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Trevor Submits Testimony in Support of Banning Conversion Therapy in NYC

The Honorable Chairwoman Darlene Mealy
Committee on Civil Rights
New York City Council

The Trevor Project writes in strong support of amendment T2017-6329, which would ban so-called “conversion therapy” in New York City. If passed, New York City would join the ranks of nine other states, including California and New Jersey, and nearly twenty cities that have demonstrated their commitment to the well-being of LGBTQ youth by passing similar laws. Conversion therapy is a dangerous and discredited practice which aims at changing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This “therapy” is done through methods which often include emotional, psychological and even physical abuse.[1] As the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, we know this bill is critical to creating supportive mental health care for LGBTQ people in New York City and saving many young people from the trauma of conversion therapy.

The Trevor Project works to save young lives through our accredited free and confidential lifeline; our secure instant messaging services which provide live help and intervention; our social networking community for LGBTQ youth; and our in-school workshops, educational materials, online resources, and advocacy. From August 1, 2016 to June 13, 2017, The Trevor Project has had almost 4,500 crisis contacts in New York State. While we are unable to track contacts by city, we know that hundreds of New York City LGBTQ youth struggling with suicidal thoughts are reaching out to us every year.

Banning conversion therapy can be a matter of life or death for many young people. Research shows that LGB youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth and LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have actually attempted suicide.[ii] In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt at some point in their lives. 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25.[iii] Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth in New York ages 15-24,[iv] with a suicide rate of 6.7 deaths for every 100,000 young people.[v] Studies show that for every one person who dies by suicide, there are 25 attempts.[vi]

Perhaps most importantly, youth placed in conversion therapy are at an even greater risk. For example, LGBTQ youth from highly rejecting families are more than eight times as likely to attempt suicide compared to those from accepting families.[vii] Families that are extremely rejecting of their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity are among those most likely to send their child to conversion therapy. Evidence also shows conversion therapy poses serious health risks including depression, shame, decreased self-esteem, social withdrawal, substance abuse, risky behavior and suicidal ideation.[viii] Passing this ordinance will help ensure no more young people suffer from the harms of conversion therapy or lose their life to this abuse.

Additionally, there is no scientific evidence to show conversion therapy is effective in its goal of changing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.[ix] The nation’s leading mental health associations including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy have all issued statements condemning the practice.[x] As the nation’s only accredited, 24/7 lifeline specifically for LGBTQ youth, we hear from conversion therapy survivors and bear witness to the devastating impacts of this practice. No young person should have to endure the damage done by supposed members of helping professionals or religious institutions.

By supporting this proposed law, you can be a part of ending this abuse and ensuring that LGBTQ youth in New York City can truly have a bright future.
Learn about Trevor Project advocacy programs here.

[1] Dart, Tom.  “’Praying the gay away’: Trauma survivors crusade to ban conversion therapy.” The Guardian 11 April 2015. Retrieved 28 July 2016 from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/11/survivors-crusade-conversion-therapy-ban-pray-gay-away
[1] Kann, Laura. O’Malley Olsen, Emily. McManus, Tim et al. Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts and Health-Related Behaviors Among Students in Grade 9-12. MMWR Surveill Summ 2016: 65
[1] James, S. E., Herman J.L., Rankin S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). Executive Summary of the Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.
[1] American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. New York 2017 Facts and Figures. 2016. https://afsp.org/about-suicide/state-fact-sheets/#New-York
[1] American Association of Suicidology. USA State Suicide Rates and Rankings for the Nation, Elderly, and Young, 2015. 2015. http://www.suicidology.org/Portals/14/docs/Resources/FactSheets/2015/2015StatesTOY-corrected.pdf?ver=2017-01-09-215406-197
[1] American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Suicide Statistics. 2015. http://www.suicidology.org/Portals/14/docs/Resources/FactSheets/2015/2015datapgsv1.pdf?ver=2017-01-02-220151-870
[1] Ryan, C. (2009). Supportive families, healthy children: Helping families with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children. San Francisco, CA: Marian Wright Edelman Institute, San Francisco State University.
[1] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Ending Conversion Therapy:
Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4928. Rockville,
MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2015.
[1] Ibid.
[1] Ibid.

[…] our advocacy efforts, we’ve helped get conversion therapy banned in Illinois and Oregon, and in Burbank, we’re implementing a school suicide prevention policy. […]

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