By Jon Vitale
Elm Staff Writer
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has signed into law new legislation that makes conversion therapy of minors illegal in the state of Massachusetts.
The bill passed easily. According to the Boston Herald, it passed the State Senate by a margin of 34-0, following the Massachusetts House, which passed the legislation by a margin of 147-8. Massachusetts became the 16th state to ban conversion therapy for minors, following Connecticut, California, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New York, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Washington, Maryland, Hawaii, and New Hampshire.
Massachusetts was right to move in this direction. Conversion therapy is a harmful, immoral, and disgusting practice to put teenagers through. The law does allow adults to seek out conversion therapy if they so choose, which is fair. As long as the risks are made clear, it is the right of consenting adults to seek out any medical practice they want, including potentially harmful ones. However, there is nothing fair about children being forced into a form of therapy that many would argue is not therapy at all, but actually abuse. NBC reports that some who have been subjected to the practice have gone even further, calling it torture.
A fundamental flaw of conversion therapy is that it does not even work. Being gay is part of who an individual is. No amount of “therapy” can change a part of a person’s identity. At best, it can suppress it in an unhealthy and permanently damaging way. Someone who is gay cannot be forced into being straight any more than someone who is straight can be forced to be gay. Sexual orientation is a part of the individual. The idea that one can “cure” a part of who they are is a thought as ridiculous as it is sad and disturbing.
Historically, conversion therapy often utilized cruel and unethical methods, including induced vomiting and electrical shocks. Today, these practices have mostly been phased out throughout the United States in favor of talk therapy.
Just because the methods have shifted to more conventional therapeutic practices, however, does not make it any more ethical. This does not change the underlying point: conversion therapy seeks to forcibly suppress a part of individuals’ identities, and ignorantly looks at homosexuality as some sort of affliction. It comes as no surprise that there is no evidence whatsoever that conversion therapy has had any kind of success.
In light of this great victory for the young members of the LGBT community in Massachusetts, it is still disappointing that only 16 states have taken measures to end this terrible practice. However, there is more reason to be optimistic. According to NBC, 23 more states have similar legislation in the works. Hopefully, more states will continue to follow the example of Massachusetts and end conversion therapy for minors.