Letter to the Editor: Missouri General Assembly must pass legislation to end LGBTQ conversion therapy

“Let’s have the Show-Me State show the country that conversion therapy is wrong and ensure this never happens to a child in Missouri again.”

Missouri has never been one of the more accepting states for LGBTQ people. Missouri considered sodomy to be a felony until the Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court decision in 2003. Our constitution banned marriage equality until after Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015 when Missourians in same-gender unions could finally marry the person they love in their home state. But despite this, I think all of us have an interest in passing a law that would protect minors from going through “conversion therapy” to change their gender or sexual orientation.

Conversion therapy was more prevalent in the 20th century when religious organizations were leading the conversation that sexual orientation and gender identity were lifestyle choices, and through therapy and prayer, people can become straight and cisgender. However, every major mainstream psychological and mental health organization has since denounced this practice, with many describing it as torture. Some of the practices used on minors include electric shock, aversion therapy and physical and mental abuse that go against the hippocratic oath to “do no harm.”

In many cases, survivors of conversion therapy end up dealing with mental disorders such as depression and PTSD due to the traumatic experiences they were put through. According to the American Psychological Association, conversion therapy survivors are also 8.9 times more likely to experience suicidal ideation than their peers.

These barbaric practices are still completely legal in the state of Missouri, and LGBTQ minors in the state from my hometown of Vandalia, to Kansas City and St. Louis, to even here in Columbia, face this torture every day.

This is why I want to call upon all people who have power within the state of Missouri to change this. The Missouri Students Association and the UM System should both draft statements denouncing this practice. We should urge the General Assembly in Jefferson City to act and protect minors in the state of Missouri and ban any licensed medical professional from practicing conversion therapy on minors. For members of the Missouri General Assembly, this is something that we can begin to shift the national conversation about and show that if Missouri can see this is a terrible practice there is no reason any state, liberal or conservative, should allow this to happen within their boundaries.

For everyday people, please research more about this subject, learn the facts and figures, and keep this discussion going with your friends and family and urge them to contact their representatives. As of 2017, only five states have banned this practice, but just this year alone another 16 states have submitted legislation that would put this practice to an end. Contact your representatives and let’s have the Show-Me State show the country that conversion therapy is wrong and ensure this never happens to a child in Missouri again.

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