Conversion therapy – sometimes known as “reparative” or “sexual reorientation” therapy – is a dangerous practice that purports to change a person’s sexual orientation, literally “converting” them from gay to straight.
This practice – which can include violent role play, reenactment of past abuses, and exercises involving nudity and intimate touching – has been discredited by virtually all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations.
When the disturbing details are exposed to the light of day, it’s clear that this practice based on junk science is worse than snake oil: Not only does it not work, it’s harmful to LGBT people and their families. People who have undergone conversion therapy have reported increased anxiety, depression, and in some cases, suicidal ideation. It can also strain family relationships, because practitioners frequently blame a parent for their child’s sexual orientation.
Through litigation, education and advocacy, we’re working to expose and stop this harmful practice.
In June 2015, a jury in our first-of-its-kind lawsuit in New Jersey found that an organization known as JONAH had committed consumer fraud – that offering services it claimed could change clients from gay to straight was fraudulent and unconscionable.
In a landmark pre-trial ruling in that case, a judge excluded several leading conversion therapy proponents from testifying as defense witnesses because their opinions were based on the false premise that homosexuality is a disorder. In a blistering opinion that garnered international media attention, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr. wrote that “the theory that homosexuality is a disorder is not novel but – like the notion that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it – instead is outdated and refuted.”
The American Psychological Association also has expressed concern that the positions espoused by some of the leading advocates of conversion therapy, such as the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), “create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.”