On Wednesday, President Obama announced that his administration condemns “conversion therapy” for LGBT youth.
The statement was in response to a WhiteHouse.gov petition that was created after the suicide of transgender teenager Leelah Alcorn, which gained more than 120,000 signatures. In December of last year, 17-year-old Alcorn committed suicide. In a suicide note that went viral, Alcorn explained that she was forced to undergo “conversion therapy,” a program her Christian parents put her in that was created to “change” a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation. Alcorn’s note ended with a plea:
The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say, ‘That’s fucked up’ and fix it. Fix society. Please.
“Tonight, somewhere in America, a young person, let’s say a young man, will struggle to fall to sleep, wrestling alone with a secret he’s held as long as he can remember,” President Obama’s personal message reads. “Soon, perhaps, he will decide it’s time to let that secret out. What happens next depends on him, his family, as well as his friends and his teachers and his community. But it also depends on us — on the kind of society we engender, the kind of future we build.”
The official White House statement says “conversion therapy” is “neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm.” The statement points out that many medical and mental health organizations have condemned the practice of “conversion therapy” as it is shown to be damaging to the individual.
A law to ban “conversion therapy,” which many are calling Leelah’s Law, would require congressional action – until then, states can take matters into their own hands. California, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. have all already banned licensed professionals from practicing “conversion therapy” on minors. Lawmakers in 18 other states have introduced legislation that would ban the practice.
Scott Bixby of Mic wrote in response to the statement that the President could do more. “The President, after opening the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston or holding a round-table conversation on clean energy in Utah, could take a few moments to tell local reporters, lawmakers and voters what he said in his personal attachment to the White House’s statement on conversion therapy.”
Media Resources: Mic 4/9/2015; The White House 4/8/2015