By Jordan Ojile, Intern at Kentucky Youth Advocates
June is recognized nationally as Pride Month, a time to celebrate strides made and remaining work in LGBTQ+ health and wellbeing. There have been several unsuccessful drives in recent years to protect Kentucky’s vulnerable LGBTQ+ youth. Since 2017, Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky has been at the forefront of education, advocacy, and lobbying efforts across the Commonwealth. During the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly, the Youth Mental Health Protection Act was co-sponsored in the Senate by Senator Alice Forgy Kerr and Senator Julie Raque Adams (SB137) and co-sponsored in the House by Representative Kim Banta and Representative Willner (HB12) with support from 26 Republican and Democrat co-sponsors.
Last week, President Biden’s Executive Order Advancing Equality for LGBTQI+ Individuals provided a critical step in protecting the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth.
This order created several crucial protections, including:
- Directing agencies to protect LGBTQ children and their families.
- Creating a program to protect LGBTQ foster youth and prevent homelessness.
- Banning “conversion therapy” and instilled safeguards to protect children from its damaging practices.
Conversion therapy is defined as the use of “counseling and psychotherapy aimed at eliminating or suppressing homosexuality”. Thousands of LGBTQ youth are put through conversion therapy annually, the effects of which have long been viewed as ineffective, unscientific, and damaging. Today, we have a better understanding of the harm and long-term consequences of conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ youth, which can include shame, suicide, depression, and substance use.
The recent Executive Order outlines a six-pronged plan of action to ban conversion therapy:
- Requires the Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) to clarify guidance prohibiting federally funded programs from practicing conversion therapy.
- Launches an awareness campaign with HHS to educate healthcare providers and the public about the harms of conversion therapy.
- Expands support to survivors of this practice.
- Encourages the Federal Trade Commission to consider issuing consumer warnings and notices.
- Directs Secretaries of the State to develop a plan to end conversion therapy worldwide.
- Guarantees that US money will not fund the practice overseas.
Although this order is a first step toward ending the harmful practice of conversion therapy, it is not a comprehensive federal ban on sexual orientation/gender identity change efforts. That makes it more critical than ever to make your voices heard and contact your elected leaders to support implementation of this pro-LGBTQ+ executive order. As Pride Month wraps up, it’s worth celebrating the progress we’ve made and opportunities we have in coming months ahead!
This post is part of the blog series, Intern Insights.