Opinion: Mike Pence and conversion therapy—an attack on human rights

Let’s talk human rights.

First, some background. The results are in: “President Trump” is now a legitimate phrase.

Alright. Fine. Trump is president. If you support Trump, good for you. Who knows, America may be “made great” once again under his administration.

As for America as a whole? I hope you made the right choice in appointing this man to office, because Trump himself made a terrible mistake in appointing his vice president.  Yes, Mike Pence is Trump’s #2 and will also be—as of today— the chairman to head Trump’s transition team.

Let’s take a look at Pence, a “Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order” as he tells us. That’s all well and good; those are perfectly fine things to be. What isn’t all well and good is what action Pence could take based on these affiliations and his own beliefs.

Pence shares the beliefs of most conservatives on marriage equality and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. He’s been an advocate for most of his career against same-sex marriage, against transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals’ rights, and generally against the LGBTQ+ community.

That is fine. It’s a free country—believe in what you want.

What is terrible is that he advocates strongly for the institution of conversion therapy—or “reparation therapy”—treatment for non-heterosexual and gender nonconforming individuals.

What is conversion therapy, you ask? Prepare to lose all faith in humanity.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Sexual orientation conversion therapy refers to counseling and psychotherapy to attempt to eliminate individuals’ sexual desires for members of their own sex.” 

In layman’s terms, that means it’s a process which forces the “patient” to be subject to “counseling” to “cure” them of their “symptoms” of homosexuality or gender identity. It’s a systematic process for brainwashing people into thinking that they are wrong for being who they are on the most basic levels of their gender and their sexual and romantic attraction and attempting to change them.

It doesn’t work.

Organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, the World Psychiatric Association, American Medical Association, and the American Counseling Association, to name a few, have officially stated that this therapy is ill-founded and produces none of the intended results.

This—forcing someone to fundamentally change who they are—is already inhumane enough, but it’s the methods “therapists” take to achieve these ends that is truly frightening.

Some of the most horrifying records of conversion therapy come from the 1940s, when “patients” under the blanket-term homosexuals were thrown into hospitals against their will—hospitals that would experiment on, electrocute, and perform lobotomies on them in an attempt to discover a way to “cure” homosexuality.

Yes, that was long ago, but it seems the modernization of conversion therapy has not brought about any change for the positive. A 2009 report by the American Psychological Association states that patients of conversion therapy would be induced with nausea, forced vomiting, paralysis, or harmful electric shocks if they showed sexual reactions to those of the same sex.

California teen Alex Cooper came out as lesbian in 2010, inciting her parents to send her to the home of a couple, who had no medical license to perform such therapy, where they forced her to stand for hours wearing a backpack of rocks, physically beat her, and other such barbaric punishments.

The Exodus Global Alliance, an organization devoted solely to conversion therapy, only closed its doors in 2013.

Similar organizations may soon be instituted once more, as Pence and the Trump administration, as well as the newly elected conservative government as a whole, may soon call for a change to open the doors to state legalization of this horrendous treatment.

The worst part is—the doors don’t need to be opened. Only five states have laws banning conversion therapy: Vermont, New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon and California, in addition to the District of Columbia. The other forty-five have no strict regulations on the matter.

Now, I don’t care if you support the LGBTQ+ community, hate it, or don’t even care about it.

That’s not the issue.

The issue on the table is that this so-called “therapy” is a violation of human rights on every level. It’s abuse. It’s torture of the mind and body. It’s not okay. And it’s not funny.

I’m sure even the most devoted of anti-LGBTQ+ advocates would agree that this is unacceptable to do to anyone. Maybe you aren’t pro-LGBTQ+, but I would hope you are at least pro-human.

And yet Pence supports it. Even worse, he is a leading force in the movement for it. On his website for his 2000 campaign for congress, part of his policy to “Strengthen the American Family” is to direct resources “toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”

Even if he hasn’t personally participated in the administration of the therapy or seen to it, he is allowing it, even encouraging it to happen. And his opinions have not changed, if his actions as Indiana Governor tell us.

Mr. Pence, the only thing you are strengthening is the ignorant and unfounded movement of hate and violence against a minority that only desires to openly express themselves and love who they want to love.

I know what you’re thinking—He’s Vice President. They don’t do anything. He’ll never get Congress to approve bills for this.

Now that we will soon have a majority conservative government in all three branches, those who oppose this issue might soon be outnumbered, and his support as the assistant to our Commander-in-Chief will be another keg of kerosene on the fire.

As a fervent supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, I find it hard to see the other side. Yes, you have the right to your religion and your morals—I, myself, grew up Catholic—but don’t those same morals tell you that this type of abuse is wrong? Don’t they say that you should help your neighbor? I’d think if you heard your neighbor was being subject to shock torture, you’d at least give the situation some thought.

But you might be saying to yourself, So what? Patients can just stop the therapy. They don’t have to go.

Unfortunately, you’d be wrong.

It’s not the kind of therapy you sign up for. Most of the patients these “therapists” tend to are teens whose ignorant parents force them into treatment. These teens come out of therapy not only damaged and emotionally unstable, but they are three times more likely to turn to addiction and illegal drugs, six times more likely to suffer clinical depression, and eight times more likely to commit suicide following “treatment.”

This issue hits very close to home for me. With the recent shift toward a conservative government as a whole, many of my friends who are LGBTQ+ are in legitimate danger. The position of the government alone will most likely influence the spread of homophobia and transphobia and bullying in schools and in society.

I had one such friend tell me that before they departed for school on the ninth, the day after election day, their parents, rather than say “Love you” or “Good luck at school” like usual, warned them “Just be careful.” 

If you still think that this does not pertain to us on a local level, that there are not many LGBTQ+ students in LHS, you are quite mistaken. There are many students of all facets of the community at the school. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and yes, transgender, in addition to many other students who are questioning or identify otherwise.

They are in serious danger of leaving high school to a world that does not accept them and forces them once again into hiding for fear of their work, further education, or lives being in jeopardy. Some are in serious danger now that their own families may put them through this abomination we call therapy, because, yes, conversion therapy is still legal right here in good old New Hampshire.

So what can we do then?

I urge anyone who sees conversion therapy going into effect in our area or anywhere to show that you will not stand for it. Even preemptively—there are still forty-five states which have no specific restrictions on conversion therapy.  Don’t forget, you live in a state that doesn’t have legal documentation banning conversion therapy.

Or please consider writing to your state legislation or to Congress stating your thoughts.

Even if you aren’t able or willing to write a letter to Congress, the most simple but effective way you as students can help is just to accept. Be open. 

If you hear anti-LGBTQ+ slurs here at school, let the perpetrator know that it’s not cool. Stand up for members of the LGBTQ+ community at LHS and show them you care. 

The best thing we can do to help this issue is to make the common thing to be accepting, and slowly but surely we can change as a country and as a planet so everyone is free to live as they choose, to love as they choose, and to be themselves for once in history.

If we make it known that we will not allow this to happen to our friends, we can stop the abuse of thousands of teens that may be subject to this awful fate.