77,000 American LGBT children subjected to conversion therapy before they turn 18, says study

In a controversial new study, researchers from UCLA School of Law found that an estimated 77,000 American LGBT children are subjected to conversion therapy from psychological or spiritual interventions before they turn 18.

Approximately 20,000 LGBT children between the ages of 13 and 17 will receive this intervention from a licensed health care professional, while 57,000 youth will receive it from a religious or spiritual adviser, reported Daily Mail.

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Conversion therapy is a bid to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity under the belief that that being lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or trans-gendered is abnormal.

The researchers said that banning this type of therapy can help protect thousands of LGBT kids from increased chances of depression, anxiety, drug use, and suicide, symptoms linked to the therapy.

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"I was surprised to see that the percentage of LGBT people who had received conversion therapy from a licensed health care professional as adolescents were consistent across the three age groups from whom data were collected," Christy Mallory, lead author of the study, told Daily Mail.

"This means that this practice is still continuing, it is not a technique from the past that is no longer used."

Mallory, the state and local policy director at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, also made the shocking discovery that approximately 700,000 LGBT adults aged between 18 and 59 years had already undergone the therapy, including 350,000 who received them in their teenage years.

The therapy, still legal in 41 US states, has been used as early as the 1890s. 

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Talking is the most common technique of the intervention, but it varies in degree and type.

Hypnosis and electric shocks have also been used in conversion therapy by both healthcare professionals and religious figures over the years.

Another technique used is called called aversion treatment, wherein nausea and vomitting are induced in the "patient" or someone snaps an elastic band around their wrist when they become aroused by same-sex erotic images or thoughts.

Studies have found conversion therapy to be completely ineffective, with health experts flagging it for causing emotional and psychological damage, including increased risk of depression, anxiety, drug use and suicide.

The American Psychological Association task force study in 2009 found that despite interventions participants didn't change their sexual orientation and continued to be attracted to members of their own sex. 

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A 2015 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report found attempts to alter a person's sexual orientation was linked to "lower self-esteem, self-hatred, depression, and an increased risk of suicide."

As of now only nine US states including California, New Jersey, and Oregon have laws to protect anyone under 18 from such therapies administered by licensed health care providers. States like Connecticut, Nevada, New Mexico and Rhode Island, passed bans in 2017. 

The study said that around 6,000 young people aged 13 to 17 would have received conversion therapy if their state had not banned the practice.

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However, none of the states legally prevent religious or spiritual advisors from providing the therapy as long as they are acting solely in a spiritual capacity. 

Study author and research director at the Williams Institute, Kerith Conron, said, “With such a large number of teens at risk of conversion therapy we must ensure that families, faith communities and service providers have accurate information about sexual orientation and gender identity and work to reduce stigma and promote acceptance of LGBT youth and their families."

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Priyam Chhetri


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