President Obama has called for an end to “therapies” that operate with the intention of converting trans and gay individuals to their “original” gender and heterosexual lifestyle in response to the death of 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn. Leelah jumped in front of a tractor-trailer after writing an online suicide note explaining that religious therapists had tried to change her back into a boy. A petition was started online via WhiteHouse.gov that has already received over 120,000 signatures. It will be called “Leelahs Law.”
An official White House statement was made by President Obama regarding the wonderful response to the petition.
“Tonight, somewhere in America, a young person, let’s say a young man, will struggle to fall to sleep, wrestling alone with a secret he’s held as long as he can remember,” said President Obama. “Soon, perhaps, he will decide it’s time to let that secret out. What happens next depends on him, his family, as well as his friends and his teachers and his community. But it also depends on us — on the kind of society we engender, the kind of future we build.”
Conversion therapy is generally used to convert or repair those with “non-traditional” sexualities and gender identities. This “therapy” is mostly performed by mental health professionals and religious groups on minors who lack the legal authority to make their own health decisions. Trying to change someone’s gender identity or sexuality has been proven to cause health risks both mentally and physically in those who have been “treated.”
The hope is that there will be a state level ban on such practices, making our country a more friendly and welcoming environment for gay and transgender individuals. I was first introduced to the idea that this sort of thing even existed while watching American Horror Story Freak Show last semester. A gay character in the show was institutionalized and made to look at pictures of women while a doctor forced her to throw up. This activity was repeated over and over to make her feel physically ill every time she looked at a woman. She was then showed pictures of males to prove that she was “cured”. Though this is absolutely not what goes on in these types of therapies in today’s world, I imagine the experience is just as traumatic. I was absolutely appalled when researching it further, that people actually try to change who a person is through therapy.
Nobody chooses to be born the way they are, and I am glad that steps are being taken to make the process for those who may be gay or trans much easier. It is up to us to accept our family and friends while also helping them through the rough times they may have ahead.