The World Psychiatric Association Stands Up to LGBT ‘Cure Therapy’
In a long-awaited statement, the World Psychiatric Association has formally declared that attempts to “cure” gay people of their sexuality run counter to mental health care best practices — the efforts are ineffective and harmful.
The WPA has long opposed attempts at so-called conversion therapy, but with a membership of some 200,000 psychiatrists from 118 countries, the organization explained that ”recent controversies in many countries suggest a need for clarity on same-sex orientation, attraction, and behaviour.”
The new position statement goes on to emphasize that psychiatrists and mainstream medical bodies have — for decades now — upheld same-gender orientation and romantic relationships as healthy expressions of human sexuality. More recently, medical science has also affirmed trans identity.
The statement goes on to recognize:
There is considerable research evidence to suggest that sexual behaviours and sexual fluidity depend upon a number of factors (Ventriglio et al 2016). Furthermore, it has been shown conclusively that LGBT individuals show higher than expected rates of psychiatric disorders (Levounis et al 2012, Kalra et al 2015), and once their rights and equality are recognised these rates start to drop (Gonzales 2014, Hatzenbuehler et al 2009, 2012, Padula et al 2015).
Then, crucially, the statement examines the specific issue of conversion therapy:
WPA believes strongly in evidence-based treatment. There is no sound scientific evidence that innate sexual orientation can be changed. Furthermore, so-called treatments of homosexuality can create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish, and they can be potentially harmful (Rao and Jacob 2012). The provision of any intervention purporting to “treat” something that is not a disorder is wholly unethical.
The WPA recognizes LGBT people as “valued members of society” who deserve the same rights and responsibilities as others, including access to prejudice-free health care. The statement continues, recognizing the “universality of same-sex expression, across cultures.”
At no point does the WPA equate same-gender romantic relationships with a mental health problem.
In fact, the WPA states its desire to decriminalize same-gender relationships, as well as a variety of gender identity expressions. The organization declares full support for “anti-bullying legislation; anti-discrimination student, employment, and housing laws; immigration equality; equal age of consent laws; and hate crime laws providing enhanced criminal penalties for prejudice-motivated violence against LGBT people.”
Lastly, the WPA emphasizes the importance of evidence-based interventions that help LGBT individuals and support their mental health. Obviously, this disqualifies attempts to cure or change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The WPA’s statement comes amid several crackdowns on LGBT rights across the world.
For example, Indonesia’s mental health authority recently declared homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism to be precursors to a psychological disorder. Cure therapy still occurs in places like China and Uganda, and Russia continues to treat all transgender or homosexual identities as sexual deviance.
This also comes at a crucial point in the United States’ own national conversation over banning LGBT “cure” therapies.
Colorado lawmakers are currently evaluating a bid to ban cure therapy for children under age 18. Republicans who control the Senate are expected to block the effort from advancing. Even so, LGBT advocates believe this will be an important test to gauge support among moderate Republicans. A similar effort is also underway in Massachusetts.
The WPA statement highlights the medical establishment’s firm opposition to the harms of LGBT identity change efforts and leaves no room for doubt: it’s time to end conversion therapy practices for good.
Photo Credit: Cole Hutson/Unsplash