Guest op-ed by River Wise, president of the Lincoln High School Gender Sexuality Alliance in Des Moines
Being a teenager is terrifying — we’re constantly stressed about the homework assignment we put off until the last minute, have 9 million activities to fit into our schedule and are always worrying about whether or not the person we have a crush on likes us back.
Every teen has a laundry list of stressors and fears that are completely valid and real to them, but these don’t necessarily apply to everyone. One often overlooked fear that I want to discuss today is one that is very real to a subgroup of teenagers, LGBTQ+ youth. This is the fear of undergoing conversion therapy.
Conversion therapy is an outdated practice that attempts to change someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation. This “therapy” can include anything from emotional abuse to induced vomiting to electric shock, and so much more. Conversion therapy is also based on the falsehood that gender identity and sexual orientation can be changed; this has been proven countless times to be false.
Conversion therapy is a very real fear for us as LGBTQ youth and has serious consequences when someone is victimized by it. Individuals who are subjected to conversion therapy are more likely to have attempted suicide, more likely to use illegal drugs, and more likely to be at risk of HIV and STDs, in addition to having increased rates of anxiety and depression.
In 2009, the American Psychological Association issued a report sharing more of the harms associated with conversion therapy including, but not limited to, guilt, hopelessness, increased self-hatred, deterioration of relationships, and problems in sexual and emotional intimacy.
In addition to the “typical” stressors of being a teenager, LGBTQ+ youth live in fear of conversion therapy every single day. Some of my fellow students are constantly afraid their unsupportive parents will send them off to these dark places. This is unacceptable.
We should never have to live in fear. Nineteen other states have banned this unjust, outdated, and useless practice. If we truly care about the safety, happiness, and well-being of all our youth, the Iowa Legislature must pass a law protecting LGBTQ+ youth from conversion therapy.
Please call, write, and email your legislators and Gov. Kim Reynolds and demand that they protect our youth from this barbaric practice.
By River Wise, president of the Gender Sexuality Alliance at Lincoln High School