By Bob Katzen
House 137-14, approved and sent to the Senate a bill prohibiting psychiatrists, psychologists and other health care providers from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of anyone under 18. Conversion therapy exposes the person to a stimulus while simultaneously subjecting him or her to some form of discomfort.
“The idea of conversion therapy is that there is something wrong with being LGBTQ, and that a licensed medical professional can eliminate those feelings through practices like hypnosis, aversive conditioning or inducing nausea,” said Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez (D-Boston). “The reality of the matter is that it has been proven ineffective, is contrary to medical research, and subjects young people to the risk of suicide and other serious psychological harms. We should validate our youth for who they are, and not try to shame them by subjecting them to harmful therapies and antiquated social norms.”
The Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI) opposed the bill and any laws that restrict the ability of licensed counselors to help clients make personal life changes related to their sexuality or identity. “Denial of treatment options for children undermines their dignity and integrity,” MFI’s president Andrew Beckwith said. “The freedom for parents to seek and decide what counseling is best for their child, without interference from politicians, is a basic liberty that must be upheld.”
“Junk science has no place masquerading as mental health, said Grace Sterling Stowell, Executive Director of the Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth (BAGLY). Stowell continued, “The House’s definitive rejection of the dangerous and discredited practice of ‘conversion therapy’ for minors is an important step forward in the legislative process of protecting LGBTQ youth and their families. BAGLY is proud to be a member of the coalition advocating for this legislation.”
“ I agree with banning aversion therapies that involve uncomfortable or painful stimuli to attempt to modify behaviors, but this bill outlaws all therapies, including doctor-to-patient discussions, that could lead to a patient’s change in in gender identity, said Rep. Randy Hunt (R-Sandwich). “In my opinion, that is unconstitutional according to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.