Is it right for the Federal Courts in California to uphold the state’s new ban on gay conversion therapy? Simply put, the state has a right to regulate healthcare practices that it licenses. But for the larger answer, read on.
If you research the internet to find out whether psychotherapy is an art or a science, you will find both sides of the argument represented. Most psychotherapy involves a warm or at least accepting therapist in order to work. That’s the art part. But for that, you could also just go to a friend who is nonjudgmental. For psychotherapy to work, you have to go beyond that. It needs a therapist who practices methods which have shown results and are based on the most solid research available. If not, it’s based only on that particular therapist’s opinion. And it’s hard to see any state handing out licenses so that people can offer their personal opinions on anything?
Most research demonstrates that sexual orientation is, if not genetically programmed, then it is formed so early in life that it might as well be. Conversion therapy, on the other hand, is based on some combination of parental angst, possible prejudice and religious doctrine. People who believe conversion therapy works generally assume that sexual orientation is something chosen by the gay or lesbian or was created by some overwhelming family or social influence. Since that’s the case, they believe, it can be "unchosen" or the social damage repaired.
This is the part where science comes in. There is very little in research that would suggest choice or social environment actually causes of a person’s sexual orientation either gay or straight. Nobody chooses their sexual orientation. Sometimes conversion therapists are called reparative therapists suggesting something needs to be repaired. But there is nothing to fix.
Conversion therapists often seem to confuse such basic things as the gender identity and sexual orientation. Gender concerns issues of masculine and feminine traits. Sexual orientation is about attraction and is often separate from gender traits. Making a gay man play sports (as many already do without the help of a therapist) will not change who turns him on sexually. Knowing the difference between the gender identity and sexual attraction is essential to understanding an individual. That these lines have been so easily blurred is one of the many problems with conversion therapy.
Who doesn't want their state to refuse to issue a license to a quack in any healthcare practice? Therefore, if there’s not enough research to show there is a basis for conversion therapy and if there is enough that shows that it does harm, the state is obligated to prevent conversion therapists from practicing under a license it issues.
While there are probably some secular conversion therapists, most seem to come from religious backgrounds. Some churches will continue to refuse to marry same-sex couples and some will continue to try to convert LGBT people. And that’s within their rights. But once someone begins to practice as a licensed mental health therapist, it becomes a whole different story. It’s no longer a matter of faith or opinion.