House makes decision

LGBT conversion therapy prohibited

Dirk Schnoes, Staff Writer

The Washington state House of Representatives, with support from all House Democrats and some Republicans, has passed a bill to prohibit conversion therapy.

Conversion therapy (also known as reparative therapy) is a range of treatments that aim to change sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual, and gender identity from trans* or non-binary to cisgender.

This bill comes as a response to the suicide of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender woman, and the suicide note she posted on Tumblr this past December. “My death needs to mean something,” she wrote in part. “My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year.”

Alcorn’s parents reportedly subjected her to conversion therapy in the hope that it would change her gender identity. In her note, Alcorn asked that we “fix society.”

A petition created in Alcorn’s honor gained more than 120,000 signatures, and President Obama’s senior advisor Valier Jarrett isn’t letting it go unnoticed.

The petition states that “therapists that engage in the attempt to brainwash or reverse any child’s gender identity or sexual orientation are seriously unethical and legislation is needed to end such practices that are resulting in LGBTQ+ deaths.”

On Wednesday, April 8, an official release from the White House announced that President Obama is working to do just that. Jarrett’s statement in the release reads: “We share your concern about its potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer youth. As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”

While speaking to the press, Jarrett said this of Alcorn, “It was tragic, but I will tell you, unfortunately, she has a lot of company. It’s not the story of one young person. It is the story of countless young people who have been subjected to this.”

Supporters of the new bill agreed that the practices of conversion therapy are traumatic.

“When assessing the validity of conversion therapy, or other practices that seek to change an individual’s gender identity or sexual orientation, it is as imperative to seek guidance from certified medical experts. The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm,” said Jarrett in an official statement released from the White House.

“As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors,” she concluded.

There’s also a response from President Obama.

“Tonight, somewhere in America, a young person, let’s say a young man, will struggle to fall to sleep, wrestling alone with a secret he’s held as long as he can remember,” he said. “Soon, perhaps, he will decide it’s time to let that secret out. What happens next depends on him, his family, as well as his friends and his teachers and his community. But it also depends on us — on the kind of society we engender, the kind of future we build.”

The bill will now move onto the Senate for consideration.

Unfortunately, it comes too late to save the countless other LGBT+ teens who committed suicide in the last year due to bullying and lack of support from their parents and school systems.

Notable names and numbers

Leelah Alcorn

 – On December 28, 2014, Alcorn, 17, walked into oncoming traffic in Ohio, with her suicide note later appearing on Tumblr expressing her desire for her death to start a dialogue about lack of support for transgender persons.

Zander Mahaffey

– The 15-year-old cited family bullying in his suicide note, and there was outcry from many when after he took his life on February 15, only his birth name and female pronouns were used in his obituary.

Melonie Rose

 – The 19-year-old from Maryland took her life in February, and according to one attendee was dressed like a man during her open casket funeral.

Ash Haffner

 – Haffner, 16, took his own life after he was constantly bullied, walking into the path of a car on February 26.

Blake Brockington

 – The high school student from Charlotte, North Carolina who made headlines when he was named Homecoming King earlier this year and who was a huge advocate for the community took his own life in March.

Sage David 

– A young man who took his own life in March, though he was living in a supportive environment and may have been dealing with his mother’s death years before.

Taylor Alesana

-16, of Fallbrook, California, took her own life on April 2 after being bullied because she was transgender.

In 2010, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force reported that 41 percent of 7,000 transgender people surveyed had attempted suicide.

Mentioned are names of members of the LGBT+ community who have committed suicide due to the inequality they have experienced in their lives.