In a damning report, America’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has condemned attempts to “cure” gay or transgender teens.
In the document, titled Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth, the SAMHSA said that, “conversion therapy is not an appropriate therapeutic approach based on the evidence.”
It also called for “alternative ways to discuss sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression with young people.”
Conversion therapy – a discredited practice that falsely claims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity – has been widely denounced by every mainstream medical and mental health association in the US and in many other countries.
The new report includes the first publication of consensus statements developed by an expert panel assembled by the American Psychological Association in July 2015.
The panel included researchers and practitioners in child and adolescent mental health. Experts with a background in family therapy, ethics, and the psychology of religion also participated.
Through a collaborative process, this panel found that variations in sexual orientation and gender identity are normal, and that conversion therapies or other efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity are not effective, are harmful, and are not appropriate therapeutic practices.
“Conversion therapy is child abuse, and the Obama Administration has joined our call to ban its practice once and for all,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin.
“This is dangerous junk science that uses fear and shame to tell young people the only way to find love and acceptance is by changing the very nature of who they are. Today’s new health report shows the extensive damage that so-called conversion therapy can cause and why it’s so urgent that we end it in all fifty states.”
In August, the state of Illinois became the fifth jurisdiction in the US to outlaw attempts by mental health providers to change the sexuality or gender identity of LGBTQ minors.
While the South African Society of Psychiatrists has rejected the practice of conversion therapy, it remains legal and has been practised in South Africa, primarily by some religious groups.