The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), together with the Beth Allen Law firm, is representing a young Portland, Oregon, man who claims a psychiatrist he was seeing tried using conversion therapy to “cure” him of being gay. This has spurred on the SPLC to create a new campaign that aims to end the practice of so-called gay conversion therapy.
SPLC and Beth Allen sent a complaint recently to two professional psychiatric associations, Oregon Psychiatric Association and the American Psychiatric Association, charging that the Portland psychiatrist unethically subjected Max Hirsh, a 22-year-old University of Oregon student, to conversion therapy.
Hirsh reportedly began seeing the Portland doctor for treatment for depression in February 2011 and discontinued therapy the following August after determining the doctor subjected him to conversion therapy, a long-since debunked form of therapy directed at changing his sexual orientation. The practice has been highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological, and professional counseling organizations (who also don’t view being gay or bisexual as a mental disorder needing treatment), though some medical professionals continue to use it.
“This is an appalling violation of physician ethics, as well as a breach of a client’s trust,” said Christine P. Sun, deputy legal director for the SPLC. “LGBT people who seek therapy are vulnerable to these covert attempts by doctors to fix what is not broken. We are calling upon the OPA and APA to take steps to end the practice of conversion therapy by its members.”
Hirsh, who identifies as gay, reportedly ended the therapy sessions after the therapist allegedly decided to make Hirsh’s sexual orientation the sole focus of the therapy.
Hirsh alleges the psychiatrist repeatedly told him that he wasn’t gay and “focused intensely” on Hirsh’s relationship with his father, something that is often a preoccupation for ex-gay practitioners who believe, based on their own self-perpetuating pseudo-science, that being gay springs from having either a weak or absent father, or an overbearing mother.
The SPLC recently launched a new web service containing a map that allows those concerned to see if there are therapists in there area offering gay conversion therapy, the idea being that if you are attending a session at such a clinic or you know someone attending sessions with that therapist you will be mindful that the therapist is indulging in the unscientific, unsupported and potentially harmful practice of trying to reorient gay people.
Here is the SPLC’s campaign video:
The SPLC is also encouraging those who were forced into ex-gay therapy to speak out and tell their stories. You can find more details on the SPLC webpage, which also contains the ex-gay therapy map, here.
This comes as legislators in the state of California prepare to vote on a bill banning ex-gay therapy for minors and making it harder to push vulnerable adults into so called gay conversion therapy.