Opinion | Gays don’t need to be ‘fixed.’ Michigan must ban conversion therapy

Mallory McMorrow is state senator representing Michigan’s 13th District, which covers part of Oakland County.

Think back to the first time you fell in love.

Not what you expected out of this op-ed? Well, stay with me.

Think back to long before you were sitting here reading this article. Back before your first job. Maybe you’ve got kids now, or maybe you’re married.

Think about the first time you looked at someone else and something stirred in you so deep that all you wanted to do was spend every moment with that person.

Remember how complicated it was? How awkward and unsure you were? Remember trying to understand these new feelings while you were also trying to figure out who you were, what you believed, where you fit in to social circles and what made you … you?

Bring yourself back to this time in your life. Now, imagine someone telling you everything you feel, believe and know to be true to your core is wrong. That you are wrong. That you are broken.

Conversion therapy is a devastating practice based on the idea that someone can be cured of their sexual orientation and converted from gay or queer into someone who is heterosexual.

But this “therapy” isn’t therapy at all.

The unequivocal consensus from the medical and mental health community — including The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists and the National Association of Social Workers — is that homosexuality is not something that can be or, more importantly, needs to be cured.  

Studies show that people who have participated in such programs report higher levels of anxiety, depression, lower levels of self-esteem, and even lower levels of education and income into adulthood. Kids whose parents try to change their sexual orientation attempt suicide at more than double the rate of their LGBTQ peers. The suicide rate is nearly triple among young people who deal with intervention that includes attempted conversion.

Yet, this practice is frequently offered to children during their most vulnerable, formative years.

Sixteen states have already banned conversion therapy. New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie signed a ban into law in 2013, and Washington’s Democratic Governor Jay Inslee signed one in 2018.

Allowing this dangerous practice to continue sends a message to LGBTQ people that they are not welcome in Michigan. That message hurts us culturally and economically. Millennials and Gen Z are moving to places that are more welcoming and open-minded, taking their talents, skills and spending power with them.

In an op-ed last year, Michigan State University Professor Ronald Fisher detailed the harsh reality facing our state: “In 2015-16, Michigan tied for fifth-lowest among all states in the proportion of its population who are young adults age 26 to 34, the group targeted for modern skills … By contrast, Michigan ranks fifth-highest among all the states in the percentage of the population 55 years and older.”

Fisher added, “Millennials have revealed their preferences both by their choices and in surveys … Diversity is in; exclusion is out.”

Baby Boomers will soon be retiring, if they haven’t already. Unless we have young residents who pick up where they leave off, our economic future and ability to attract new businesses looks bleak.

It’s time for Michigan to break down the partisan wall and ban this dangerous practice once and for all.   

For our LBGTQ residents. For the protection of our kids, and for Michigan’s future.

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Patty Becker
Tue, 05/21/2019 - 11:26am

Couldn't agree more.

Paul Jordan
Tue, 05/21/2019 - 11:30am

My comfort with other people's homosexuality has involved a journey, as I think has many people's. The striking 'secret' is that gay folks are just folks, like straight folks.
My fellow heterosexuals who think that homosexuality is a 'choice' ought to ask themselves whether or not their heterosexuality was a 'choice'--and it was not.
Conversion therapy should be condemned for at least two reasons. First of all, the helping professions all have not doing harm as a central principle in their codes of ethics. Conversion therapy inevitably does harm by treating people as if they are somehow flawed. Doing this as part of professional practice is evil, just as Larry Nassar's practice of sexual abuse was evil.
Secondly, conversion therapy perpetrates a fraud on its victims by claiming to be able to change their sexual orientation. The reality is that the best it can do is promote (usually temporarily) changing superficial sexual behavior without altering the underlying orientation. In the process, the victims often believe that their continued homosexual orientation is somehow their fault.

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 11:51am

Ok, but let's then also ban teaching and promoting to our children in public schools that it's not only ok but good to be gay and transgender. This IS being taught to children as young as kindergarten. This agenda has no place in our schools. Aren't we having enough problems with math and reading scores to be devoting time, money and resources to this?

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 2:04pm

We encourage healthy self-esteem to children at a young age...from birth hopefully...in deed as well as words. We let them know they are loved and supported to that end.
Many kids know they are different from other people they know before they even reach school. Teaching kids that it's ok or good to be gay or transgender does two things: It lets gay and transgender kids feel loved and supported and it cuts down on bullying (in some cases so severe and unrelenting it leads to suicide) from everyone else. That's it.
Yes, I feel devoting time, money, and resources to saving lives is money well spent.
So...what 'agenda' do you speak of?
It almost sounds like you are saying that teaching acceptance will turn kids gay or transgender.
This has never in the history of people ever been a thing.
Gay is not contagious. It's not cooties.

Mon, 05/27/2019 - 7:02pm

Explain the difference between "good" and "ok" please. Isn't "good" just a way of saying "truly ok"? Do you believe that there are children out there who are actually heterosexual or cisgender (that is, not trans), but after hearing in school that it's "good," they decide to deny their actual feelings and attractions and instead be gay or trans because it's cool? I think it's highly unlikely. For what it's worth, my daughter is trans, and it's STILL pretty damn hard to come out in our current schools, very hard to use a bathroom that's not the one people expect, etc. No one's doing it to be "cool," nor are they doing it because a teacher spent time on a lesson teaching tolerance and acceptance. BTW, none of this is taking away from actual class time where they should be learning math or reading. Sex ed is already part of the curriculum - what you're describing is just about the content of that curriculum. And if a teacher reads the kids a book that represents same-sex couples or whatever - that's not extra time, it's just one book rather than another book. Another personal anecdote: because of the shame and secrecy surrounding homosexuality back in the 1970s (at least in small-town MI), my good friend just found out the man she married 36 years ago is actually gay but was afraid to say so until recently. As a straight spouse who's now wrestling with the lies of 36 years, she truly wishes he had been made to feel okay with himself before he married her, had several kids with her, and blocked her possibility of finding a straight man to love her and build a life with. It stinks. Teaching something is "good" just means telling young people that their feelings--that they may have HEARD are wrong or evil--are part of the normal spectrum of human life and love. What is so objectionable about that?

John Worden IV
Tue, 05/21/2019 - 12:09pm

Do not believe that therapy should be outlawed for those who seek it. I have read articles detailing legislation in other states that makes the therapy illegal even for those who seek it for themselves. Using the mis-guided belief that someone would not willingly seek such therapy is arrogant, wrong and extremely harmfully. Any legislation should never deny individual rights.

Doug L
Tue, 05/21/2019 - 4:15pm

Banning conversion therapy is little better than forcing it on someone. It removes an option that some people want. Let people decide for themselves.

Ethan Tuck
Thu, 06/06/2019 - 1:26am

I agree that people should decide for themselves, which is why conversion therapy for minors should be banned. Minors in conversion therapy are often given no choice by their parents and are forced to undergo this traumatizing practice. If adults consent to conversion therapy they should have every right to go, however forcing children to go through a process which has been shown to cause trauma and an increased suicide rate is immoral. Therapy is a right, imposing trauma on children via an unnecessary treatment.

Debbie Jackson
Tue, 05/21/2019 - 4:16pm

I agree!

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 5:08pm

Too bad it has to be written as an "opinion". It's common sense.

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 10:59am

Is it possible to cure any sexual predilection? Why to we punish or cure some and not others?

Mon, 05/27/2019 - 1:42pm

How does one comment on such a topic without simple or enthusiastic support? How do we have a conversation without the one in the conversation not in blind support of what was written avoid being attacked personally as a less than describable person? How can we talk about how the issue is presented and questioning statements and remarks? What credentials would one have to have to offer a different perspective on the topic and not be targeted personally?
Consider how Kay equated not spending money to present this topic early in school as killing people, and implying a person questioning such spending is a killer. How is a person encouraged to step forward offering a different perspective when they see someone else so attack?
The reality is that things don’t change if people aren’t allowed to personalize them, and if they can’t personalize them through conversation how should they do it?

David M Dunn
Mon, 05/27/2019 - 3:53pm

Perhaps "Conversion Therapy" has a use.
It could be used to help homophobes be cured of that affliction.