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
Canada

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).

Born Perfect Congratulates German Parliament for Passing Law to End Conversion Therapy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 7, 2020

Contact: Christopher Vasquez, NCLR Communications Director
cvasquez@nclrights.org / (415) 365-1337

Born Perfect Congratulates German Parliament for Passing Law to End Harmful Practice of Conversion Therapy

New legislation is just second of its kind in the European Union and makes Germany the most prominent nation in the world to address this issue

BERLIN, GERMANY — Today, the German Bundestag passed legislation that would ban conversion therapy nationwide in the European nation. The new law bans the harmful practice – which aims to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ youth – for minors and creates significant new protections for adults. The legislation makes Germany, which is the world’s fourth-largest economy, the most prominent nation to end the dangerous practice that has shown to be directly correlated to higher rates of LGBTQ youth depression and suicide.

“Germany is the first major European country to protect LGBTQ people from this insidious practice, which is one of the primary drivers of suicide and depression among LGBTQ youth,” said Mathew Shurka, a conversion therapy survivor and Co-Founder of Born Perfect. “Especially during this time, when many LGBTQ people are feeling more isolated and alone than ever, Germany’s leadership is a powerful example of how governments can stand up for LGBTQ youth.”

Globally, three countries – Brazil, Ecuador, and Malta – have already enacted nationwide bans. In March, Canada introduced legislation that would also soon end conversion therapy nationwide in the North American country. In the United States, twenty states and more than 70 localities have passed laws protecting minors from conversion therapy, including most recently in the states of Utah, Virginia, and the Florida Capitol city of Tallahassee. In addition, survivors of conversion therapy have successfully sued their former therapists under state laws that prohibit consumer fraud.

“Germany is setting a new international standard for protecting LGBTQ youth and for recognizing conversion therapy for what it is—a public health crisis that is devastating the lives of LGBTQ young people,” said Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “Germany’s leadership on this issue is groundbreaking and will set an example for other countries to follow.”

Last year, Outright International released a groundbreaking report showing that conversion therapy occurs across the world and documenting the severe trauma that it causes.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

Born Perfect Praises City of Tallahassee for Passing Ordinance to End Conversion Therapy

Unanimous vote by Tallahassee City Council ensures that LGBTQ youth and vulnerable adults in Florida capital will be protected from this harmful practice

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (April 10, 2020) — On Thursday, the Tallahassee City Council unanimously passed the state’s most inclusive ordinance to protect minors and vulnerable adults from conversion therapy – the harmful practice that seeks to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

In addition to providing that licensed mental health professionals may not perform conversion therapy on minors or vulnerable adults, the ordinance prohibits the use of city funds to pay for  the practice that has been widely condemned by every leading medical and mental health organization in this country. The Tallahassee ordinance is now the most robust restriction against the practice in the state of Florida.

The City of Tallahassee joins more than 70 municipalities, 20 states, and the District of Columbia that have adopted similar protections.  

With the passage of the Tallahassee ordinance, Florida now has more than 20 local laws protecting minors from conversion therapy—more than any other state in the country.

Survivor’s perspective

“The continued efforts by legislators across the state 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 Tallahassee City Councilors who passed this ordinance unanimously. Their vote sends a powerful message to every child that they are born perfect.”

Last year, conversion therapists represented by Liberty Counsel, an Orlando-based organization designated as an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, challenged three of Florida’s local protections in two separate federal lawsuits.

Defending other Florida bans

In February 2019, US District Judge Robin Rosenberg upheld the local laws passed in Palm Beach County and Boca Raton. Judge Rosenberg rejected Liberty Counsel’s argument that the laws violated the right to free speech and freedom of religion, citing “extensive credible evidence of the damage that conversion therapy inflicts.”  The case is Otto v. City of Boca Raton.

In October 2019, in one of his first major rulings since being appointed to the bench by President Trump, US District Judge William Fung struck down Tampa’s local law. Judge Fung held that Florida cities do not have the power to regulate mental health providers, which he said belongs exclusively to the state. The case is Vazzo v. City of Tampa.

Both of these lower court rulings are on appeal to the Eleventh Circuit court of appeals. The Eleventh Circuit heard oral arguments in Otto on February 11, 2020.  A ruling is expected any time.  Oral arguments in Vazzo have not yet been scheduled.    

Legal outlook

“The Tallahassee City Council has shown much-needed courage and leadership in standing up for LGBTQ youth in the face of vicious attacks by Liberty Counsel and other 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 provided legal support to the Florida cities defending their 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 Tallahassee did the right thing in protecting minors in Tallahassee from this devastating practice.”  

For more than 25 years, NCLR has been leading the fight against conversion therapy. Since 2014, NCLR’s Born Perfect Campaign has brought survivors and legal experts together to pass  legislation protecting LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy, to assist states and local governments in defending these bans when they are challenged by anti-LGBT hate groups, and to bring lawsuits holding conversion therapists accountable for defrauding and harming patients.

Momentum on this work continues to build, with a record-breaking number of states and localities taking action to protect youth in the past 12 months, including UtahNorth Carolina, Kansas City, Missouri, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Most recently, legislation was passed in Virginia – the first Southern state to protect LGBTQ youth from the harmful practice.

According to the Williams Institute from UCLA Law, more than 350,000 LGBTQ minors have been subjected to the dangerous practice of “Conversion Therapy,” which studies have linked to these youth being more than twice as likely to experience depression, and nearly three times more likely to attempt suicide.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

Canadian Introduction of Nationwide Conversion Therapy Ban is Part of a Growing Global Movement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 9, 2020
Contact: Christopher Vasquez, NCLR Communications Director
cvasquez@nclrights.org / (415) 365-1337

Canadian Introduction of Nationwide Conversion Therapy Ban is Part of a Growing Global Movement

OTTAWA, Ontario — Today, Canadian Minister of Justice David Lametti and Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth Bardish Chagger introduced legislation that would ban conversion therapy nationwide in Canada. Bill C-8, “An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy)”, would amend Canada’s criminal code to make it illegal for therapists or organizations to engage in conversion therapy.

“Canada’s bill is a milestone for LGBTQ human rights and will help to bring families back together with their LGBTQ children,” said Mathew Shurka, a conversion therapy survivor and Co-Founder of Born Perfect. “Being subjected to conversion therapy drives many LGBTQ youth into hopelessness. A parent’s acceptance is make or break for an LGBTQ child’s future. Canada’s bill sends a powerful message that LGBTQ youth are born perfect.”

Globally, three countries – Brazil, Ecuador, and Malta – have already enacted nationwide bans. In the United States, twenty states and more than 70 localities have passed laws protecting minors from conversion therapy. In addition, survivors of conversion therapy have successfully sued their former therapists under state laws that prohibit consumer fraud.

“Like Canada, countries across the world are taking active steps to address the devastating harms caused by conversion therapy,” said Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “Other countries considering similar legislation include Chile, Mexico, and Germany, and grassroots movements to expose this abusive practice are growing in South Africa and many other African countries. This is now a global movement that is emerging as one of the most urgent and critical issues for LGBTQ people across the world.”

Last year, Outright International released a groundbreaking report showing that conversion therapy occurs across the world and documenting the severe trauma that it causes.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

Virginia Becomes 20th State to Protect LGBTQ Youth from Conversion Therapy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 3, 2020
Contact: Christopher Vasquez, NCLR Communications Director
cvasquez@nclrights.org / (415) 365-1337

Virginia Becomes 20th State to Protect LGBTQ Youth from Conversion Therapy

With Governor’s signature, VA becomes the first Southern state to end the harmful practice

RICHMOND, Virginia — Yesterday Governor Ralph Northam signed a historic bill making Virginia the twentieth state to protect LGBTQ minors from conversion therapy, the harmful practice which seeks to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill, which passed both chambers of the VA legislature in February, will go into effect on July 1.

The Governor’s signature also makes Virginia the first state in the South to end the practice that has been widely condemned by every leading medical and mental health organization in this country.

Virginia joins 19 other states, the District of Columbia, and more than 60 municipalities that have adopted similar protections.

“Across the country, state legislatures are recognizing that the harm caused by conversion therapy is a public health crisis,” said Mathew Shurka, a conversion therapy survivor and Co-Founder of Born Perfect. “Virginia is the twentieth state to pass a law protecting LGBT youth, and the first to do so in the South. As the leading national campaign working to end conversion therapy, Born Perfect will not rest until LGBT youth are protected in every state.”

“As a Virginia survivor who has been working to pass this bill for more than two years, I am grateful to our state legislators and Governor Northam for listening to survivors and their families,” said Adam Trimmer, a conversion therapy survivor and Born Perfect Virginia Ambassador. “No young person should be subjected to this abuse, and no family should be exploited by unethical therapists who lie to parents and cause life-threatening harm.”

“The campaign to end conversion therapy is by far the largest and fast-growing LGBT-related movement in this country,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director Shannon Minter. “Since California passed the first law in 2012, the visibility of this issue has increased dramatically, and more and more survivors have come forward. Virginia is the first Southern state to pass a law, but it will not be the last.”

For more than 25 years, NCLR has been leading the fight against conversion therapy. Since 2014, NCLR’s Born Perfect Campaign has brought survivors and legal experts together to support legislation protecting LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy.

Momentum on this work continues to build, with a record-breaking number of states and localities taking action to protect youth in the past 12 months, including North Carolina, Kansas City, Missouri, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Most recently, rules were adopted in the conservative state of Utah that protect LGBTQ minors from conversion therapy

According to an estimate from the Williams Institute from UCLA Law, more than 350,000 LGBTQ minors have been subjected to the dangerous practice of “Conversion Therapy,” which studies have linked to these youth being more than twice as likely to experience depression, and nearly three times more likely to attempt suicide.


Born Perfect is a survivor-led campaign to end conversion therapy created by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.