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Canada Protects LGBTQ+ Youth from Conversion Therapy

Canada has formally put protections in place regarding conversion therapy. This widely discredited practice aims to change a person's sexual orientation and/or gender identity

Canada has formally put protections in place regarding conversion therapy. This widely discredited practice aims to change a person’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

On January 7th, 2022, the legislation that makes it illegal to provide, promote and profit off conversion therapy will take effect. The bill offers the following definition for conversion therapy: “any practice, treatment or service designed to change or repress a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

According to a tweet from Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

“It’s official: Our government’s legislation banning the despicable and degrading practice of conversion therapy has received Royal Assent – meaning it is now law. LGBTQ2 Canadians, we’ll always stand up for you and your rights.”

Note: The Canadian government uses the acronym “LGBTQ2” to include Two-Spirit identities, a term that some Indigenous people use to define their sexual, gender, and/or spiritual identity.

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What Is Conversion Therapy?

As previously mentioned, “conversion” or “reparative” therapy is a highly dangerous and discredited practice that targets LGBTQ+ youth. It aims to change their sexual and/or gender identities.

For years, these practices have been rejected by every major medical and mental health organization. However, due to increasing discrimination against the queer community, some practitioners continue to implement conversion therapy. Minors are especially vulnerable to this practice since this type of therapy can contribute to mental health issues, substance use, homelessness, and suicide.

What Protections Are in Place for Youth in North America?

recent report from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law determined that about 20,000 LGBTQ+ minors in U.S. states are without protections and will be forced to undergo conversion therapy performed by a licensed healthcare professional if state officials refuse to act. 

In 2018, national organizations with millions of licensed medical and mental health care professionals, educators, and child welfare advocates showed their support for legislative protections against the harmful practice. 

However, right-wing religious groups continue to promote the false idea that people can change their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. They believe this can happen through prayer, spiritual efforts, and conversion therapy. However, research on these efforts has proven their inefficacy and has shown how harmful it can be. Furthermore, studies beyond conversion therapy show that societal prejudice and family rejection have a detrimental impact on LGBTQ+ people, especially young people. 

Extensive anecdotal evidence has also shown the harm these practices have against LGBTQ+ people from attempts to change their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Based on this amount of evidence, every major medical and mental health organization in the U.S. has issued a statement that condemns the use of implementing conversion therapy.

Unfortunately, one psychiatrist, Dr. L. Spitzer, once provided a flawed study on conversion therapy. However, they have since denounced and rejected the research and have apologized for endorsing this practice at one point.

What Kinds of Harms Does Conversion Therapy Cause?

San Francisco State University determined that LGBTQ+ young people who were highly rejected from their families or loved ones experienced the following:

  • 8.4x more likely than their accepted LGBTQ+ counterparts to have attempted suicide
  • 5.9x more had high levels of depression
  • 3.4x more were likely to use illegal drugs
  • 3.4x more were likely to be at a higher risk of HIV and STIs. 

What Are Some Statistics?

  • 698,000 LGBTQ+ adults (ages 18 to 59) in the U.S. have received this type of “therapy” before. About 350,000 of these LGBTQ+ adults received treatment as adolescents.
  • 20,000 LGBTQ+ youth (from ages 13 to 17) will receive conversion therapy from a licensed healthcare professional before 18 in the 41 states that currently do not offer protections for the practice.
  • 6,000 LGBTQ+ youth (ages 13 to 17) who live in states that offer protections for conversion therapy would have received this therapy from a licensed health care professional before 18 if their state had not provided protections for the practice.
  • 57,000 youth (ages 13 to 17) across every state will receive conversion therapy from religious or spiritual advisors before 18.

What North American Organizations Have Denounced Conversion Therapy?

The following organizations have rejected, discredited, and denounced:

  • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
  • American Psychiatric Association
  • National Association of Social Workers
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American School Health Association
  • World Health Organization
  • American Academy of Physician Assistants
  • American School Counselor Association
  • United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights
  • American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
  • American Association of School Administrators
  • School Social Work Association on America
  • American Associations of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapist
  • American College of Physicians
  • National Education Association
  • American Counseling Association
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • American Medical Association
  • American Osteopathic Association
  • Interfaith Alliance Foundation
  • American Psychoanalytic Association
  • American Psychological Association
  • … and many more organizations

How You Can Help 

GLAAD, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group, has partnered with Born Perfect to support conversion therapy survivors and laws that will protect queer youth. If you want to help survivors, you can contribute to the project.

In Summary 

Conversion therapy is a pseudoscientific practice, and there is no reliable evidence that proves that sexual orientation and/or gender identity can be changed. Furthermore, many medical institutions warn that this type of practice is ineffective and highly damaging. 

In addition, medical, scientific, and government organizations in various parts of the world, like North America and the United Kingdom, have expressed their concern over the validity and ethics of conversion therapy. Plus, many jurisdictions worldwide have passed and are continuing to pass laws against it.

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Billie Olsen

AUTHOR: Billie Olsen

Billie Olsen (she/they) is a lifestyle writer, disability justice advocate, and cozy femme located in Kelowna, BC, Canada. Their works have appeared in Metro News, Discorder, Sophomore Magazine, the Post-Feminist Post, DINE Magazine, and NerdReader.