President Joe Biden is expected to sign an executive order Wednesday authorizing new programs supporting the LGBT + community, which has been contended with a spate of anti-LGBT laws in several states in recent months.
The order includes measures addressing LGBT + mental health, such as an initiative aimed at ending conversion therapy targeting LGBT + youth.
The order stops short of issuing a ban on conversion therapy, but directs several federal agencies to take actions like spreading awareness of its harm.
Here’s what you should know about conversion therapy.
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What is conversion therapy?
Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, is the practice of trying to alter somebody’s same-sex orientation through counseling, according to the American Psychological Association. The practice has long been discredited by major mental health organizations, including the APA, as it is based on the false premise that same-sex attraction is a mental disorder.
“The most important fact about these ‘therapies’ is that they are based on a view of homosexuality that has been rejected by all major mental health professions,” the APA’s website reads.
Its roots in the United States date as far back as the 1890s, and nearly 700,000 LGBT adults nationwide have received conversion therapy at some point in their lives, according to a study from the Williams Institute at UCLA.
The practice has taken many forms historically, including shock therapy and hypnosis, but the most common form today is talk therapy, according to the study.
Studies have shown that conversion therapy is harmful.
LGBT + youth who were subjected to conversion therapy were more than two times as likely to have attempted suicide and more likely to have multiple suicide attempts in the past year, according to a 2020 report by the Trevor Project, an LGBT + youth suicide prevention nonprofit.
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Where is conversion therapy legal?
The District of Columbia and 20 states in conversion therapy for minors, according to the Movement Advancement Project, a think tank that tracks LGBT policy in the US Another five states have partial bans for minors.
The twenty states with full bans for minors are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.
Thirty-two percent of the LGBTQ population live in the 22 states that have such laws, according to the Movement Advancement Project.
Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming allow conversion therapy for minors, according to the Movement Advancement Project.
In 2015, President Barack Obama’s administrationbacked a petition calling for legislation to ban conversion therapy.
Biden’s executive order directs the Health and Human Services department to look into developing new guidance to prohibit federally funded programs from offering conversion therapy in addition to developing an awareness campaign of the practice’s harms and providing increased support for survivors.
The Federal Trade Commission is tasked under the new order to consider whether the practice may be considered unfair or deceptive, and whether to issue consumer warnings.
Biden is also calling on the Secretary of State to promote ending conversion therapy globally and to verify that financial assistance to other countries is not used to fund it.
If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.