New York Governor Andrew Cuomo just announced a series of measures intended to eliminate so-called “conversion therapy.” The New York Times reports that:
“Mr. Cuomo’s plan relies on economic incentives meant to discourage conversion therapy’s use on young people. Insurers in New York, for instance, will now be prohibited from covering the cost of such therapy for anyone under 18.
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“That action… would prohibit the use of Medicaid to pay for conversion therapy. Centers overseen by the State Office of Mental Health would also be barred from providing conversion therapy to minors, according to the governor’s office.”
How does Cuomo justify prohibiting the free choice of both parents and their children from seeking counseling for their unwanted same-sex attraction? Cuomo charges: “We will not allow the misguided and the intolerant to punish L.G.B.T. young people for simply being who they are.”
Are parents and their adolescent-teenage children though, really “misguided?” Does Cuomo think he knows what is best for them?
The horrific consequences of the gay lifestyle are undeniable – highly elevated levels of suicide, mental illness, depression, STDs, domestic violence, shortened life, and substance abuse. Could any therapy incur worse results?
Cuomo claims that those who administer such treatment are “intolerant to punish L.G.B.T. young people for simply being who they are.” But how does Cuomo justify a motive of “intolerance”? Could they not be compassionate?
Instead, he has employed the carefully honed rhetoric of manipulation – tarring the opposition as “intolerant” or just “haters.”
Another question to ask is are these youth really gay or are they simply going through a period of identity confusion? Why try to lock them into a lifestyle that dooms them to a life of self-destruction? It would seem that, in light of the horrific consequences, almost anything should be tried to channel the youth into more a salutary lifestyle.
If there have been some therapeutic interventions that have been found to be unproductive or harmful, then make their failures known and explore or promote other more promising forms of therapy.
Instead, our pundits have condemned all forms of conversion therapy. It would be like condemning all forms of bipolar therapy because of the failure of one particular intervention.
The fact that Cuomo wants to ban all forms of conversion therapy demonstrates, not a concern for the youth, but an entrenched political agenda. Instead, he should fund other more hopeful ways to address this horribly self-destructive lifestyle.
Cuomo’s sexually indulgent approach is also the approach of Obama’s pal, Valerie Jarrett, who described its [conversion therapy] “potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer youth.”
Their approach is to damn anything that might have the promise of helping youth to avoid a life of despair.
Last year, the New York State Assembly labelled conversion therapy a form of “professional misconduct that could put medical licenses at risk.”
But is it misconduct or is it professionally responsible to help youth overcome what they regard as a problem? There are many indications that such therapy can be effective:
There are two major studies most often cited to support the potential benefits of reparation [conversion] therapy. One, originally published in 2007, was conducted by Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse. A follow-up to the study, which appeared in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy in 2011, concluded not only that it was possible to change one’s homosexual orientation, but also that psychological harm was unlikely to result from the effort. (Salvo, Issue 22,34)
The Robert Spitzer study, published in 2003 in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, also offers promise:
After studying efforts on 200 volunteers who had experienced predominantly homosexual attractions for many years before beginning therapy, Spitzer found that, for all subjects, “there was a marked reduction [of homosexual tendencies]…not only on the three measures of overt behavior and sexual orientation self-identification…but also on the seven variables assessing sexual orientation itself.” (34)
Had Cuomo and others, who want to ban all forms of supportive therapy for those who have chosen to resist same-sex attraction, merely publicized against those interventions associated with negative outcomes, they might be more credible. However, they are not taking the middle road. Nor are they asking for further research to identity interventions that offer the most promise. Instead, they seek to ban all forms of such therapy, thereby revealing their own intolerance and disregard for the struggles of these youth.