In January, the Florida Health Innovation Select Committee approved House Bill 1639 (HB 1639), which drastically restricts treatment for transgender people. If the bill becomes law, it will be easier for insurers to refuse to cover gender affirming care, will require those that cover gender transition to also offer policies that do not and will prohibit transgender people from updating their driver’s license. It also requires insurers to provide transitional care to those who want to return to the sex they were assigned at birth.
In its intent, HB 1639 is similar to hundreds of other recent Republican-led bills advancing through state legislatures, including nine heard in one day in Missouri‘the legislature and Republican legislators’ overriding Governor Mike DeWine’s veto of a similar bill in Ohio. They aim to create a climate of panic around LGBTQ youth’s access to health care and participation in sports that can be exploited for partisan purposes. The “end game,” as Michigan and Ohio legislators say admitted during a recent X Space (formerly known as Twitter Space), is banning gender-affirming healthcare “for everyone,” including adults.
Florida’s bill would require insurers to cover “therapeutic or mental health services to address a person’s perception that his or her sex…is inconsistent with such person’s sex at birth in affirming the sex of the insured.” In plain language, HB 1639 supports so-called conversion therapy: counseling aimed at curing someone of being transgender, viewing it as a form of mental disorder or spiritual failure.
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Going even further, five Republican senators from the state of West Virginia proposed Senate Bill 194, essentially a complete ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth. It classifies gender dysphoria as a “sexual deviation,” along with pedophilia, exhibitionism, and biasphilia (a compulsion to rape), while demanding that any therapy must attempt to “cure” transgender identity. Medical professionals who support the transition, rather than seeking “cure-based recovery,” face loss of their licenses and fines of up to $10,000.
“Heal-based recovery,” also known as “reparative therapy,” has a long, well-documented…and abysmal medical history. According to the American Psychological Association, “the potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior, as the therapist’s alignment with social prejudices against homosexuality can reinforce the self-hatred the patient already experiences.” TO study 2020 found that LGBTQ people who underwent conversion therapy “were almost twice as likely to have suicidal ideation in their lifetime” and were 75 percent more likely to plan a suicide attempt. As one academic who studied the legal status of conversion therapy wrote: “The practice is not only risky and harmful; It does not work.”
However, reparative therapy practitioners have circumvented anti-quackery laws with a parallel licensing infrastructure for so-called pastoral counseling, which is not regulated by the professional organizations that oversee doctors, psychologists and social workers. Groups like the National Association of Christian Counselors openly promote their freedom from medical ethics standards, warning in a pamphlet that “in certain states, the state-licensed professional counselor is prohibited from praying, reading or consulting the Holy Scriptures, giving advice against such things as homosexuality, abortion , etc. could be considered unethical by the State.”
Instead, the ethics of pastoral counseling might require telling a transgender teen that he or she is headed for eternal damnation. A blurb for what was recently published. Across the Kitchen Table: Talking Trans with Your Teenby reparative therapist Sam Andreades, praises it for putting “the current confusion about the body and gender exactly where it belongs: in the context of our creation, fall, and redemption.”
In fact, the history of misguided attempts to promote a “cure-based recovery” for gay and transgender people is one of psychiatry’s longest and darkest chapters. In the 1930s, homosexuality, gender dysphoria, and cross-dressing were often grouped together as “sexual inversion.” Some doctors would wait for a child born with ambiguous genitalia to go through puberty to determine which gender was “dominant” before considering transition; the boy’s sense of her own gender was secondary to stereotypical considerations about the appropriate appearance and behavior of men and women. Gender reassignment, wrote Jules Gill-Peterson in Stories of the transgender child, It was often “an attempt to medically produce and reinforce heterosexuality.”
As noted in Gill-Peterson’s book, in the late 1960s a psychiatrist at the influential gender clinic at the University of California, Los Angeles, named Lawrence Newman, candidly admitted: “If we define successful treatment of transsexualism as that which would cause the transsexual to give To improve their transgender orientation and feel comfortable with their physical sex… we must recognize that there is nothing like this.”
But if psychoanalysis were not up to the task, perhaps operant conditioning I could do it. A few years after Newman’s frank admission, another UCLA psychiatrist, Richard Green, teamed up with behaviorist Ivar Lovaas to launch the Feminine Boy Project, an attempt to employ Skinner-style contingent reinforcement to “extinguish” gender-inappropriate behavior. in the childhood. Lovaas was then at the peak of his fame for his exaggerated claims of “curing” autism with a brutal approach that Life acclaimed magazine in an article titled “Screams, slaps and love.” For playing with football helmets, rubber knives, and electric razors, children diagnosed with what Green called “sissy boy syndrome” were rewarded with blue tokens that could be redeemed for M&Ms or other candy; For playing with dolls and cosmetics, they were given red tokens that would result in various forms of punishment at home. “She plays with Barbie dolls at five, sleeps with men at 25,” Green ominously intoned in a television interview, attempting to instill terror in parents.
The star success story of the project was that of a young man named Kirk Andrew Murphy, who had been caught by his father posing in the kitchen in a long T-shirt and saying, “Isn’t my dress pretty?” In a 1974 article, research assistant George Rekers and Lovaas He described Kirk at age five as “’making wishes’ around the house and clinic, fully dressed as a woman with a long dress, wig, nail polish, high-pitched, squeaky voice (and) disheveled, seductive eyes.” At home, Kirk’s father traded his son’s red chips for beatings with a belt, with the approval of Rekers. Eventually, Kirk’s brother Mark began hiding the red tokens to save Kirk from abuse.
After 60 sessions in the lab, Kirk was declared cured of sissy bug syndrome. The psychologists observed that after the treatment, the boy was no longer bothered when his hair was messy and he wanted to go on a hike with his father. Rekers eventually published nearly 20 articles about his client’s alleged metamorphosis, in the process becoming one of the world’s leading advocates of conversion therapy.
Then, in 2003, at age 38, after a series of failed relationships with women, Kirk committed suicide. Maris’s sister he told Anderson Cooper on CNN that his treatment at UCLA “left Kirk totally afflicted with the belief that he was broken, that he was different from everyone else.”
Rekers co-launched the Family Research Council (FRC), which has played a leading role in drafting and promoting the current wave of anti-trans legislation. Rekers’ name was removed from the FRC website after An embarrassing incident in 2010. when he was photographed traveling with a young sex worker who he He stated that he had hired from Rentboy.com to “lift your luggage.” But his toxic legacy lives on in bills, like the one in West Virginia. Senate Bill 194that demand ineffective and harmful treatments, pretend that science learned nothing from decades of experimentation on children, and treat certificates from online credential mills as equivalent to medical licenses.
With many legislators from red states, and Far-right supporters of the Supreme Courtwhich shows that they see LGBTQ people as broken and in need of repair, protecting young people from such harmful charlatanism requires extra vigilance on the part of all of us.
This is an article of opinion and analysis, and the opinions expressed by the author(s) are not necessarily those of American scientist.
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