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Kansas LGBTQ+ youths deserve protection from conversion ‘therapy’ before looming Supreme Court case

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Kansas LGBTQ+ youths deserve protection from conversion ‘therapy’ before looming Supreme Court case

Dec 05, 2023 | 4:33 am ET
By Troy Stevenson
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Kansas LGBTQ+ youths deserve protection from conversion ‘therapy’ before looming Supreme Court case
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Kansas House lawmakers display LGBTQ flags on their desks during a vote April 5, 2023, to override the governor's veto and impose a transgender sports ban on public schools. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)

LGBTQ+ advocates across the country — myself included — are keeping a steadfast watch on the U.S. Supreme Court, as the highest court in the land weighs the possibility of taking on a critical case, one that could potentially overturn state bans on so-called conversion “therapy” for minors.

As a number of anti-LGBTQ+ and hate groups exert public pressure on the court to take up the case and rule in their favor, this issue will rise to the national stage, surrounded by discourse and debate. For some Kansans, this may be the first time they hear of conversion “therapy.” For others, they will question why this is even a debate, because, didn’t conversion “therapy” stop happening years ago? As someone who has worked on this issue for the last two decades, unfortunately, that is not true.

It’s still happening, even in Kansas. And we must put an end to it.

It is critical to recognize that conversion “therapy” is actually a misnomer, as it is not therapy at all. Rather, it is a name used as shorthand to describe a wide range of dangerous, discredited and unscientific practices that attempt to change someone’s LGBTQ+ identity. These practices often involve shame, verbal abuse and in some extreme cases, physical abuse.

Given this is how these practices manifest, it may come as no surprise to see that research consistently illustrates that conversion “therapy” is linked with negative mental health outcomes and significantly increased suicide risk. It’s also a telling sign that every major medical and mental health association outright opposes conversion “therapy” as well.

It may come as no surprise to see that research consistently illustrates that conversion 'therapy' is linked with negative mental health outcomes and significantly increased suicide risk. It’s also a telling sign that every major medical and mental health association outright opposes conversion 'therapy' as well.

– Troy Stevenson

State-based research conducted at The Trevor Project reveals that nearly 1 in 5 of LGBTQ+ youths in Kansas report being threatened with or subjected to the harms and dangers of conversion “therapy.” This should be a cause for great alarm because Kansas is one of the 28 states that still do not protect young people from this abuse at the hands of licensed professionals.

As a Supreme Court case on state bans for conversion “therapy” looms in the background, now is a pivotal moment for Kansas to take a stand and implement protections that help prevent LGBTQ+ young people from being subjected to these practices. Not only will this send a powerful message to young Kansans that they are accepted and loved for who they are, it also sends a powerful message to the highest court that protecting and supporting LGBTQ+ communities is not up for debate.

And as Kansas continues to rank last in terms of meeting the mental health needs of our communities, where 40 to 50% of children in Kansas who need mental health services currently don’t get them, our valuable resources need to be put to use for greater investments in competent, evidence-based mental health care for our young people — not unscientific and dangerous practices that only cause harm.

As advocates continue to await updates from the highest court on this case, I want to remind LGBTQ+ young people everywhere of an important message: you should never have to change the essence of who you are in order to be accepted or loved. You deserve to be celebrated for who you are, as you are.

Troy Stevenson (he/him) is the director of state advocacy campaigns for The Trevor Project, the leading suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people. Through its opinion section, Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.

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