Although gender fluidity is becoming increasingly accepted, our society is still largely heteronormative, meaning heterosexuality is still viewed as the “right” way to be. As a result, some outdated and harmful therapies have been practiced to change an individual’s sexual orientation or expression. But New Mexico’s leaders have stood up to protect LGBTQ+ youth from conversion therapy by signing Senate Bill (SB)-121 into law.
What Is Conversion Therapy?
Conversion therapy is the treatment of homosexual (or “other” gendered) individuals with the express purpose of converting them to heterosexuality. Treatment has involved a range of techniques and methods, including:
- Electroshock therapy
- Aversion therapy
- Masturbatory reconditioning
- Psychoanalytic therapy
Most modern conversion therapy relies on psychotherapy (talk therapy) and may be supplemented with medications. (There is no one accepted medication protocol. Practitioners may prescribe a range of drugs, including anti-depressants, anti-psychotics among others whose side effects may include nausea and vomiting.)
Why Banning Conversion Therapy Is the Right Choice
Scientifically-speaking, conversion therapy has been suspect for decades. Studies in the 1970s and 80s that boasted of successful conversions have been criticized for unreliable testing and reporting methods. In reality, the only reliable outcomes from conversion therapy are lamentable. Survivors experience:
- Diminished self-esteem
- Increased risk for substance abuse
- Increased risk for suicide
Most medical and mental health care providers deem conversion therapy unethical, reflected in statements by the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association and American Medical Association.
The decision to ban conversion therapy on minors is the right choice, not just because of the lack of scientific evidence of its effectiveness. The very premise on which conversion therapy is based is one of intolerance and discrimination. To suggest that sexual orientation should be changed to achieve normalcy—i.e., heterosexuality—implies an inherent wrongness to being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer, and that point of view undermines the foundation of a society where all people are created equal.
UNM Truman Health Services would like to recognize and thank the bill sponsors, the countless advocates who moved the bill forward and Governor Susanna Martinez for signing it into law. We are grateful for your efforts to create a New Mexico that is more accepting of the rainbow of gender identities.