It’s Not A Fix!

A few weeks ago, Leelah Alcorn, 17 years old, a transgender renamed “Joshua,” from Kings Mills, Ohio, committed suicide.  Unfortunately, forty percent of transgenders attempt suicide.  They are perhaps the least understood and most maligned in our society.

Wrote Leelah in her suicide note, “it doesn’t get better, each day it gets worse.” Like many parents of LGBT children, Leelah’s parents, desperate for answers, turned to conversion/reparative or gay-to-straight therapy. Whatever you want to call this type of therapy, it can have serious consequences!

Only Two States Outlawed Conversion Therapy

In 2012, California banned the practice of this so-called therapy. A year later, New Jersey followed suit.  In all of the other U.S. States, it is still on the books as a viable mental health treatment.  Apparently, there is a coordinated effort by ex-gays to introduce themselves to lawmakers and talk up potential benefits of this therapy. Efforts in more than a dozen states have been blocked or stalled.

Those Opposed

While a few claim they have been “cured,” (or merely gone back in the closet?), there are others who question this “fix.” Robert Spitzer, M.D., in 2012 denounced his study on gay culture and reparative therapy.  He stated that “conversion therapy is rooted in Freud’s idea that people are born bisexual and can move along a continuum from one end to the other.” Dr. Sptizer, who was at the forefront for removing homosexuality as a mental disorder from the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM Manual in 1973, apologized to the gay community for his erroneous study that didn’t conclude that conversion therapy actually worked.

The same year, The World Health Organization stated that “services that purport to ‘cure’ people with non-hetero sexual orientation lack medical justification and represent a serious threat to health and well-being of affected people.” Exodus International, the umbrella organization that connected organizations that sought to help people who wished to be straight, shuttered its doors in 2013. Wayne Besen, founder of Truth Wins Out, an organization that works to demolish anti-LGBT organizations, denounced the therapy as “anti-gay malice disguised as medicine.”

According to the American Psychological Association, “conversion therapy is particularly harmful to youth, and is a huge risk for severe depression lower self-esteem, alienation from their families, substance abuse and even suicide.  Still there are advocates for this therapy such as Dr. Charles W. Socarides, who founded NARTH or National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality in 1973. NARTH has been rebranded as Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity (ATCSI), but basically conveys the same mission statement.. Dr. Socarides told the Washington Post that” homosexuality is a psychological and psychiatric disorder.” Dr. Socarides treated homosexuals until his death in 1953 and believed in other words, that being gay was a choice. (His son Richard is a writer for The New Yorker and is an advocate for gay rights and happens to be gay).

What Does Conversion Therapy Entail?

Conversion therapy usually goes hand-in-hand with religious groups.  As medieval as it sounds, some methods employed use electric shock to hands and/or genitals; nausea-inducing drugs associated with homoerotic stimuli, masturbatory reconditional visualitzation, social skills training, psychoanalytic therapy and spiritual interventions, prayer and group support and pressure. Do you really want your kids going through this, especially if there’s no proof that it works in the long run?

Alternatives to Conversion Therapy

Although the latest Gallup poll shows that 53% of Americans now say that they are satisfied with the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the United States. That statistic doesn’t equate to the fact that parents look favorably at having an LGBT child.

Many parents are initially shocked and disappointed at finding out their children are LGBT, there are organizations, the most famous being PFLAG (Parents for Lesbian and Gays) with nationwide chapters, that can help struggling parents cope. Their contact information is: 202 467-8180. The Family Acceptance Project, 415 522-5558 also has wonderful informative materials for parents of LGBT parents.

It seems as if the parents who are the most unhappy with their child’s sexual orientation are the most religious so I am including a list of organizations that try to reconcile a person’s religious beliefs with acceptance of homosexuality and thereby their child:
Dignity, Inc. (Roman Catholic) 202 861-0017m
Honesty (Southern Baptist Convention), 502 261-0338,
Integrity, Inc. (Episcopal), 202 462-9193, http: //
Lutherans Concerned 651 665-0863,
National Gay Pentecostal Alliance, 518 372-6001,
Seventh-Day Adventist Kinship International, west 213 876-2076 East 617 436-5950,
Sovereignty (Jehovah’s Witnesses), Box 27242, Santa, Ca. 92799


When Your Child is Gay

When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know

For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting as well as gay and lesbian content. For the past two years, Wesley has concentrated almost exclusively on the lesbian and gay community, specifically on advising straight parents of gay children on how to be better parents and raise happy, well-adjusted adults

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