'Conversion therapy' endangers LGBT youth and must stop: U.S. report

By Andrew M. Seaman (Reuters Health) - Efforts to ban parents from subjecting their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) children to "conversion therapy" got a boost on Thursday from a U.S. government report that said the practice was dangerous and must stop. The Obama administration backed a petition in April to ban the practice nationwide, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) report gives further scientific backing to such calls. "We believe that conversion therapy for young people is not in their best interest, and the facts and the evidence supports that," White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said. "We would support, and have supported, making it illegal for young people," she told reporters, noting that adults "make their own decisions" when it comes to their health. Four U.S. states and Washington banned the practice among minors and vulnerable adults as of August 2015, the report said, and 21 more states and Congress have considered or are considering bans. Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group, welcomed the report, saying it should prompt a ban in all 50 states. The therapy, that aims to change sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, is often conducted by practitioners who are unlicensed and have religious, not medical, training, experts say. The American Psychological Association's (APA) government relations director, Judith Glassgold, said such therapy can trigger depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, hurt self-esteem and lead to substance abuse and risky sexual behaviors. "Conversion therapies or other efforts to change sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression are not effective, reinforce harmful gender stereotypes and are not appropriate mental health treatments,” said SAMHSA Special Expert on LGBT Affairs, Elliot Kennedy. (Additional reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by Louise Ireland)