Comments read before the East Lansing city council on Sep 10, 2019

Hello, David Shane speaking about the proposed ban on conversion therapy.  I did send a letter, with Steven Roskos, to council about the proposal a couple months ago, which I won’t repeat here, but the core point made by that letter, which will also be illustrated by the one additional story I want to share today, is that bans on conversion therapy often effectively function as rules that require counselors to only affirm any gender identity claim a patient might make, and that there are already, today, many stories from individuals who say they were harmed or harmed themselves through physical transition as a result of such uncritical counseling.  There is therefore abundant evidence that such bans result in increased harm to some individuals.

So much more you could say – I thought I would just read one more extended quotation, this from an article published anonymously in The Federalist on April 16 titled “Feminist, Pro-Gay Mother of Trans Child Critiques Bans on ‘Conversion Therapy’” – it is worth reading in its entirety, but let me just quote part of it:

“When my daughter came out as transgender, I wanted to find a therapist who could help her sort out what her gender dysphoria meant. Was she transgender, or was she ashamed of same-sex attraction, reacting to trauma, wanting respect, uncomfortable with feminine stereotypes, or had she internalized hate for women’s bodies?

[That list at the end there is because many individuals who now *formerly* identified as transgender would identify one of those as the real issue they were dealing with, which they and often their therapist misidentified as a gender identity issue.]

“I quickly discovered that it is nearly impossible to find therapists who do this kind of work. If a girl presents as transgender today, the vast majority of therapists will immediately affirm the girl’s declared gender identity and ask her what steps she would like to take toward transition. I interviewed at least a dozen therapists in search of one who could help my daughter examine her feelings and motivations. I finally resorted to paying out-of-pocket for my daughter to talk online to a therapist who lives in another state. I know I am not alone. I belong to an online support group of nearly 1,500 parents of gender dysphoric youth. Finding therapists who provide standard mental health therapy rather than automatic affirmation is a frustration for most of us.

[And then, especially relevant to the city ordinance.]

“The goal of anti-conversion therapy bills is to ban mental health therapists from using conversion therapy with minors. I am afraid these bills will have a chilling effect on therapists’ ability to help girls who say they are transgender. What the general public does not understand is that standard mental health therapy is now considered conversion therapy when practiced with gender-dysphoric youth.

[And then, a bit later…]

“My daughter has appreciated the opportunity to think deeply about what her feelings mean and whether transition would be a helpful thing for her. Yet activists who believe in an affirmation-only approach are filing complaints to her therapist’s licensing board, claiming the therapist is practicing conversion therapy.”

The city council should not make the mistake of conflating what are at least two distinct ideas.  If you dial back the clock ten years there are few people who would defend what was traditionally called “conversion therapy” as regards sexual orientation.  But there are MANY people, most of them with pretty progressive politics by my observation actually, trying to raise the alarm *today* as regards the uncritical and harmful counseling for gender identity that is being encouraged by modern bans on conversion therapy.  The city should not incentivize this harm.  Thank you.