Post submitted by Katie Guare, HRC Field Organizer
Last month, the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities in Massachusetts held a hearing on a bill to protect youth from the harmful practice of so-called “conversion therapy. ” Representative Kay Khan, who is also a chair of the committee, sponsored the bill. House Bill 97 would prevent licensed providers from conducting practices that attempt to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of minors in Massachusetts.
As part of the hearing, the committee collected testimony on this important issue. Alison Gill, Senior Legislative Counsel for HRC, asked the committee to quickly pass the bill on behalf of all LGBT youth and HRC’s members and supporters across the state. She pointed out the complete lack of any evidence that these practices succeed in changing anyone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact, these harmful practices may result in severe negative outcomes. Studies have found that LGBT youth exposed family rejection, such as “conversion therapy,” were 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide and 5.9 times more likely to suffer depression than their peers.
The committee also heard from several survivors of “conversion therapy,” who bravely recounted their stories of being subjected to damaging practices, sometimes for years. One survivor, Mathew Shurka, spent five years, from ages 16 to 21, undergoing “conversion therapy” with various therapists and shared the damaging impact it had on his family. His mother, Jane Shurka, spoke about her love for Mathew and coming to realize her son’s orientation could not, and should not, be changed.
California, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., have all passed laws that prohibit licensed professionals from offering “conversion therapy” to minors and their parents. Illinois also has a similar bill awaiting the governor’s signature. HRC, with partners like the National Center for Lesbian Rights, strongly support this bill and hope that Massachusetts will become the next state to protect children from this dangerous and harmful practice.