What if you were forced to sit through therapy to change the way you were born? Luckily, in California, LGBT youth can no longer be subjected to “reparative therapy” practices which try to change their sexual orientation. As a gay man, I can assure you that no one can “pray away the gay” any more than I could change my Asian racial background. Thankfully, California Governor Jerry Brown agreed by signing into law this Saturday law a bill (SB 1172 sponsored by State Senator Ted Lieu) banning “reparative therapy” for minors.
The notion of “correcting” someone’s sexual orientation is based on the false notion that homosexuality is a disorder. It’s not a disorder, and all major medical and mental health organizations now agree. The American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and other leading professional groups also decry “reparative therapy” practices as mentally harmful to young people. When junk science tries to cure something that doesn’t need curing, the result can be mental trauma, years of depression and even attempts at suicide.
That’s because of a simple human truth: people find happiness when they are encouraged and allowed to be their authentic selves. Pressuring kids to hide who they are – or worse yet, forcing them to “change” a core part their identity – is a recipe for inflicting years of psychological damage on children.
When I give motivational speeches, I often talk about ways for people to shine and win in life. One key lesson I always offer is “Be authentic.” It’s hard to shine in life if you are hiding things about your heritage, your feelings, your emotions, and certainly your sexual orientation. If you can’t speak freely about who you like or perhaps even love in life, it’s difficult to build meaningful relationships with family and friends. To truly shine your inner light, you need to be and express your authentic self. That’s why I hope for a better world where every LGBT person can embrace their sexual orientation and gender identity, and where their families and communities encourage them to do so.
California’s new law is important beyond its practical effect of stopping gay reparative therapy for minors. It sends a powerful message which I hope other U.S. states will hear: LGBT people are born that way. They don’t need any cures, and should SHINE exactly who they are.