Is conversion therapy no different from fortune telling? One gay conservative seems to think so.
In an article published in The Federalist, Chad Felix Greene makes the argument that if you ban conversion therapy as consumer fraud, then by logic, “the full spectrum of New Age services should be equally at issue.”
“In the same way, any service promising an extraordinary and otherwise impossible life-changing result has the potential to induce severe and negative reactions in vulnerable people when they fail,” Greene argued.
Greene cited his own experience with conversion therapy as proof that far less destructive than the common perception.
“I wouldn’t recommend the experience, but I certainly wouldn’t characterize it in the extreme language LGBT advocates often use,” Greene wrote. He added that his experience “seems typical,” without citing any evidence in support.
Greene said that the real answer is in education, not legislation. He warned that “progressive laws once designed to protect LGBT youth from perceived abusive and unethical medical practices will quickly grow to silence any form of dissent of officially approved gender identity theory.”
By nature, Greene is a contrarian. After all, who else could write a story about Seth Owen, the teenager whose parents threw him out of the house when they discovered he was gay and who has since won a full scholarship to college thanks to everyone but his parents, with the title “Why LGBT Teens Should Try To Work With Angry Parents Rather Than Running Away?”
Also, not a lot of gay men would approvingly retweet something from the Family Research Council action committee.
But Greene’s argument diminishes both the potential for harm from conversion therapy and the nature of the therapy itself.
For one thing, conversion therapy is not the same as fortune telling. It is a behavioral health intervention by a licensed health professional. It is also an intervention that is condemned by the medical community as ineffective and harmful.
In fact, one of the leading proponents of the gay “cure,” Robert Spitzer, apologized for his promotion of the idea, calling it “a serious threat to the health and well-being – even the lives – of affected people.”
Spitzer, who died in 2015, was a giant in the field and, in the words of The New York Times, “considered by some to be the father of modern psychiatry.”
Moreover, the bans on conversion therapy are meant to protect minors. In a libertarian twist that Greene should appreciate, adults are perfectly free to spend their money in the vain quest to change their orientation. The bans ensure that minors are not exposed to a form of treatment that doesn’t work and that could harm them.
Maybe there are lots of other kids who, like Greene, have gone through conversion therapy and kind of shrugged about it afterward. There is also evidence that not everyone is that fortunate. Laws are designed to protect people who are injured, even if others are not.
It is true that lawmakers rely upon fraud as the reason to ban conversion therapy. But that’s also the reason why the FDA cracks down on quackery.
The federal government defines health fraud scams “as products that claim to prevent, treat, or cure diseases or other health conditions, but are not proven safe and effective for those uses. Health fraud scams waste money and can lead to delays in getting proper diagnosis and treatment.” It’s not a stretch to extend that definition to services as well.
Greene undercuts his own argument by saying that regulation will only drive bad actors underground.
“By reducing the options to unregulated religious intervention, LGBT activists are positioning LGBT youth into the very position of vulnerability and danger they profess to oppose,” he said. By contrast, “If a professional is required to maintain a public business with certification, he or she is more likely to follow the rules.”
But if conversion therapy from untrained pastors is putting kids at risk, why would it be any different if a licensed therapist was doing it?
The therapists who promote conversion therapy aren’t motivated by the science or the condemnation of professional organizations. They are acting out on personal beliefs – just like religious figures and often for the same reasons. What’s more, they have the veneer of the medical profession to cloak their actions, making the harm worse.
People can disagree on topics in good faith. But it’s hard to buy an argument that banning conversion therapy is really bad for LGBTQ youth, unless you’re trolling. But then again, that’s what being a contrarian means.