Supporters of HB 6695, a bill to ban conversion therapy, spoke today about their personal and professional experience counseling and advocating for LGBTQ youth, including those who have survived such programs. Testimony on the bill will be heard by the Public Health Committee tomorrow, Tuesday March 7, starting at 10:30 a.m.
At a press conference this morning, mental health professionals and advocates for LGBTQ youth described the devastating impact on youth of this discredited practice that seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
“When our LGBT youth feel supported by their family and community, they thrive. Conversion therapy is a dangerous and discredited practice that tells these young people that who they are is wrong,” said Rep. Jeff Currey (D-East Hartford/Manchester/South Windsor). “If we value acceptance and respect for all people, then there is no place in our state for a practice that attempts to shame young people into denying aspects of their identity that are at the core of who they are.”
“Rather than cultivating the self-confidence and effective coping skills that young people need, conversion therapy typically provokes guilt, anxiety, depression, self-hatred and self-destructive behaviors, which can have lifelong consequences,” said Dr. Laura Saunders, a clinical psychologist who runs the LGBTQ Specialty Track at the Institute of Living/Hartford Hospital.
Peterson Toscano grew up in Stamford and underwent conversion therapy as a teenager. His statement, presented by PFLAG mom Donna Warren, read in part: “The conversion therapists may have believed they were being helpful, even compassionate, but the treatments they offered had disastrous consequences. Like many of the other men and women I knew who were receiving conversion therapy, during my 17 years of treatment, I grew depressed, confused, self-hating, and suicidal.”
Dr. Christy Olezeski, Yale Child Study Center, said, “Conversion therapy has been found to be ineffective. Many professional organizations such as the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry have argued that such interventions lack scientific credibility for their supposed benefits, and should not be part of any behavioral health treatment for minors.”
Robin McHaelen is executive director of True Colors a state-wide LGBTQ youth organization dedicated to ensuring that children of all genders and orientations are welcome, valued and affirmed. “I have been working with LGBTQ youth for nearly 25 years,” she said. “I have witnessed, directly, the differences in outcomes for kids who are supported in their sexual orientation and gender identity and those who are not. In my professional opinion and experience, conversion therapy is one of the worst kinds of emotional and psychological abuse of children.”
“LGBT youth need and deserve safety, support and acceptance, not shame and harm. The government should not be in the practice of condoning conversion therapy, a discriminatory practice that can permanently hurt vulnerable LGBT children. This bill is the next logical step for Connecticut to continue leading the way in protecting LGBT rights,” said David McGuire, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut in a statement.
HB 6695 is one of several bills now being considered across the country to put an end to the harmful and discredited practice of trying to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of young people through conversion “therapy.”
It is co-sponsored by Senator Beth Bye and Representative Jeff Currey, and supported by the Connecticut Equality Coalition.