I was around fourteen years old the first time I heard about conversion therapy. Some local Baptist church was advertising their program to “cure” homosexuality. They claimed that same sex attraction was caused by broken parental relationships and a rebellion against God’s assigned gender roles. Through a combination of strangely sexual therapy exercises, sports (for the fellas) and baking (for the ladies) they could turn a queer to Jesus.
Even from the Narnia depths of my closet, I could tell that was ridiculous. That wasn’t changing; it was acting. Pretending. And pretending can’t go on forever. The most dedicated method actors in the world need to break character eventually or they’ll go mad. No one can keep up an act forever, no matter how enthused their audience.
The audience is why much of why “pray away the gay” scams can appear to work initially. Whether it’s parents who fervently want a straight cis child or unchecked bullying and harassment, the rewards of relative safety and conditional parental love in exchange for honesty, happiness, and a chance at true romance can seem like a much less terrible trade than they are.
In the twenty years since then, conversion therapy for LGBT status has come under scrutiny. The American Psychological Association, American Pediatrics Association, the National Institute of Mental Health and more have condemned conversion attempts as ineffective and torturous. Some states ban the use of conversion therapy on LGBT kids. Even former conversion promoters like Exodus International have ceased and apologized.
The period of US psychotherapy and religious counseling to convert LGBT people into cishets is coming to a close. But conversion therapy is more popular than ever, just for a different population of social outsiders. The current standard of care for autistic children is 40 hours a week of allistic conversion therapy.
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