July 12

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Conversion Therapy: Understanding Where it Came From  


Conversion therapy is a difficult concept to understand, and at the same time it has roots in its inception that in many ways are predictable outcomes of a puritan and fundamentalist power system. Conversion therapy is a practice that attempts to ‘cure’ or reverse homosexual attraction or gender expression and identity. A conversion therapy movie is a great place to find a detailed recounting of those who have experience conversion camps or ex-gay and ex-trans church groups, but be forewarned that the stories may shock you. In this article, we’ll be giving a brief overview of where these ideas came from and why they’ve been able to gain such traction in cases like the Exodus church. Unfortunately, while we’d like to believe this is a disease of the past, conversion therapy is still very much practiced in many places throughout America, with recent bill propositions in some southern states that are attempting to offer conversion therapy as a cure for LGBTQ+ youth who are under the age of 21. To understand this harrowing phenomenon, keep reading for a better understanding of conversion therapies roots in fundamentalist christian America.

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Early Origins 

 

    The earliest origins of attempts to change someone’s sexual identity date back to the late 1800’s, but was likely an idea that permeated from centuries of church power in Europe. Faith has long been the avenue for societal control, and the church’s desire to control who community members married and lived with is no exception. The historical reasons behind this can and have been theorized by many, but at the center of any potential reason is power over the people and control of economic and population control. Inevitably, the idea that homosexuality was a deviant sin made it’s way into a major industry that began to develop towards the end of the 19th century: psychology. Psychology was, in many ways, quite barbaric in its earliest days and doctors would perform hypnosis, shock therapy, lobotomies and testicle transplants in attempts to alter the sexual identity of the individual.

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Largely Debunked 

 

    By the 1930’s, Sigmund Freud was a well known name in the world of psychology and while some of his colleagues didn’t agree, he had determined that homosexuality was not a disease and therefore not something to attempt to cure. However, this idea still permeated through the science world and it wasn’t until the 20-21st centuries that major health organizations deemed the practice unethical and in some cases, unlawful. Conversion therapy, in essence, has it’s roots in what should be considered pretty bad science. This is, in part, why so many church groups have felt emboldened to continue attempting to alter, reverse or repress homosexual desire.

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Regulations Around Conversion Therapy 

 

    Today, there are a handful of states that have protections against this kind of treatment for minors. The issue with this is that, when it comes to consenting adults, there isn’t much one can do to stop them from agreeing to this kind of therapy if they seek it out, regardless of how unethical or problematic the therapy is. Except in the case that an organization is taking advantage of its members financially, or committing a crime in another respect. This has happened, with the infamous example of the Exodus church. This was possibly the largest ex-gay conversion therapy church group in America, and to many is considered a cult. There is ample information on the specifics of Exodus available online, but notably many of its members have since denounced the church which has been intrinsic in decentralizing it. That being said, there still remain many independent organizations that have and are continuing the practice or variations of it.

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Moving Forward 

 

    The best thing we can do as a society is to educate ourselves on the harm this does to our LGBTQ+ youth in this country. Forcing someone to reverse or change their sexuality is not only impossible, but wrong, misinformed and dangerous. Our sexuality is one part of who we are as people and the more we create networks of shame around our human qualities, the more we weaken ourselves as a culture. The best thing to do moving is to check out media being released around the subject, you may find there is a helpful conversion therapy movie out there to give you more detailed information about specific cases and experiences.

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In short, conversion therapy has a long history in both religious and science communities dating back to the late 19th century, and probably before that as well. From there, it permeated the psychology community and gave way to a number of torturous and manipulative techniques to experiment on young gay youth, all the way up until the 21st century. Hopefully with more information out there, we can start to truly combat this ugly practice.

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