More Than 20,000 Teens Could Undergo Harmful Gay Conversion Therapy Before Adulthood

Around 20,000 U.S. teens will undergo conversion therapy from licensed health care professionals before the age of 18. 

These findings come from a new report by the Williams Institute and UCLA’s School of Law. Entitled “Conversion Therapy and LGBT Youth,” the analysis examines self-reported treatment data from across the U.S. and estimates the frequency of conversion or reparative therapy attempts.

Researchers found that an additional 57,000 young people are likely to receive so-called treatment from a religious or spiritual advisor. Meanwhile, the figures for adults suggest that about 698,000 LGBT people have been subjected to conversion therapy at some point in their lives, including a further 350,000 who received it when they were teenagers.

Conversion or reparative therapy — sometimes now referred to as Sexual Orientation Change Efforts — attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity to the heterosexual or cis gender norm. The practice is wholly ineffective and has been repudiated by several major clinical health bodies, including the American Psychological Association.

Not only is there no evidence that a sustained change in sexual orientation is possible, but there are also clear risks to reparative therapy. In the past, aversion therapy and electroshock therapy were commonplace, but now a corrupted form of talk therapy has become popular. And mounting evidence suggests that anti-LGBT talk therapy is highly dangerous for a person’s mental health, with the potential to dramatically increase suicidal ideation, depression and anxiety.

To this day, cases of severe physical, sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse continue to be reported as part of conversion therapy. Indeed, a recent piece in the New York Times characterizes this so-called treatment as “torture.”

“Many professional health associations and the public support ending the use of conversion therapy on LGBT youth,” Christy Mallory, lead author of the study, explained. “Our research shows that laws banning conversion therapy could protect tens of thousands of teens from what medical experts say is a harmful and ineffective practice.”

This latest research represents the first study to estimate the extent of reparative therapy and its impact LGBT people. So, while these figures are just approximations worked out from limited data, they give valuable insight into the scope of the problem, as well as how many people could stand to benefit if conversion therapy is banned.

Conversion therapy remains legal in many parts of the world, including in the U.S. Nine states and D.C. have banned the practice, with a handful of local governments following suit. Nevertheless, the majority of the nation still allows licensed health professionals to practice conversion or gay cure therapy despite the evidence of substantial harm and the lack of effectiveness.

Furthermore, there are no far-reaching bans on so called religious counseling services that push people through conversion therapy. Many will remember the story of Leelah Alcorn, a trans teenager from Ohio who took her own life in 2014 after undergoing conversion therapy attempts.

The above research tells us that if Congress passed a national ban on conversion therapy — such as the existing Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act – it could safeguard thousands of young people from undergoing unnecessary, ineffective and entirely damaging pseudo-therapy. What’s more, it would prevent people from making money off this deeply deceitful practice.

“With such a large number of teens at risk of conversion therapy,” said study author Kerith Conron, of the Williams Institute. “We must ensure that families, faith communities and service providers have accurate information about sexual orientation and gender identity and work to reduce stigma and promote acceptance of LGBT youth and their families.”

Take Action!

Call on Congress to pass the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act and make LGBTQ “cure” therapies illegal in the United States by signing this Care2 petition.

Photo Credit: Jesus Rodriguez


Lorrie O
Lorrie O27 days ago

Conversion is conversion from the Mother Mary word to the Goddess word, to Goddess, and to the Goddess word God word, to God, and conversion from the Heavenly Father, Heav e n ly Fat her, Heav e (Heavy") and Fat 24 word, to the enlightenment, light 24 word, lightweight light, 24, word, enlightenment word.

Marie W
Marie W8 months ago


John B
John Babout a year ago

Thanks for sharing.

Mike R
Mike Rabout a year ago

Signed petition. Thanks

Mike R
Mike Rabout a year ago

This needs to stop.

Elaine W
Elaine Wabout a year ago

I think this a crime against innocent people akin to rape of the spirit.

heather g
heather gabout a year ago

Wacky USA!

Amanda M
Amanda Mabout a year ago

Petition signed! One's sexuality is just as much a part of who they are as anything else! One's sexuality is just as much a part of their genetic makeup as their height, hair/eye color, ethnic background, or ancestry. "Conversion therapy" is just another attempt by the Religious Reich to masquerade religion and junk science as fact and force their twisted religious beliefs on vulnerable people who are having a hard enough time navigating a world full of bigoted people who hate them simply for being born different! And people wonder why I don't trust ANY kind of religion-based counseling! This should be BANNED, and stay banned! Not only does it cause more harm than good, the fact that it mixes so-called "Christian" religious beliefs into it means that this kind of "therapy" is also unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment! NOBODY has the right to impose their religious beliefs on another person, least of all somebody in a medical, employment, or counseling capacity!

silja s
silja salonenabout a year ago

this is so fucked up !

Karen H
Karen Habout a year ago

People are born gay. So either God made a major oopsie, or he’s got a plan. And that plan might be to piss off those with their holier-than-thou attitudes.