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The trans lobby wants to make it illegal to talk a child out of a sex change


Daily Caller News Foundation

Transgender activists, hospitals and medical associations are pressuring lawmakers in Michigan to pass a “conversion therapy” ban that critics say would effectively prohibit therapists from helping gender-confused children come to terms with their natural bodies and biological sex.

If enacted, the ban would be another win for activists and their medical industry allies who have helped push more than 20 states to ban clinical attempts to change a minor patient’s “gender identity.” Critics say these laws silence and intimidate therapists who don’t automatically affirm young patients’ transgender status and put them on the medicalization track.

In some cases activists have taken advantage of these laws and made spurious accusations of conversion therapy to endanger therapists’ licenses and reputations, a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation previously found.

Conversion therapy has historically referred to clinical attempts to stop patients from experiencing same-sex attraction; in the mid-20th century, some doctors administered electroshock therapy as part of this process. At some point in the mid-2010s, activists and medical associations began including attempts to change patients’ gender identity in the definition of conversion therapy, rather than strictly sexual orientation.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an LGBT activist group, defines conversion therapy as “dangerous and discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.” Other activist groups, including GLAAD and the Trevor Project, offer similar definitions. The Trevor Project even claims the practice can cause “depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidality.”

These groups have all backed past campaigns to ban conversion therapy, along with state chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Therapists say these crackdowns can harm young patients with gender identity issues who want to come to terms with their biological sex by barring therapists from helping them reach self-acceptance. Meanwhile, conversion therapy bans do not stop therapists from encouraging gender transition, which can quickly lead youths down the medicalization path of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones.

“It chills the whole counseling process. And that’s what robs clients of hope that they can work towards the goal that they want,” Brian Tingley, a Christian family counselor suing his home state of Washington over a similar law, previously told the DCNF. “It harms clients.”

Most state conversion therapy bans were implemented between 2015 to 2019 as activist groups shifted their focus to transgender issues following the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. Democratic Minnesota Gov. Tim Waltz signed a conversion therapy ban into law in April after sustained pressure from activists.

All eyes are now on Michigan, where the state legislature is considering a Democrat-sponsored bill to ban clinical attempts to alter a person’s gender identity or sexuality. Like other conversion therapy bans, critics say this legislation would have a chilling effect on the profession by making therapists afraid that anything short of automatic affirmation for children who believe they’re transgender could run afoul of the law.

“‘Conversion therapy’ means any practice or treatment by a mental health professional that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” the bill reads. “Conversion therapy does not include counseling that provides assistance to an individual undergoing a gender transition, counseling that provides acceptance, support, or understanding of an individual or facilitates an individual’s coping, social support, or identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation-neutral intervention to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices, as long as the counseling does not seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Other state conversion therapy bans have similar exceptions for “identity exploration,” but these aren’t enough to protect therapists from penalties, and many therapists are still afraid to offer exploratory therapy under such laws, marriage and family therapist Stephanie Winn told the DCNF. Winn was subject to a lengthy investigation over her treatment of youth with gender identity issues under Oregon’s conversion therapy ban, which has nearly identical language allowing for “social support and identity exploration or development.”

The bill passed in the Michigan House Wednesday.

Medical groups and transgender activists have been lobbying for this bill through various forms of public advocacy.

For instance, several hospitals, health care centers and medical groups endorsed a petition calling for a conversion therapy ban. Petition supporters include the University of Michigan Health-West, Health Net of West Michigan, Michigan Psychological Association and the Grand Rapids LGBTQ Healthcare Consortium. Two directors from the Michigan chapter of the National Association of Social Workers testified in support of the ban June 7.

In May, LGBT activist organizations joined together for “#HateWontWin Lobby Day,” in which about 100 individuals met with lawmakers and pressured them to ban conversion therapy, according to the Michigan chapter of the HRC, an LGBT activist organization. The Trevor Project, Equality Michigan Action Network, HRC in Michigan and numerous individual activists joined the effort.

Doug Booth, COO of HealthNet West Michigan, garnered support from more than 50 businesses and nonprofit organizations and 700 individuals for his call for a ban on conversion therapy. HealthNet West Michigan is a nonprofit that connects patients with medical providers, free transportation and other services.

Activists also testified before the Michigan legislature that therapy to dissuade children from transitioning genders was comparable torture.

In June 2023, Erin Knott, executive director of the LGBT group Equality Michigan, testified that conversion therapy was comparable to electroshock therapy and the application of heat or ice to patients’ genitals.

“I want to highlight right now how physically extreme the torturous practice of physical therapy can be as well as how equally dangerous the nonphysical side of the practice is,” she said. “While most practitioners today engage in talk therapy, you cannot shame, talk or train stereotypical norms, teach heterosexual dating skills or use hypnosis to cure one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Gwen Stembridge, an advocacy campaign manager for the Trevor Project, suggested that conversion therapy caused children to commit suicide during her June 6 testimony to Michigan legislators. Sarah Kiperman, co-chair of the LGBTQ+ committee at the National Association of School Psychologists and professor at Wayne State University, similarly linked conversion therapy to youth suicides during the same hearing.

A similar alliance of LGBT activist groups and medical providers helped push Minnesota’s recently-enacted conversion therapy ban.

In a Feb. 28 blog post, Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd, the chief education officer and medical director of Children’s Minnesota’s Gender Health program, lauded Democrat-backed legislation that banned talking kids out of gender transitions. The Trevor Project, a trans activist group, came out in support of the bill.

“I am proud to stand with Rep. Athena Hollins and Sen. Scott Dibble who are leading the effort to have Minnesota join the 20 states that have already banned conversion therapy,” Goepferd wrote.

Children’s Minnesota honored Democratic Minnesota Rep. Leigh Finke, who is transgender, with its annual “Children’s Health Hero Award” in May. The hospital specifically lauded Finke’s “pivotal role” in getting the state’s conversion therapy ban passed and signed into law.

Activist groups frequently cite the positions of medical associations to justify their rejection of what they call “conversion therapy.” The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), American Psychiatric Association (APA) and numerous other medical associations oppose forms of conversion or reparative therapy which seek to change a patient’s gender identity.

However, medical associations’ guidelines are heavily influenced by doctors who practice and support cross-sex treatments for minors, Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, former associate dean for curriculum at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, told the DCNF.

“It becomes like a closed loop,” he said. “The real difficulty for these organizations that have sponsored various guidelines and rules is that they really turned over the whole process to individuals that have a conflict, because this is what they believe, and this is how they’re making their living. And it’s pretty hard for them to see another approach. That’s not to say they don’t believe in what they’re doing, but I think they’re compromised by their own beliefs.”

The Trevor Project, the HRC, the AAP, AACAP and APA did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment. GLAAD declined to comment.

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Republished with permission from Daily Caller News Foundation

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