Despite recent national efforts to stop conversion efforts, the damaging practices persist. Widespread social acceptance and family support for being LGBTQ+ in the US is very recent. Conversion efforts persist because of long-held stigma and prejudice against sexual and gender minorities (1), leading to health disparities among these groups. According to the National Institutes of Health, “Health disparities [in 2020] among young people based on sexual orientation and gender identity are not going away. Recent studies have shown the size of the disparity in suicide attempts has not shrunk over the past 20+ years. HIV diagnoses have been continuing to increase among young men who have sex with men (MSM) while they decline in many other groups” (2).
A 2018 report indicates that acceptance of LGBTQ+ people in the US dropped for the first time in decades (3). Positive public perception of gender and sexual minorities relies on accurate portrayals of us as healthy, well-adjusted members of society. Without swift action, 57,000 gender and sexual minority youth in the United States are at risk of being victimized by “conversion therapy”(4) in their lifetimes, whether at the hands of a licensed health care professional or those of a religious or spiritual advisor (5). Adults will also be victimized.
By creating a unified national partnership against “conversion therapy,” the USJS will:
● Establish a unified professional standard among close to 1 million healthcare professionals that rejects “conversion therapy.”
● Provide a tool to those seeking to end “conversion therapy” through education, legislation or litigation.
● Unite all major national healthcare associations in the first scientific declaration against “conversion therapy” in the United States.
● Provide a tool for healthcare, educational, governmental, and advocacy sectors to eliminate the myth that LGBTQ individuals can be “cured.”
● Provide a template for international medical and mental health associations and educational institutions to follow suit.
● Guide evolving public messaging and public awareness about affirming sexual and gender minorities.
The USJS goals are extensive because the need is significant. Throughout this nation’s history, sexual and gender minorities have been denigrated, shamed, and stunted in identity and development from omnipresent social factors. Sexual and gender minority people who are not subjected to conversion efforts are still devalued by the significant social shaming currently prevalent across the US. Sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts can be very stigmatizing to Americans already struggling with society’s legacy burden of rejection and shame and suffering from internalized self-devaluation. This initiative advocates comprehensive affirming treatment in every healthcare experience and in all healthcare settings for all sexual and gender minority patients. That greater acceptance and affirmation will reduce the social shaming and self-hatred that fuel conversion efforts.
The USJS supports the emergence of authentic self-acceptance and identity development in sexual and gender minorities. The initiative seeks to engender welcoming relationships where providers support patients in their own deep transformation, ending the shame, self-harm and stigma of being a gender or sexual minority. In families, social circles, and communities, the USJS aims to foster greater acceptance, approval, and love for patients struggling to find their authentic selves. In this way, the goal of the USJS is to increase the patient’s growth towards a more loving embrace of self from within and from the wider world.
(1) Sexual and gender minority (SGM) populations include, but are not limited to, individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, transgender, gender-fluid, two-spirit, queer, and/or intersex. Individuals with same-sex or same-gender attractions or behaviors and those with a difference in sex development are also included. These populations also encompass those who do not self-identify with one of these terms but whose sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or reproductive development is characterized by non-binary constructs of sexual orientation, gender, and/or sex.
(2) Mustanski, B. (June 30, 2020). What will it take to create health equity for sexual and gender minority young people? Retreived from https://dpcpsi.nih.gov/sgmro/scientific-webinar-series
(3) “The Harris Poll/GLAAD (2018). Accelerating Acceptance 2018; Executive Summary. Retrieved from https://www.glaad.org/publications/accelerating-acceptance-2018
(4) “Conversion therapy” is not accurate terminology because there is no single method that captures the processes associated with conversion efforts. The scientific terminology recently coined is Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) or Gender Identity Change Efforts (GICE). These terms are not as widely used as “conversion therapy,” which seems to be the prefered term used by the media, hence our use of it under quotation marks.
(5) “Williams Institute (2019). Conversion Therapy and LGBT Youth: Update. Retrieved from https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Conversion-Therapy-Update-Jun-2019.pdf