Opinion

SCHILLING: Bans On ‘Conversion Therapy’ Are Really About Locking Kids Into Transgenderism

Shutterstock image via Mama Belle and the kids

Terry Schilling American Principles Project

When someone invokes the words “conversion therapy,” what comes to mind?

For many Americans, thanks to messaging by the left, the words have become synonymous with horror stories of gay and lesbian children being mistreated at abusive religious summer camps, or even tortured by electric shock treatments. Films such as “Boy Erased” and “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” have honed in on the issue, purporting to lift the veil on the damage done by these alleged practices.

Meanwhile, progressives have exploited the fear over “conversion therapy” to absurdly caricature their opponents, all but alleging that conservatives — who support protections for religious freedom and envision a pluralistic society where everyone is free, loved, and respected — are actually secretly plotting to implement a bizarro LGBT version of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” where evil Christians ride around on horseback rounding up gays and shocking ‘em straight.

In an effort to stop these apparently widespread torturous procedures — most of which, if you believe Twitter, have been conducted personally by Vice President Mike Pence — progressives have made a significant push for legislative action, banning “conversion therapy” in as many states as possible. So far, they have been fairly successful and faced relatively little opposition. Earlier this month, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, made his state the 16th and most recent in the U.S. to ban conversion therapy. More states may yet follow suit, with Minnesota, among others, considering similar legislation.

This is a no-brainer, right? Can’t we all agree to stop shocking the gays? Well, this might shock you — not literally! — but, as is typically the case with left-wing hysteria, there is much more to this issue than meets the eye.

Most conservatives would no doubt find common cause with progressives in opposing the emotionally and physically coercive practices detailed above, if these were what such bans were truly targeting. After all, who could seriously support such abuse? Unfortunately, however, the fine print reveals a much broader agenda — one for which the anti-conversion therapy cause serves as a convenient trojan horse.

If we’re going to ban something, we better define it, right? So what exactly constitutes “conversion therapy”? The Massachusetts bill, like most others, defines it as any attempt to “impose change of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” an incredibly broad definition designed to help establish sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in law as immutable characteristics akin to race and ethnicity. And just like other SOGI-related laws, such as the radical “Equality Act,” these conversion therapy bans are likely to have far-reaching negative consequences.

Let’s consider the most troubling example: the ban’s effect on children being treated for gender dysphoria, the medical name for the anxiety that comes from a person’s feeling of incongruence between their bodily sex and their sense of gender identity. For decades, therapists have utilized talk therapy to help their patients process the possible underlying causes of their gender dysphoria, often leading their patients to feel more comfortable in their own bodies. In fact, many studies have shown that a vast majority of gender dysphoric children — between 80 and 95 percent — naturally grow out of their dysphoria and come to identify with their biological sex, illustrating the prudence of a talk therapy approach.

Unfortunately for these children, talk therapy is among the practices banned by conversion therapy laws. Instead of allowing therapists to help children process the causes of gender dysphoria, such as depression, anxiety, and other issues, these laws advance the highly ideological and scientifically dubious notion that subjective “gender identity” should always trump biological sex, even in children as young as two or three years old. Rather than leaving all options on the table, these bills narrow the acceptable treatments down to one: locking children into a transgender identity no matter the circumstances.

The extreme irony, of course, is that this belies the left’s stated principles on other issues. While on abortion (and now infanticide), progressives exhort the government to stay out of decisions best left between patients and their doctors, on “conversion therapy,” they would have the government take on the role of a doctor, favoring some prescriptions while banning others — and all in the service of ideology, not science. It is a breathtaking power grab that ought to frighten every American.

No doubt we can all agree to stop the shockings — and all similar abusive treatments. But these “conversion therapy” bans go way too far, endangering the very children they claim to protect. Conservatives, and indeed all concerned Americans, must stand up and oppose them.

Terry Schilling (@PizzaPolitico) is the executive director at American Principles Project, a conservative nonprofit dedicated to putting human dignity at the heart of public policy.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.