Guest op-ed from Chris Schwartz, a member of the Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors
Conversion therapy is a dangerous form of psychological abuse with the intent of “changing” someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, and countless other medical entities have not only recognized that conversion therapy does not work, but that it is directly harmful to those who undergo it.
When we think about conversion therapy, there is a vision of camps where LGBTQ individuals “pray the gay away.”
In fact, these entities still exist, and the techniques can be horrifying. At its core, conversion therapy amplifies the stigma and trauma that many LGBTQ individuals already face every single day. While undergoing conversion therapy, an individual can face electric shocks, extreme shaming, and even forced vomiting. And that’s not the end of it.
According to the American Psychological Association, conversion therapy is correlated to an increased risk of suicide, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse for those who are forced to undergo it.
I have seen these tragic effects on a member of my own extended family who was subjected to conversion therapy during childhood; the suffering is real and long lasting. There is extensive agreement among medical professionals that sexual orientation and gender identity are traits that cannot be changed. Those who are facing conversion therapy not only undergo harsh physical and mental abuse, but also endure a lifetime of trauma.
The UCLA Williams Institute has estimated that nearly 80,000 youth will receive conversion therapy across the country in the coming years, both from licensed and unlicensed individuals. This is an alarming future for our nation’s LGBTQ youth.
Eighteen state Legislatures have taken the correct action to outlaw conversion therapy. Unfortunately, Iowa is not one of these states.
Mandatory reporters, professionals who are critical in protecting children from abuse, must be empowered to save our children from this terrible fate. At the same time, licensed youth-serving professionals should be barred from engaging in conversion therapy. This is a well-rounded solution that will ensure Iowa’s youth are protected from both licensed and unlicensed professionals practicing conversion therapy.
As a county supervisor, I represent thousands of youth in Black Hawk County.
It is completely unjust that our state-level elected officials have yet to address the very real threat of conversion therapy. The Iowa Legislature must pass a comprehensive law protecting LGBTQ youth from the horrors of conversion therapy.
As we work to modernize the children’s mental health system in Iowa, we need to ensure that our most vulnerable youth are protected from this barbaric practice. I urge you to call on your legislators and Gov. Kim Reynolds to support a ban on conversion therapy.
By Black Hawk County Supervisor Chris Schwartz