Groups Converge on Atlanta to Expose Dangers of Ex-Gay Therapy
Warning Issued on Eve of Ex-Gay Conference Promoting Junk Science
ATLANTA – The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Truth Wins Out (TWO) and other advocacy groups gathered today to expose the dangers of conversion therapy – a practice that claims people can change their sexual orientation and the subject of an Atlanta-area conference promoting the practice this weekend.
During a news conference at The Phillip Rush Center, groups outlined the dangers of conversion therapy – sometimes known as ex-gay, reparative or sexual reorientation therapy. Despite its claims of literally “converting” people from gay to straight, the practice has been discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations. People who have undergone conversion therapy have reported increased anxiety, depression, and in some cases, suicidal ideation.
“This therapy devastates the lives of many who have endured it and can result in lasting psychological harm,” said Sam Wolfe, an attorney for the SPLC. “It inaccurately assumes that LGBT people are broken and fraudulently claims to fix who they are. We want LGBT people and their allies to be aware of the disastrous effects this therapy can cause and encourage survivors to speak out against it.”
The conversion therapy movement continues to push its message and is increasingly targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth across the country and in Georgia. On Saturday, one of the largest conversion therapy conferences in the Southeast will be held in Villa Rica, Ga., by Exodus International.
Events such as Exodus International’s ex-gay conference can lead young LGBT adults to believe they are broken and can be “cured” by this therapy. These events also lend an air of legitimacy to this dangerous practice that it does not deserve. In 2006, the American Psychological Association stated unequivocally: “There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.”
The groups launched a campaign last fall in conjunction with National Coming Out Day to encourage conversion therapy survivors to share their own stories. Survivors can share their stories at: www.splcenter.org/conversion-therapy. The campaign also encourages community advocates and elected leaders to scrutinize local conversion therapy programs.
One conversion therapy survivor, Chaim Levin, shared his experience with conversion therapy during the news conference today. Levin grew up in an orthodox Jewish community. After grappling with being gay in his community, he approached an organization practicing conversion therapy, Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH) when he was 18 years old.
“I was made to believe that there was something wrong with me and I needed to change,” he said. “I was hopeless and was looking for a way to ‘cure’ being gay, but the therapy didn’t work. It left me feeling even more depressed since they made me believe I failed. I finally accepted that there is nothing wrong with me and I don’t need to change.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, see www.splcenter.org.