cases, this results in a redefinition or new understanding for the child struggling with sexual and gender issues — even a change in the way he or she identifies.”

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