In response to Todd Post’s letter, "Gay conversion therapy can work and should not be banned," published June 12:
In 2017, North Dakota conducted their Youth Risk Behavior Survey that was given to roughly 10,000 high school students in this state. This survey asked 100 questions to assess risk behaviors, but also asked demographic identifying questions such as a person’s sexual orientation. The result of this was we found that 9% of these youth identified as lesbian, bisexual or gay. Other states who asked about trans identity found 1.8% of youth out of 130,000 high school students identified as trans.
- Shaw: Gay conversion therapy is legalized torture
- Letter: Conversion therapy does not work and inflicts long-term harmful effects
The two reasons we’re likely seeing such high percentages is because that is the largest survey that I’m aware of that includes identifier questions for LGBTQ+ population. The other is because culture itself has seen much more visibility, support and general acceptance to this population. We’ve even recently become safe enough for capitalism to sell us products. Even in North Dakota, our youth can get the sense that it’s okay to be gay, that they are valid, and that they can live a happy life in another state, if not here.
Unfortunately, we have those in this state who ascribe to religious extremism and the belief that our government should only reflect in law and practice a very specific biblical understanding of a person’s faith. Attacking LGBTQ+ individuals using religion is an insult to the tenets, doctrine and love that our faiths are supposed to be built on. I don’t claim to be a theologian, but my experience and conversations with people who know much more than I do lead me to the belief that it is up to us to draw our own conclusions from scripture. Nobody has the answers, let alone the right, to dictate the lives of others with it.
Conversion therapy is talked about as just another option, but the practice itself has been historically predatory, coercive and dangerous, especially to youth. It is a fantasy that parents have that they can fix their child, because loving their child is in conflict with their views on LGBTQ+ individuals or their position within a group.
Post shared some stories of people being confused and ultimately deciding they weren’t gay. Stories like that can happen, because some people are confused. However, if you’re actually gay or trans, that’s part of our biology and that doesn’t go away. We’ve had therapists in this area who have had dozens of stories of parents telling them to fix their child. Medically speaking, we know the result of conversion therapy is trauma and suicide. It isn’t like we’ve never thought to try this, conversion therapy used to be the default approach, and we have decades of looking at the tragic results.
I get how scary it can be to have a child in this state who is LGBTQ+ for a number of reasons. I really do, and I’m sorry, but conversion therapy is the surest way to lose your child.