Trigger Warning: suicide, self harm, conversion “therapy”, heterosexism and cissexism
With something of an on-going crisis of self harm, suicide, and other psychological issues within queer and trans* communities, it seems perfectly reasonable for activists in Virginia to be pushing for more therapy options to be available at state universities. Except, they’re not working towards the goal of queer and trans* people being comfortable in their own skins.
In fact, a group of ex-gays under the leadership of Voice for the Voiceless’ Christopher Doyle have begun pushing for Virginia universities to open their doors to conversion “therapists” who claim to “fix” queer and trans* people (by making us straight and cisgender, naturally). Within the context of Ken Cuccinelli running as the Republican nominee for governor of Virginia, who has as attorney general attempted to reinstate sodomy laws, the idea of these policies being implemented isn’t too far-fetched.
To hear Doyle describe it, not allowing conversion therapists to operate on Virginian campuses is a strike against his identity as ex-gay. He’s released a statement to local media, explaining that, “people like myself do exist and we have a right to seek therapeutic services”. Of course, the question is whether those services should be ones that encourage heterosexism and cissexism by presenting heterosexuality and cisgender identities as ideals to be aspired towards.
There’s even a question of whether Virginia should allow those “therapists” to offer their services at all, as the American Psychological Association has declared conversion therapy unethical and branches of the World Health Organization have called it a violation of human rights. That’s why California has already banned the use of conversion therapy on minors.
The idea that fluidity in gender and sexuality justifies an entire branch of therapy existing for the sole purpose of coercing people into “proper” gender identities and sexualities is outlandish enough, but to claim that it should be state-sanctioned and allowed to target young people who are likely just stepping out into the world is indefensible. The mere existence of conversion “therapy” relies on views about straightness and cisgender-ness that are harmful and ultimately lead to the self-devaluation that causes so many queer and trans* people to hurt themselves or even take their lives. The acceptability of conversion “therapy” and related acts makes actual, supportive therapy a necessity for young queer and trans* people.
Perhaps now more than ever, while there are so many calls for more and better mental health care, people should be calling for that care to be inclusive of and responsive to the needs of queer and trans* people. The desire of many for us to be “fixed” is a contributing factor to our problems (if we have any), not the solution that we need.