When Ex-Gay Therapy is Actually Ex-Trans Therapy, and the Problems It Causes
You may have heard that a family is suing New Jersey to put their child through ex-gay therapy. What you might not have realized from the media reports on this story is that the child in question has gender identity issues and may in fact be trans.
The unidentified parents of 15-year-old “Joe Doe” filed a case in federal court in Camden on Friday, November 1, seeking an injunction against New Jersey’s ban on ex-gay therapy which Governor Chris Christie signed in August.
They claim that the law violates their right to free speech and freedom of religion. They also contend the law stifles the 14th Amendment right to equal protection because it denies “minors the opportunity to pursue a particular course of action that can help them address the conflicts between their religious and moral values and same-sex attractions, behaviors or identity.”
The parents claim that their son began experiencing “gender identity disorder” when he was “around nine years old.” They report that as a teenager Doe has “frequently thought of killing himself because he did not like himself.” The suit alleges Doe’s distress regarding gender stems from Doe’s mother badmouthing Doe’s father. The complaint then says that Doe later began expressing “same-sex attraction,” that euphemism used by religious conservatives who don’t want to admit that homosexuality is immutable.
Says the suit: “He [Doe] experienced feelings of despair because he believed that he would never be good enough if he remained a boy.”
The suit claims that in 2011 Doe began seeing a social worker in New York who, they claim, “helped tremendously” to reduce Doe’s attraction to men. The family then sought out a conversion therapist, Ronald Newman, who is named in another suit against the law, but by that time the law banning conversion therapy had been signed.
The suit claims that the reasoning for banning children from going through such therapy is lacking, and that by the American Psychological Association’s own admission, all research into the harms of conversion therapy centers on adults and not children. At any length, the suit claims, that research is flawed and fails to present conversion therapy’s so-called successes.
New Jersey is the second state to ban conversion therapy so far. California successfully passed a ban and saw it upheld in court despite several challenges. There are a number of other suits hoping to take down New Jersey’s ban on conversion therapy for minors. Despite the abundance of court actions, other states continue to consider such bans and D.C. looks set to be the next to take steps toward banning the harmful practice.
What is most interesting about this particular case though is the way that the suit has been framed, and in particular the details that it appears to gloss over and leave out.
Where’s the Mention of Gender Identity?
Media reports have settled on the ex-gay therapy angle, and even within the LGBT news sphere there has been very little recognition of the fact of the child in question’s gender identity issues, even though the suit makes it quite clear that Doe wanted to transition genders and even mentioned gender identity disorder (now termed gender dysphoria under DSM-5).
Here we have an example of just how damaging sexual orientation change efforts can be to the entire LGBT community: if Doe is in fact a trans girl who is attracted to men, she is then a heterosexual female. As such, Doe is being subjected to sexual orientation change efforts in order to effectively suppress gender identity — something that will be completely useless and could be terribly damaging.
Whether ultimately Doe does (or will) identify as trans is not clear, but this case serves to illustrate a wider point: that there are therapists out there who are subjecting patients to dangerous, unproven therapies who clearly aren’t even sure what it is they are actually attempting to treat. Moreover, that these conversion attempts affect the whole community and not just gay men and women.
We must be just as vocal about this angle of the so-called ex-gay therapy problem because otherwise the very real danger it presents will get lost in the headlines and may not get the attention or action it deserves.
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