Calgary, Alberta. Photo by Bernard Spragg, NZ via Flickr

Born Perfect Praises Calgary for Banning Conversion Therapy

CALGARY, Alberta (May 25, 2020) — The City Council of Calgary, Alberta, this afternoon approved a bylaw banning conversion therapy.

The bylaw prevents businesses in the city of 1.2 million from advertising, practicing, or knowingly harboring efforts to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Such efforts have proven to be harmful and sometimes fatal to counselees, and destructive to their families.

Calgary, Alberta, bans conversion therapy. Photo by Bernard Spragg, NZ via Flickr
CALGARY, Alberta (Photo: Bernard Spragg)

“The continued efforts by jurisdictions across Canada to protect LGBTQ youth are lifesaving,” said Mathew Shurka, Co-Founder and Chief Strategist of Born Perfect. “Conversion therapy destroys families and causes serious harm to minors, sometimes leading to suicide. We are grateful to the Calgary City Councillors who passed this bylaw unanimously. Their vote sends a powerful message to every child that they are born perfect.”

Born Perfect spoke earlier this month to the city committee that was considering the proposed bylaw.

During final council discussions of the bylaw, proponents of the ban said it would ban inhumane torture and fraud. Critics said, without offering evidence, that the bylaw would infringe upon religious expression. Some councillors on both sides said the bylaw might be difficult to enforce because conversion therapy is often conducted illicitly.

Councillor: A city of welcome does not shame its own

Councillor Jeromy Farkas spoke powerfully about his own experience of shaming by proponents of conversion therapy: “I’ve been debating all morning whether to read some of the e-mails I received, pointedly making the claim that I’m somehow inhuman. That I’m unfit for office. That I am unfit to receive God’s love or anyone else’s. That I must be, that I will punished.”

Farkas also recalled the trauma of being pressured at a young age, by his former best friend, to “pray the ‘me’ away. I felt humiliated. More than 20 years later … I still have never felt as humiliated as I did that day. A close second comes the time when I approached a person whom I respected about my intention to run for city council. They thought that my orientation was not only the reason I wouldn’t be able to elected, but also the reason that I wouldn’t be any good at it.”

Farkas concluded that “I think it is worth sending a signal about the kind of city we are and want to be. I want you to hear me clearly. You can be anything. You can do anything. You can go anywhere but most of all you are welcome here. Welcome in Calgary, welcome in the council chamber and welcome to love. We are welcome here.”

Community allies spotlight survivor experiences

Born Perfect supported No Conversion Canada, Hillhurst United Church, and Affirming Connections in their campaign for Calgary’s Prohibited Businesses Bylaw. Born Perfect wrote on May 12, and spoke on May 13, to the Standing Policy Committee on Community and Protective Services. During these committee hearings, several Calgary-area survivors recalled their own trauma and recovery. Their stories served as evidence to the council that conversion therapy is fraudulent, and that its proponents practice shame and family disruption, not mental-health support.

After the hearings, and following the lead of Hillhurst United Church, 44 local religious organizations — Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and Unitarian — joined the call for a conversion-therapy ban. Affirming Coordinator Keith Murray of Hillhurst United said the church has become a local sanctuary for survivors of conversion therapy.

Dr. Kristopher Wells is research chair of the Public Understanding of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth at MacEwan University. Wells said via Twitter upon the bylaw’s approval: “Calgary now has passed some of the strongest & most comprehensive conversion therapy prohibition legislation not only in Canada, but in the world.” Wells added: “Let’s not forget what this is really about: The survivors. If this bylaw saves one person from the damage done by conversion therapy, it will all have been worth it. To those we’ve lost. We will never forget you. No one needs to change who they are or who they love.”

‘Much-needed courage’

Wells believes that conversion therapy is rooted in anti-LGBTQ ideology. “It’s called a pseudo-scientific practice because it’s not backed by any evidence,” Wells said. “It’s, in fact, fraudulent. It’s deceptive and it’s dangerous.” The World Health Organization and the Canadian Physiological Association oppose the practice, and the College of Alberta Psychologists has banned it.

During the campaign, Affirming Connections Director Pam Rocker frequently voiced the importance of passing the proposed bylaw without amendments or exceptions. The bylaw passed by a vote of 14-1 with no amendments.

Conversion therapy has been restricted in four Canadian provinces and in several local Canadian jurisdictions; pressure is growing upon Parliament to pass a sweeping federal ban.

“The Calgary City Council has shown much-needed courage and leadership in standing up for LGBTQ youth in the face of vicious attacks by Journey Canada and hate-based groups that promote dangerous lies and misinformation about LGBTQ people,” said Shannon Minter, the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which provides legal support to U.S. states and cities in implementing and defending bans. “Contrary to the false messages of these groups, being LGBTQ is a natural part of the spectrum of human identity. All children deserve love and support, and the City of Calgary did the right thing in protecting people from this devastating practice.”  

Born Perfect is the leading campaign to end conversion therapy. We are survivors, lawyers, and policy experts working together to protect LGBTQ+ people nationally and around the globe. Born Perfect is a program of National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

Calgary Standing Policy Committee

Born Perfect Supports Calgary Bylaw to Protect LGBTQ+ People from Conversion Therapy

Born Perfect presented the following letter to the City of Calgary on May 12 and offered public comment to the Standing Policy Committee on Community and Protective Services on May 13, 2020.

Calgary Standing Policy CommitteeMay 12, 2020
Standing Policy Committee
on Community and Protective Services
City of Calgary, Alberta

To the Members of the Committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to support the proposed Prohibited Businesses Bylaw.

I am the co-founder and chief strategist of Born Perfect, a U.S.-based, survivor-led movement of survivors and legal experts working to end conversion therapy. In the past eight years, Born Perfect has helped to pass laws protecting minors from conversion therapy in 20 states, the District of Columbia, and more than 70 localities in the U.S. We have also consulted with a number of legislative bodies and public officials considering similar legislation in other countries.

As a survivor of conversion therapy, I know firsthand that attempts by a therapist to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity result in serious, lasting harms. Like many other young people, I believed the professional therapists who told me I could change my sexual orientation and become straight. But after five years of doing everything I could to change, I was plunged into depression and despair upon realizing that these “therapies” were bogus and that I could not change.

Like other survivors, it has taken me years to recover from the damage this experience caused. I will never be able to recover the time that I spent in this bogus therapy, which prevented me for years from living as my true self and robbed me of years that I will never regain. Conversion therapy also nearly destroyed my family, driving a wedge between me and my parents and siblings, based on my therapists’ false assertion that being gay is caused by problems or deficiencies in parenting. There is absolutely no scientific basis for that assertion, which underline almost all conversion therapy. Instead, by blaming parents, conversion therapists drive a wedge between LGBTQ youth and their families at the very time when young people most need parental love and support.

As my experience and that of other survivors shows, conversion therapy is an insidious practice that has no place in the practice of modern mental health care.

Since California passed the first law protecting minors from conversion therapy in 2012, many more states and localities in the United States, and a growing number of countries across the globe, have taken action to address this public health crisis. Importantly, these laws have been supported by elected officials from across the political spectrum, in recognition that this is truly an issue of public health, not politics, and that all responsible public officials have a responsibility to protect young people from a practice that is universally condemned as ineffective and unsafe by the international medical community.

For these reasons, we strongly support the proposed bylaw and urge you to vote in favor of its passage.

Very truly yours,

Mathew Shurka
Co-Founder, Born Perfect

Born Perfect is the leading campaign to end conversion therapy. We are survivors, lawyers, and policy experts working together to protect LGBTQ+ people nationally and around the globe. Born Perfect is a program of National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

Supreme Court Order Marks the End of Legal Challenges to New Jersey’s Ban on Conversion Therapy for Minors

By Chris Stoll, Esq.NCLR Senior Staff Attorney

On February 29, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review Doe v. Christie, a case challenging New Jersey’s law prohibiting state-licensed therapists from engaging in the discredited practice of conversion therapy with patients under 18 years of age. The Supreme Court’s order allows the law to remain in full effect and marks the final chapter in a nearly three-year-long series of challenges filed by Liberty Counsel, an anti-LGBT legal group.

NCLR was proud to join Garden State Equality in asking the New Jersey legislature and governor to pass this life-saving legislation, and then to represent GSE in successfully urging the federal courts to reject this legal challenge and uphold the law.

At the time Governor Chris Christie signed the bill into law on August 19, 2013, New Jersey was the second state after California to pass legislation protecting against harmful efforts by licensed therapists to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity – practices that put youth at risk of serious lifelong harm, including depression, substance abuse, and suicide. Since that time, similar laws have been passed in Washington, D.C., Oregon, and Illinois, and NCLR’s #BornPerfect campaign is working with leaders in dozens of other states to bring the same protections to young people everywhere.

Wherever these laws have been challenged, NCLR has also stood ready to defend them in the courts. And we’ve been successful. Federal appeals courts have uniformly rejected legal challenges to these laws brought by anti-LGBT legal groups representing therapists, minors, and parents who want to preserve these outdated and dangerous “treatments.”

These federal court decisions rest on the common-sense principle that states have the power to regulate medical care to protect patients from treatments that are ineffective and risky. Just as a doctor or patient has no right to administer or receive untested or unsafe prescription medications, therapists have no right to engage in so-called treatments that do not benefit minors and expose them to serious risks of harm. Laws protecting minors from conversion therapy are based on a strong scientific consensus among medical and mental health professionals, and states have a right—and a duty—to make sure licensed therapists are not engaging in these harmful and discredited practices.

Double Your Gift for Justice and Equality

Last year, when we launched #BornPerfect: NCLR’s Campaign to End Conversion Therapy, it was after more than two decades of advocating for an end to this heinous practice. Survivors of conversion therapy and their families have been shoulder to shoulder with us every step of the way. A year and a half ago, they called on us to take the fight to the next level.

So we set a bold goal: end conversion therapy by 2019.

Your support is critical to ensure that we succeed in eliminating this deadly practice. And today we are proud to announce that every gift we receive from now until December 31st will be matched dollar for dollar to support our life-changing work, including #BornPerfect.

Since the launch of #BornPerfect we have achieved historic milestones, including:

  • Passing groundbreaking new laws protecting minors from being subjected to conversion therapy by licensed mental health professionals and successfully defending those laws before two federal circuit courts.
  • Partnering with the Obama Administration to secure the first statements in history from a sitting President and Surgeon General condemning this ineffective and harmful practice, as well as the first Department of Health and Human Services report detailing the harm it causes to vulnerable youth.
  • Persuading the United Nations Committee Against Torture and High Commissioner for Human Rights to speak out for an end to this abuse on a global scale.

Even with these incredible gains, there is still much work to do to end this dangerous and discredited practice forever. Please make your tax-deductible gift today—which will be matched—so together we can continue to build on this momentum.

We have come so far since the days when these kids had nobody to stand up for their rights. But we won’t stop until every one of them has a place to call home for the holidays, a community where they feel safe, and a family who never lets them forget they were #BornPerfect.

Please double your gift today for justice and equality. We cannot let them down.

In solidarity,
Sam Ames, Esq.
#BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator & Staff Attorney

PS: You can maximize your donation by making a gift of appreciated stock today.

#BornPerfect: A Year In, and We’re Not Backing Down

By Sam Ames#BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator & Staff Attorney

A year ago, we set out with a goal—protect LGBTQ children from conversion therapy by wiping out the dangerous and discredited practice in just five years.

Since then, our #BornPerfect campaign has helped protect thousands of kids across the country from practices linked to severe depression, substance abuse, and even suicide. And we couldn’t have done it without you by our side.

Here’s a snapshot:

  • In #BornPerfect’s first year, we helped bring laws to Washington D.C., Oregon, and Illinois that protect LGBTQ kids from being subjected to “treatment” that falsely claims to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. This brings us to FIVE jurisdictions that have passed these laws (NCLR helped pass similar legislation in California in 2012 and in New Jersey in 2013).
  • We successfully defended several of those laws in court against constitutional challenges. Last summer, NCLR intervened on behalf of New Jersey’s Garden State Equality and helped win the case in the U.S. Court for the District of New Jersey, followed by the U.S Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The Supreme Court declined to review the favorable ruling, sending the law into effect earlier this year.
  • We made history at the United Nations in Geneva last fall when we testified before the Committee Against Torture, which expressed its concern over the practice that’s still being used on LGBTQ youth across the United States. Just months later, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a landmark report calling on governments around the world to take action to end conversion therapy once and for all.
  • We worked closely with the White House this spring to support President Obama, Senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett, and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in calling on states to pass legislation protecting youth from practices to change sexual orientation and gender identity that have been condemned by every major medical and mental health association.
  • We worked with Congressman Ted Lieu to introduce a federal bill months ago that would define the practice of conversion therapy as illegal consumer fraud. If passed, this law could effectively cripple the conversion therapy industry, making for-profit conversion therapy illegal nationwide. The introduction built on three years of groundbreaking work by Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who in 2012 introduced the first federal bill to deal with conversion therapy—the Stop Harming Our Kids (SHOK) Resolution.

Many considered our goal ambitious. But with your faith and support, we have been able to make history time and time again. From the entire #BornPerfect team, and from all the survivors who have been empowered by your support to tell their stories, we can’t thank you enough.

We know the next four years won’t be easy. We’ve seen our opponents come out in force in states from California to Oklahoma, where, just a few months ago, we beat back legislation that would have made conversion therapy immune from regulation. But, with you by our side, we won. And, with you by our side, we’re going to keep on winning.

Together, we’re going to stand up for our kids. And we promise we won’t back down until the day every child knows they were #BornPerfect.

The President Joins Our Fight

By Sam Ames#BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator & Staff Attorney

Nine months ago, NCLR launched our #BornPerfect campaign to end the use of conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth in five years. At the time, we thought it was an ambitious goal. We could not have imagined then the speed with which this movement has already grown or the impact it has already made. Thanks to the denunciations of these dangerous practices by mental health professionals, the tenacity of lawmakers and LGBT state equality groups, the support of faith leaders, and, most importantly, the courage of survivors, we have come farther in those nine months than we had ever thought possible.

But yesterday hit a new high water mark when one of the most powerful champions in the world joined our corner. Yesterday, President Barack Obama sent a clear message to every LGBTQ person in the country being forced into conversion therapy, into the streets, and all too often into body bags: You are not alone. You are not broken. You are ‪#‎BornPerfect.

When we started this fight 20 years ago, we knew we were in it for the long haul. When we passed SB 1172 in California, we knew we were in it for the long haul. Even today, when it is clearer than ever that this only ends one way, we know we are in it for the long haul. We cannot risk another child ending their life while they wait for the family acceptance and support they so desperately need. Now that the country is finally ready to open its eyes, we must work harder than ever to show how wrong and damaging these practices are. We will not stop fighting until every child can rest easily, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. We aren’t finished until conversion therapy is.