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).