Oklahoma lawmakers aren’t always known for making the most rational decisions when it comes to introducing legislation (see “constitutional carry”). However, every once in a while they surprise us with a logical initiative. Unfortunately what often appear to be laws that would benefit Oklahoma society, sometimes turn out to be half-assed attempts to appeal to voters. Though I am super stoked that Oklahoma lawmakers are finally looking to ban the harmful practice of “conversion therapy,” I’m really worried that this might be one of those half-assed appeals.
TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) — Should parents legally be able to send their children to therapy to “pray the gay away”?
Right now, some Oklahoma lawmakers are looking to ban the controversial practice of conversion therapy for minors.
As Deputy Director of Oklahomans for Equality, Jose Vega is dedicated to fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ community, and one reason why — there’s a time in his life he fights not to think about every day.
After “coming out” as a teen to his devout Catholic family, Vega says confusion led him to agree to conversion therapy, not knowing it would consist of praying daily at the church, three hours before school and three hours after.
“It takes a toll on your knees; you want to just lean or relax a bit? No. Straight on your knees for six hours,” Vega said.
Every day, he watched the same video that graphically depicted how the church believes sins are “paid in hell…”
Right now, 18 states and several cities have placed some type of ban on conversion therapy.
So yes, some Oklahoma lawmakers are looking to ban the practice of conversion therapy. But here’s the thing. This new potential law would likely only affect those operating with a mental health professional license, like LPC, LMFT, or LCSW. It would not necessarily add any more red tape to the ridiculously loosely-regulated profession of “pastoral care.” So yes, I am very happy that Oklahoma lawmakers are working to ban the practice of “conversion therapy” by licensed mental health professionals. But by allowing “pastoral care” providers to act without this regulation, Oklahoma is leaving many of its most vulnerable citizens in the hands of “care providers” who may not necessarily have counseling training or the legal obligation to follow the ethics and laws licensed professionals have to abide by. Which means this potential new law likely won’t completely ban the practice of conversion therapy. Which is going to be a problem…
The American Psychiatric Association opposes it, and in 2001, the surgeon general stated there is no science behind conversion therapy, but don’t tell that to Stephen Black, executive director of First Stone Ministries in Oklahoma City.
“I was called a sissy. I was called a queer,” Black said.
Black says he used to live as a gay man, and he says it was caused by years of bullying and abuse. He says everyone told him he was gay, even the priest of his parent’s parish…
As an ordained minister and not a counselor, he and his staff provide what they call “pastoral care” to adults and minors, therapy he wishes he had…
Legislation introduced this year would ban licensed therapists from practicing conversion therapy on minors. It didn’t get a committee hearing and may be heard next year after a study.
Because First Stone Ministries is Bible-based, and they don’t employ licensed counselors, a ban would likely not affect them.
Research has suggested time and time again that not only is conversion therapy ineffective in changing someone’s sexual orientation, but it is also linked to an increase in poor mental health and dangerous behaviors, like self-harm risk, for those who are subjected to it. If we truly want to help LGBTQIA+ kids in Oklahoma, we need to ban conversion therapy across the board or else it may drive more people to suicide than salvation.
Counselors don’t get angry, they get thera-pissed. Follow Hayley on twitter @squirrellygeek.