Conversion Therapy Ban Isn’t About Sexuality or Gender Identity – It’s About Freedom

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Hey Massachusetts legislators, let’s make a deal:

If your son starts questioning whether he’s really a boy, or your daughter starts questioning whether she’s really a girl, you take your child to a “gender-affirming” therapist who begins “transitioning” techniques leading to hormones and radical surgery.

And the rest of us can take our child somewhere else.

This is what opposition to the conversion therapy ban comes down to. It’s not, at its core, about whether homosexuality and transgenderism are unfortunate variations of human sexuality that lead to unhappiness and therefore ought to be discouraged rather than encouraged.

Instead, it’s about something much simpler:  freedom.

Therapy, famously, doesn’t always work. But it only has a chance of working if the patient wants it to work. So what we’re talking about is a situation where a child 17 or younger feels attracted to members of the same sex or identifies with a gender other than the one that corresponds to the child’s biological sex – and does not want those feelings.

In such a case, if the child wants therapy to try to change those feelings, and the child’s parents support that goal, why should Big Brother in Massachusetts tell that child no?

Some of you may be thinking that conversion therapy is hopeless, because some experts who don’t like it say it’s hopeless.

But actually, it depends on the case. Human sexuality is fluid. Where sexual attraction or gender affinity is deeply ingrained from early age, changing such feelings may indeed be impossible.

But what about cases where these feelings occur in adolescence – such as the Brown study last year (recently amended, but not retracted) describing sudden-onset of gender dysphoria among teen-agers suffering from anxiety or depression who binge-watched YouTube videos and decided they were transgender?

What if such adolescents later change their minds? Why must psychotherapy be a one-way street leading only to drugs and scalpels?

Supporters of banning conversion therapy have brought up sad cases where adolescents years ago went through electric shock, exposure to pornography, nudity, and encouragement to denigrate and separate from parents and siblings.

Those are bad techniques, and shameful. But you can find bad techniques for any sort of therapy.

What supporters of conversion therapy want is so-called “talk therapy” – nothing extreme or destructive, but rather working through unwanted feelings by talking them out and trying to resolve them in a way the patient wants.

A legislative committee on Beacon Hill heard from two men and one woman on March 5 who didn’t want their same-sex attraction and sought out therapists who used nothing but words to help them go in a different direction. One man credited his therapist with preventing him from committing suicide.

What is so threatening about that?

And yet, Massachusetts seems on the verge of making it illegal.

On Thursday, March 28, the Massachusetts Senate plans to vote on a bill that would ban conversion therapy for minors. A bill has already passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Most likely, a reconciled version of the legislation will soon make its way to Governor Charlie Baker, who has said he’s “inclined to support” such legislation, but left a little wiggle room when he addressed it March 7.

Baker, famously, is no social conservative. But he has on occasion shown respect for certain principles of limited central control.

That’s what this issue is about. What you think about homosexuality and transgenderism, though important, is beside the main point. If you like your sexual orientation, you can keep your sexual orientation. If you like your gender identity, you can keep your gender identity.

But what if you don’t? Is Massachusetts really about to tell kids they can’t make up their own minds about who they want to be and that they can’t go to a professional to help get them where they want to go?