State leaders, advocacy groups study effects of conversion therapy

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OKLAHOMA CITY – State leaders and advocacy group leaders met at the Capitol Tuesday to present a bipartisan report during the House Health Services and Long-Term Care Committee meeting.

Their report is focused on banning conversion therapy for minors across the state.

“We did a study of 34,000 LGBTQ youth across the country and of the 5 percent of those youth that reported experiencing conversion therapy. 42 percent of them reported a suicide attempt in the last 12 months,” said Casey Pick with The Trevor Project.

Rep. Jason Dunnington co-sponsored a bill on this topic at the beginning of the year.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “sexual orientation conversion therapy refers to counseling and psychotherapy to attempt to eliminate an individual’s sexual desires for members of their own sex.”

Casey Pick says the practice is dangerous.

“What this really winds up doing, is that it twists cause and effect and it ultimately results in shame, lower self-esteem, depression, anxiety, it breaks down family relationships and results in a tremendous amount of harm,” said Pick.

The Trevor Project and Rep. Dunnington are hoping to bring awareness to the ethics surrounding sexual orientation and practices of licensed therapists.

“It has nothing to do with whether you’re a republican, and democrat, and independent. This issue has to do with how can we as a state use policy to protect children,” said Rep. Dunnington.

“I would hope to see Oklahoma join the 18 other states and the dozens of municipalities across this country which have prohibited licensed professionals from engaging in conversion therapy on minors,” added Pick.

News 4 also spoke with Stephen Black, executive director at First Stone Ministries.

Black says they don’t use the term conversion therapy and added, in his experience, a lot of the young clients seeking change are victims of sexual abuse.

“They want these young people to celebrate staying gay, although they’ve been sexually abused, sexually wounded, very confused even some of them taking hormones and trying to change their gender because they are so wounded… I view that as child abuse in that you can’t offer hope to children or teenagers who actually really do want help,” said Black.

One thing both parties said is that no one should be forced to change.

“I would agree with them on this… if there is a therapist or a counselor that is trying to force somebody to do something beyond their will I would say list the name list the doctor and let’s work together to get that’s person’s license taken away,” said Black.

Rep. Dunnington also says that this legislation is specifically geared toward licensed therapists who are practicing unethical conduct, as it stands it would not affect churches or other ministries.

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