The NY Times reports:
A 17-year-old transgender youth, Leelah Alcorn, stunned her friends and a vast Internet audience in December when she threw herself in front of a tractor-trailer after writing in an online suicide note that religious therapists had tried to convert her back to being a boy.The White House statement says:
In response, President Obama is calling for an end to such therapies aimed at “repairing” gay, lesbian and transgender youth. His decision on the issue is the latest example of his continuing embrace of gay rights.
In a statement that was posted on Wednesday evening alongside a WhiteHouse.gov petition begun in honor of Ms. Alcorn, Mr. Obama condemned the practice, sometimes called “conversion” or “reparative” therapy, which is supported by some socially conservative organizations and religious doctors.
When assessing the validity of conversion therapy, or other practices that seek to change an individual’s gender identity or sexual orientation, it is as imperative to seek guidance from certified medical experts. The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm.No, it is not true that the scientific evidence is against conversion therapy.
A dirty secret of the profession is that psychotherapy hardly ever changes or cures anyone. The success rate on most problems is very low, unless the patient is motivated the change in the first place. Mostly counseling just talk to patients to make them feel better about their problems.
I've looked at the supposedly scientific statements against conversion therapy. They go like this: If you assume that sexual orientation and identity are innate and immutable, and that a determination has been made of a particular orientation and identity, then anecdotes suggest that trying to change either is often harmful or unproductive.
There are also anecdotes claiming conversion therapy can be successful, and no good scientific studies comparing them.
In short, there is no good scientific evidence that conversion therapy is any worse than any other psychotherapy.
As a practical matter, the consequence of a law like what Obama proposes would be that if someone is confused about his sexuality and seeks counseling, the counseling will have to encourage him to be gay or transsexual.
You might say that no one should have to endure psychotherapy to change their fundamental beliefs. I would go further, and say that no one should be forced to endure psychotherapy at all, as I believe the whole field does more harm than good, and that forcing it is an abuse of human rights. But the family (and juvenile) court do it all the time. Judges order parents off to counseling because it is supposed to help everyone, or to change behavior in response to dubious complaints, or as punishment, or as some weird fitness test. That is, if the dad does not do the ordered counseling and get a good report, then the judge has an excuse to cut off child custody and visitation.
If the shrinks had any ethics, they would refuse all court-ordered counseling.
Here is a typical response to Obama:
So, this is where we are now.This is one of the sickest opinions to come out of the White House. Here is what former VP Dick Cheney says, about other policies:
A mentally ill person wants to be the opposite sex. A counselor suggests that the person consider accepting the natural sex. Mental patient commits suicide and blames counselor’s suggestion of just going natural.
Based on this sample size, the President (not a psychiatrist nor a peer committee of such) suggests as a matter of public policy and professional practice that mental patients not be counseled to accept their natural sex rather to embrace their delusions of being the opposite sex.
Are we serious?
This is at least as stupid as any religion.
Is the president now some kind of high priest who advises all people on all matters whatever without regard to being entirely unqualified?
I vacillate between the various theories I’ve heard, but you know, if you had somebody as president who wanted to take America down, who wanted to fundamentally weaken our position in the world and reduce our capacity to influence events, turn our back on our allies and encourage our adversaries, it would look exactly like what Barack Obama’s doing. I think his actions are constituted in my mind those of the worst president we’ve ever had.I do not agree with anything Obama has done.