Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Orientations

Over the last half century, gays and lesbians have come out of the closet.

Today, all of the major mental health organizations are gay-positive in their views.

In fact, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association (APA) have taken official positions that:

  • LGB persons are psychologically normal.
  • Strongly supporting gay parenting
  • Strongly supporting gay marriage

Romantic, sexual and marriage relationships for LGBT persons share much in common with hetero-normative relationships, but also have distinct differences.

 As well,  LGB persons continue to deal with discrimination by others, and many LGB children still grow up in homes that teach them to hate themselves before they even know who they are.  Intolerance, discrimination, and stigma are typically internalized as shame by growing children.  Shame, in this sense, is the belief that “I am not worthy of love and not capable of loving others.”  For some LGB persons overcoming this shame becomes a primary focus of treatment. But even for LGB persons who are already comfortable and accepting of their orientation and identity, it is important to work with a therapist who they can trust is accepting and understanding.

Only 40 years ago homosexuality was considered by the mental health field as a “sexual perversion” and a “psychopathology” and today many persons still hold those views – even some therapists.  Until 1991, Psychoanalytic Institutes routinely denied LGBT candidates admission to training programs.  Today many Churches accept homosexuality, but a great many still preach that homosexuals  will be damned to Hell.

“Conversion therapy” from LGBT to straight

“Conversion therapy” is the attempt to “convert” a person from being LGBT into being heterosexual.  I have worked with scores of clients who attempted or were forced into conversion therapy by their parents.  Repairing the psychological damage from failed conversion therapy can be a challenge. 

For decades, conversion therapy has been prohibited by the American Psychological Association and all other major mental health organizations.  In 18 states it is illegal for a psychotherapist to attempt conversion therapy on a minor.  The reasons for this are multiple:

    • It is unnecessary. Most important, an abundance of research shows that integrating a LGBT identity is mentally healthy and the essential to LGBT individuals if they are to have intimate, loving relationships;
    • It is harmful. An abundance of research demonstrates that conversion therapy is psychologically harmful because it shames and undermines an individual’s inherent sense of self-worth typically leaving the victims of this therapy more distressed, depressed, and even suicidal.
    • It is ineffective. While there conversion therapy may at first appear to have some “success,” careful long-term follow-up finds that these “successful” conversions almost all return to their initial LGBT orientation over a 6 month to 5 year period.
    • It harms others. In the meantime, when they are “feeling straight” the victims of conversion therapy attempt heterosexual relationships and sometimes found a family.  When they eventually abandon these relationships and return to their inherent orientation, they leave a wake of psychological damage not only for themselves but for their partners and children.

Religious Conversion Therapy

Unfortunately, some conservative religious groups still practice conversion therapy, often forcing minors to undergo it, and they are legally protected in this harmful practice because of the constitutional separation of church and state.  Some religious programs have actually gone as far as transporting minors – at the request of their parents – to foreign countries where protections against child abuse and neglect do not exist, so that the “conversion therapy” can include interventions such as isolation and physical abuse.  “Boy Erased”  and “The Mis-education of Cameron Post” are two of many movies depicting how harmful religious conversion therapy can be, click here for references, and here for more references.    I have worked with scores of individuals who

Update: Conversion Therapy and LGBT Youth

By Christy Mallory, Taylor N.T. Brown, and Kerith J. Conron

June 2019

An estimated 16,000 LGBT youth (ages 13-17) will receive conversion therapy from a licensed health care professional before they reach the age of 18. Also, approximately 57,000 youth will undergo the treatment from a religious or spiritual advisor. Researchers also found that approximately 698,000 LGBT adults in the U.S have received conversion therapy at some point in their lives, including about 350,000 who received it as adolescents.

Conversion therapy is treatment intended to change the sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression of LGBT people. It is grounded in the belief that being LGBT is abnormal. An estimated 10,000 LGBT youth have been protected from receiving conversion therapy in the 18 states that have banned the practice by licensed health care professionals.

Public opinion polls at the national level and in several states have found majority support for ending the use of conversion therapy on youth. A 2019 national poll conducted by Ipsos/Reuters found that 56% of US adults support making conversion therapy on youth by mental health practitioners illegal as compared to a minority (18%) who think that it should be legal.

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