A new study is providing disturbing insight into just how many young Americans are subjected to conversion therapy, the widely debunked effort to change sexual orientation or gender identity.
According to the Williams Institute at UCLA, 57,000 teens will likely undergo conversion therapy from clergy, religious counselors or other unlicensed persons before they turn 18. Some 20,000 will actually undergo the treatment from licensed healthcare professionals. (Nearly 700,000 adults have already been subjected to conversion therapy, 350,000 of whom were teens at the time.)
As of January 2018, nine states, Washington D.C., and 32 cities and municipalities (including New York City) banned conversion therapy for minors, citing its damaging psychological effects. “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,” says Christy Mallory, the study’s lead author.
The practice has been linked to depression, anxiety, substance use, suicidal ideation and other negative outcomes. In addition, because it’s not sanctioned by any reputable psychiatric organizations, there are no guidelines on how to conduct it and no standards for success.
“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,” said Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett in 2015.