MICHIGAN—Legislation in Michigan to ban mental health professionals from performing conversion therapy on minors under penalty of losing their licenses will be introduced this week.
Conversion therapy, the practice of intervening to alter an individual’s gender expression or sexuality to conform to heterosexuality, involves psychologically damaging processes, bill sponsor Rep. Jason Hoskins (D-Southfield) told the Michigan Advance. On Thursday, Hoskins said he, along with other representatives and members of the state Senate, will introduce bills to protect minors from such practices.
“At the end of the day, this is really torture for kids,” Hoskins said. “You’re growing up, you’re figuring things out and I think children should have that opportunity to do that.”
LGBTQ youth who were put in conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide than their peers who had not been through conversion therapy, according to research from The Trevor Project and published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Many major health organizations oppose conversion therapy.
Since 1998, the American Psychiatric Association has opposed conversion therapy and said in a statement on its website that, “gender diverse patients have been shown to benefit from gender-affirming therapies.”
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry said not only is there a lack of evidence conversion therapy works to the desired effect, but, “…there is evidence that such interventions are harmful. As a result, ‘conversion therapies’ should not be part of any behavioral health treatment of children and adolescents.”
Currently, 21 states have a ban on conversion therapy for minors, and Michigan is one of four states that have a ban on using federal or state funds for conversion therapy on minors.
Conversion therapy is an “abusive practice” and must be stopped for the benefit of all Michigan residents, Equality Michigan Executive Director Erin Knott told the Michigan Advance in an emailed statement Wednesday.
“So-called conversion therapy is a dangerous and discredited pseudoscience that frequently leads to depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, and even suicide,” Knott said. “Equality Michigan calls upon the Legislature to protect our youth and their families from this deceitful, denigrating, and lethal tactic, and take the necessary action to ensure Michigan becomes the 22nd state to ban this barbaric practice.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive directive banning state and federal funding for the practice in 2021, calling conversion therapy harmful and a barrier for LGBTQ+ Michiganders from reaching their full potential in the state.
“Since day one, I have made it clear that hate has no home in Michigan,” Whitmer said in a statement announcing her directive in 2021. “The actions we take today will serve as a starting point in protecting our LGBTQ+ youth from the damaging practice of conversion therapy and in ensuring that Michigan is a reflection of true inclusion.”
Similar legislation has been introduced in the past in Michigan but hasn’t made it through the previously Republican-led legislature.
Now, with a Democratic majority in the state legislature that recently passed legislation that was signed into law to expand Michigan’s civil rights laws to include protections for LGBTQ+ rights, Hoskins said public perception of LGBTQ+ individuals is changing and he’s confident the legislation will pass.
“One of the issues with conversion therapy is that it is something that was put in place because there’s an idea that LGBTQ people need to fit in, that there’s something wrong with them, and that unfortunately helps discrimination flourish when you think you have to be fixed,” Hoskins said.
Hoskins said he’s partnering with Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) and Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield), who in 2021 introduced a ban on conversion therapy. Those bills were never voted out of committee.
This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.