Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced a statewide ban on public and private insurance companies to cover LGBT “conversion therapy,” which originally operated under the assumption that homosexuality or bisexuality is a mental health disorder.
The Human Rights Campaign calls such treatment a “range of dangerous and discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression,” and the HRC reported minors are “especially vulnerable” against conversion therapy, which can lead to anxiety, drug use, depression and suicide.
Plattsburgh State Gender and Women’s Studies Associate Professor Connie Oxford said movements in the U.S. had existed since the 1930s and 1940s in support of conversion-therapy measures intended to change an individual’s sexual orientation.
“There was widespread use of electroshock therapy,” Oxford said. “People were forcibly institutionalized against their will in an effort to convert (them).”
In recent years, conversion therapy tactics include counseling sessions focused on changing gay behavior.
She said that, until 1973, homosexuality was considered a mental illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which sets the standard for mental-health diagnoses in the U.S.
Oxford, who teaches the LGBTQ Studies class on campus, said that because people thought homosexuality was a mental illness, this led to the belief that people could change others’ sexual orientations.
“If you believe something’s a mental disorder, and you want to get rid of something like schizophrenia or manic (depression) or cancer or anything else, the idea was that there was something wrong, it was something that was curable, and many people believed that,” Oxford said.
Exodus International, a well-known anti-gay Christian ministry group, made headlines in the New York Daily News and other media outlets when it shut down in 2013.
Exodus International President Alan Chambers apologized for the damage the organization had done to members of the gay community for the past 37 years.
CNN reported in an article that their mission was to “’help’ gay Christians become straight.”
PSUC anthropology and political science major Danial Khoshkehpazi said it’s “about time” the state took action on the issue.
“It’s a proven fact that it doesn’t actually work,” Khoshkehpazi said. “If somebody is gay, or bisexual, or lesbian, … they should be able to express themselves.”
Khoshkehpazi said that, in his home country of Iran, homosexuality is a crime subject to the death penalty. CNN reported LGBT Irani citizens often either flee the country to avoid being outed or receive gender-reassignment surgery so they can live in accordance with their sexual orientation.
“Iran is a difficult place to be gay or lesbian,” according to CNN. “Homosexuality is illegal. You can be executed if convicted of engaging in sexual acts. Kissing another person of the same sex can earn corporal punishment, like lashes. Others have been pressured to undergo gender reassignment. Psychologists in Iran have reportedly pushed LGBT patients toward hormone therapy and eventually surgery.”
In comparison, Khoshkehpazi said the U.S. is much better on their policies toward LGBT individuals.
“You can do whatever you want,” TV/video production major Joe Lewis said. “Ever since it was legal throughout the whole entire nation to have gay marriage, I think that was a huge step forward. Now that Cuomo’s doing this, everyone’s accepting it more.”
Lewis said that, as time goes on and millennials get older, the status quo regarding gay rights grows more progressive.
“The younger generation is the new generation,” Lewis said. “We’re making a change, and that’s the bottom line.”
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