Community Call to Protect Our Youth: The State House Has a Government Obligation to Ban So-Called “Conversion Therapy”

Ryley Copans

They/Them/Theirs

I called a new therapist recently. The law school only gives you so many visits to their counseling center. I look at a “therapist” that showed up on a referral list of people who take Mass Health. He has used the tag “transgender” on his profile. Okay, but I need more information. He does not answer my call. He does call me back maybe thirty minutes later.

For some context: I am non-binary. Transgender is an umbrella term, but I do not know if people who are not transgender will know this. I’m not completely sure what this person’s “transgender” tag means: Does he mean binary trans? He probably does, but I give him the benefit of the doubt. I inquire as to his experience with non-binary identified people and gender neutral they/them/theirs pronouns. He has no idea what I am talking about. He asks why I want to get into therapy. I speak about my general anxiety and my depression, and then I try to explain about my dysphoria.

 

“Have you ever committed any crimes?”

“Exc- what?”

“Have you ever committed any crimes?” He repeats himself in an indecipherable tone.

“W-what are you talking about? I don’t see what this has to do with-”

He proceeds to tell me that this is a part of dysphoria while in the same breath telling me how he does not believe that gender dysphoria is a disorder.

“Well, I have never heard this, and I have read a lot about this,” I explain, “and yeah, I think diagnosis about gender identity disorder is bullshit.”

“Good.”

 

I end this call shocked to my core. This is not conversion therapy. This is nothing close to what some queer and/or transgender and/or gender non-conforming people have gone through; there are no electric shocks and no one has yelled at me about how I am a girl and I need to wear make-up and dresses, “sit like a lady,” and no one has brought up Bible verses like songs that you hate yet cannot stop listening to until you catch yourself singing while working your job at Target that you only took to pay for college. I cannot help but think what he could have said in a meeting or what he may have said to people like me. What does he say to queer people? What would he say if he knew I was queer in sexual orientation in addition to being queer in gender identity, identifying as non-binary/trans, and using gender-neutral pronouns? I cannot help but think about what he actually believes and what he could have done, or worse, may do.

 

In 2015, I was an intern at the Massachusetts State House in Representative Khan’s Office. During my time there, I became involved in the bill to ban so-called “conversion therapy” from being used on minors. So-called “conversion therapy” is a psuedo-science practice that operates under the misguided belief that sexual orientation and gender identity can be changed. It is often religiously affiliated, but not always. One of the most common forms of conversion therapy is electroshock therapy, but it may also be “talk therapy,” though it always involves some degree of emotional abuse, if not physical and/or sexual abuse. This “practice” has been condemned by the American Psychiatric Association as ineffective and harmful. I personally use the phrase so-called “conversion therapy” in an effort to highlight that it is not condoned and it is not a legitimate “practice.”

While at the State House, this bill was in its second attempt. Representative Khan was the new sponsor, and as an intern, my job was to organize all of the old research from the first attempt, and conduct new research. This year, the bill is now its third attempt, and it is being proposed in both the House and the Senate. We are hoping that with the passing of the Trans Bill, a precedent can be set.

It is not that the bill has been rejected in its first two attempts, but it has never made it through the entire legislative process and has never actually been voted on. This is where the community comes in! Our representatives are our voice in the State House, and when we want and need something, it is their job to work on our behalf and get this done for us. Bureaucracy is definitely messy, and people are of course quite busy, but if we call them or write them, they will listen; remember, this is also their job, which means that listening to you is what keeps them office.

Massachusetts has an outstanding reputation as an exemplary state, for which both other states and the federal government have modeled their policies. So far, only about seven other states and four cities have banned so-called “conversion therapy.” It is our ethical obligation to join them in protecting our youth. We must make this state safe for queer, transgender, and gender non-conforming young people. Calls to suicide hotlines have spiked in recent months, and we cannot ignore the parallel of the suicide rate of people subjected to so-called “conversion therapy.” Massachusetts must show queer, transgender, and gender non-conforming young people that they support them, and as a government, will work to protect them from harmful “practices.” It is my further hope that taking this direct action against so-called conversion will set its own precedent to train mental health, physical health, and health insurance providers in queer, transgender, and gender non-conforming competency that allows members of the community to be served respectfully, effectively, and adequately from an educated and compassionate perspective. As citizens of a state known for standing up, we must ensure that our government continues to do this.

Please follow the link below if you do not know who your representatives and senator are. Write or call them and ask them to co-sign “An act relative to banning abusive practices to change sexual orientation and gender identity in minors.” A model email, and a model phone call statement are provided at the end of this piece for your convenience.  Please pass this on. Please protect our youth.

https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator

Call Script

Contacting your State Representative and Senator is easy and effective, but you need to act quickly – the deadline to cosponsor legislation is fast approaching. Not sure who your elected officials are? Click here to find out, and then use the guide below to make your two calls.

  1.      Call and ask to speak with your Representative/Senator. It is also okay to speak with an aide. Tell them your name and that you live in the district. They may ask for your address.
  2.      Let them know that you are calling to strongly urge them to cosponsor: I am calling to ask you to help protect minors by co-sponsoring An Act Relative to Abusive Practices to Change Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Minors. Let them know that it is being filed by Rep. Khan (if the person you are speaking are your Representative) or Sen. Montigny (if the person you are speaking with is your Senator).
  3.      Let them know the bill would protect children and adolescents by prohibiting licensed mental health professionals from engaging in harmful, deceptive, and discredited practices aimed at changing a minor’s gender or sexual identity.
  4.      If you are comfortable, tell them briefly, and in your own words, why this legislation is important to you.
  5.      Ask if they will commit to cosponsoring the bill.
  6.      Thank them for their time.

Thank you for taking the time to make your calls today. Please contact the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition at 617-778-0519 or Mason.Dunn@masstpc.org let us know how it went. The more we know about who has committed to sign on, the better we can target our efforts.  

 

Model Email

Contacting your State Representative and Senator is easy and effective, but you need to act quickly – the deadline to cosponsor legislation is fast approaching. Not sure who your elected officials are? Click here to find out, and then use the guide below to send your two emails.

Dear Representative/Senator [Your Representative/Senator’s name]

I am a constituent of the [ The District you live in- this information will show up when you use the above searches to determine your representative and senator and find their contact information]. I am writing to ask you to help protect minors by co-sponsoring An Act Relative to Abusive Practices to Change Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Minors. This bill is being filed by Rep. Khan (if you are emailing your Representative) or Sen. Montigny (if you are emailing your Senator).

This bill would protect children and adolescents by prohibiting licensed mental health professionals from engaging in harmful, deceptive, and discredited practices aimed at changing a minor’s gender or sexual identity.

[If you are comfortable, tell them briefly, and in your own words, why this legislation is important to you].

As your constituent, I would appreciate your support and commitment to cosponsoring this increasingly important bill.

Thank you for your time,

Sincerely,

 

[Your Name]

 

Thank you for taking the time to make your calls today. Please contact the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition at 617-778-0519 or Mason.Dunn@masstpc.org let us know how it went. The more we know about who has committed to sign on, the better we can target our efforts.