Ban prehistoric practice of conversion therapy

The staff of Iowa Safe Schools submitted this post, authored by members of the Student Leadership Council: Noah Mathis, Alena Gamble, and Rachel Overla. The Student Leadership Council represents queer and allied high school students in Iowa. -promoted by Laura Belin

Students today endure pressures from every angle. From grades to jobs, from relationships to college plans, there are so many things that students have on their minds and in their lives.

For LGBTQ youth, living their truth is another pressure that is often compounded by fear of rejection from friends, family, and community.

Conversion therapy is the mainstream term for the psychological abuse done to an individual to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. This abuse can include horrible practices like institutionalization, castration, physical and sexual abuse, electroconvulsive shock therapy, or training an individual to be more masculine or feminine. Conversion therapy is not affirming mental health counseling that assists an individual as they transition or discover who they are, but instead is psychological and often physical abuse.

Fourteen states have a ban on conversion therapy, and Republican governors signed six of those bans into law. Governor Kim Reynolds and the Iowa legislature must take up this bipartisan issue to protect LGBTQ youth. Youth are the primary target of those who work in the underground realm of practicing conversion therapy.

As LGBTQ youth in Iowa, we believe it is far past time for Iowa to join other states in banning the prehistoric practice of conversion therapy. On January 29, hundreds of LGBTQ youth will be participating in Iowa Safe Schools’ Student Day at the Capitol to lobby legislators to finally ban this dangerous practice.

All of the nation's leading medical and mental health associations have long rejected this abusive practice and said it is ineffective and dangerous, including the American Medical Association, American Counseling Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. It is time for Iowa to join the ranks of states saying, “we WILL protect our queer students.”

The threat against our peers is very real. LGBTQ youth remain one of the most marginalized populations in the state with 40 percent of all homeless youth identifying as LGBTQ and every five hours an LGBTQ teen attempts to take their life. Iowa Safe Schools works tirelessly to ensure LGBTQ youth feel safe and affirmed in their identity, and as members of the Iowa Safe Schools’ Student Leadership Council, we see the impacts of unaccepting environments in our gay-straight alliance groups every day.

In Iowa, legislation has been proposed each general session to ban conversion therapy. This year, we can ban conversion therapy in Iowa and call it what it really is – child abuse. When educators, medical professionals, and DHS workers know of conversion therapy happening, it should be treated for what it is – child abuse.

This ban on conversion therapy is long past due, and one that must be passed to keep Iowa's youth safe from harm. Proposed legislation would not include counseling practices that provide acceptance, support, and understanding or counseling to those seeking to transition from one gender to another. Iowa Safe Schools and the Student Leadership Council are working closely with legislators to ensure that this bill protects every student, regardless of their identity.

Our state can no longer sit on the sidelines while children are subjected to abuse under this outdated and unscientific practice. We can no longer sit on the sidelines while Iowa’s youth feel unsafe. As LGBTQ students in Iowa, we need you to support this ban and support every student in your community.

Call or email your state legislators to support a ban on conversion therapy and protect Iowa’s youth. Sign the petition to Governor Reynolds and help us ban conversion therapy.

On January 29, some 200 LGBTQ youth will be attending Student Day at the Capitol, Iowa Safe Schools' annual lobby day. This is our chance to spread our message. If any student or GSA is interested in attending, please register today.

Top image, from left: Noah Mathis, Alena Gamble, and Rachel Overla. Photos provided by Iowa Safe Schools, used with permission.

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