The Cincinnati City Council made history this month when it became the first city in the United States to ban the controversial “conversion therapy” for minors. This type of therapy tries to persuade people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) to become heterosexual or to only identify as the gender that they were assigned at birth. Many people who have been through this type of therapy have described it as mental and physical torture.
After the law was passed, John Bogger of Equality Ohio said, “No licensed medical professional can perform any type of treatment to change the sexual orientation or the gender identity/expression of a minor in the city of Cincinnati. It’s now the law of the land.”
Cincinnati City Council member Chris Seelbach tweeted, “This is a matter of public safety. The safety of young LGBT people throughout our city.”
One of the big reasons this was passed in Cincinnati was the tragic death of 17-year -old Leelah Alcorn, one year ago this month. Leelah was killed on Interstate 71 near Kings Island when she stepped in front of a semi-truck at 3 a.m. She wrote a 900-word suicide note on Tumblr explaining why she did what she did.
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In her note, Leelah said, “I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse.”
Leelah wanted to transition while she was young in order to have more feminine features. Instead, she was sent to so-called conversion therapy. The last thing she said on her note was “Please fix society.”
According to research done by the Williams Institute at UCLA, 41 percent of all transgender adults have attempted suicide compared to about 4.6 percent of the general population. According to the Trevor Project, nearly 50 percent of transgender youth have seriously thought about taking their lives and 25 percent have attempted suicide.
Their report also said that LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.
These suicide rates do not mean that LGBTQ youth are mentally ill. A new study from Canada found the attempted suicide rates drop drastically when LGBTQ individuals have affirming parents, access to legal documentation matching gender identity, and experience low levels of anti-LGBTQ hate.
In fact, directly contradicting conservatives’ claims about transgender people being mentally ill, the American Psychiatric Association recently updated its manual to only include “gender dysphoria,” a diagnosis which only applies to those who may suffer distress or impairment, rather than pathologizing all transgender people.
Many in society continue to demonize us and loudly argue that LGBTQ need to somehow be fixed. Some politicians fear monger about transgender women in restrooms to stir up hatred against all LGBTQ people, but transgender women are the most frequent victims of attacks.
Politicians who fan the flames of hate have introduced discriminatory “bathroom bills” here in Kentucky, in the state Senate in 2015.
Conversion therapy is roundly decried by mainstream medical and psychological organizations. Despite the political climate of fear and hyperbole about LGBTQ people, we can all agree that Kentucky is no place for potentially dangerous practices. My hope is that before dubious practitioners attempt to seep across the border into Kentucky, that we prevent the spread of hate before we have any loss of life.
Tuesday Meadows of Lexington is a transgender advocate.
If you need help: Trevor Lifeline 866-488-7386 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK.