The Kentucky legislature has proven that a bipartisan blend of head and heart can be effective when addressing young people’s well-being. From school safety and resilience to reforming the child welfare system, they have shown that finding common ground to achieve common sense solutions results in critical systemic changes. And issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, though strongly polarizing, do not have to be any different.
There should be an unanimity of voice and votes in Frankfort when it comes to banning conversion therapy for people under the age of 18.
Conversion therapy is defined as the use of “counseling and psychotherapy aimed at eliminating or suppressing homosexuality”, 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. To date, twenty states, including Utah and Virginia, have banned conversion therapy outright while several others have banned the practice on a county-by-county basis. A recent study shows that approximately 10,000 13- to 17-year old’s have been spared from undergoing conversion therapy in states where it is banned.
Earlier this month, Fayette County became the third Kentucky county to institute a ban after the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council voted unanimously in favor of it. The ordinance went into effect immediately.
Having a supportive family and home environment is critical to the long-term wellbeing of LGBTQ youth. Studies have shown that the negative outcomes associated with feeling rejected by caregivers can be mitigated by seeking support and reliable information from reputable sources or providers. Tools like the Family Acceptance Project use a strengths-based approach, assuming that families love their children and want the best for them without diminishing the cultural and religious beliefs that have shaped their value systems and world views. It meets families where they are and creates a nonjudgmental space for them to process, share and learn.
At Kentucky Youth Advocates we fully support the notion that everyone should have access to high-quality, evidence-informed care. We also believe that licensed providers should be held to standards that ensure vulnerable young people are not subjected to harmful tactics and trauma-ensuing results when seeking services from licensed professionals.
Since 2017, Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky has been at the forefront of education, advocacy, and lobbying efforts across the Commonwealth. And during the 2021 Kentucky General Assembly, the Youth Mental Health Protection Act was introduced by Senator Alice Forgy Kerr (SB 30) and Representative Willner (HB 19) and co-sponsored by more thirty Republican and Democratic legislators.
By continuing to work towards a statewide ban on conversion therapy, we are sending the message to LGBTQ youth that protecting their mental and emotional wellbeing is a priority and that who they are is valid.
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