Can any type of therapy change a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation? According to Elizabeth Moberly and Joseph Nicolosi, the founders of modern day conversion therapy, and 45 percent of Americans, you can.
Conversion therapy is defined as the psychological treatment or spiritual counseling designed to change a person’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual. Conversion therapy made a big appearance in the 1980’s. In 1981 therapists used more physical ways to try and convert the homosexual patients they received into heterosexual. Such therapy sessions included ice pick lobotomies, chemical and surgical castration (which is the removing of the genitalia or using drugs to reduce sexual activity), hormone treatment, electrical shock to the hands and genitalia of the patient, and aversive conditioning. Such practices were used until the 1990’s.
In today’s society we use less physical practices and while many of the therapy practices used today are less extreme and shocking they are nevertheless still considered as unethical to utmost; while they are still equally void of any scientific validity and still considered very harmful to the patients that have to endure the practices. One of the most controversial practices that are still in use today is aversive conditioning, which is when psychiatrists try and change the behavior of one by using nausea-inducing drugs which they pair with homoerotic stimuli in the case of conversion therapy. The idea behind aversion therapy is if they can tie a certain behavior (two homosexuals together) with an unpleasant feeling then the patient will want to discontinue the certain behavior.
So what’s the big deal? If it’s been around forever then it’ll always be around? Right? The recent passing away in March of one of the founders mentioned earlier, Nicolosi, has caused some hope across the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community. Famous former Disney Channel star, Miley Cyrus posted various times about the issue on social media stating that, “Praying that now Joseph Nicolosi has died his practices will die with him.” Cyrus who became a big advocate for the LGBT community in 2013, has done many interviews defending the community and their rights. On the flip side, Mike Pence the Vice President, during his campaign this past year brought up the idea that taxpayers dollars should pay for therapies such as conversion therapy.
When asked about the topic senior, Jessica Smith, had some very interesting points about the topic. Smith said, “You can not just pray the gay away, it’s something that you are born with [sexual orientation]. It’s not a mental disease and no, it cannot be cured. I think that if people who are homosexual want to go out and seek ‘help’ then the choice should be theirs. However, I don’t think that the help they receive should make them feel disgusted with themselves… with this being said, I also don’t think that minors should be allowed to be put into conversion therapy. Talk about lifelong self-esteem issues.”
Waiting for adulthood to participate in such a drastic type of therapy is probably a good idea. But it sounds like, at least for now, conversion therapy is sticking around. Only time will tell whether or not this therapy will really die with Nicolosi.