The White House on Wednesday gave its support to calls to ban the practice of “conversion” therapy used on gay and transgender youth in order force them into heterosexuality or their assigned birth gender.* The issue of using psychiatric therapy to change an individual’s sexuality or gender identity came to the forefront of the news when transgender teen Leelah Alcorn committed suicide in December after her parents forced the 17-year-old to undergo conversion therapy.* A Whitehouse.gov petition calling for a ban on the practice garnered more than 120,000 signatures and drew a response from the White House.
Senior advisor Valerie Jarrett posted the administration’s response:
Thank you for taking the time to sign on to this petition in support of banning the practice known as conversion therapy. Conversion therapy generally refers to any practices by mental health providers that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Often, this practice is used on minors, who lack the legal authority to make their own medical and mental health decisions. We share your concern about its potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer youth. When assessing the validity of conversion therapy, or other practices that seek to change an individual’s gender identity or sexual orientation, it is as imperative to seek guidance from certified medical experts. The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm. As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.
“Mr. Obama will not explicitly call for a federal law banning therapists from using such therapies on their patients, but he is open to conversations with lawmakers in both parties,” White House officials told the New York Times. “Instead, he will throw his support behind the efforts to ban the practice at the state level.”
Correction, April 8, 2015: This post originally mischaracterized conversion therapy as exclusively sexuality-related; the so-called therapy is also used to coerce transgender individuals into identifying with their assigned birth gender.