NCLR’s #BornPerfect Campaign Forms Advisory Committee

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (October 22, 2014)—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights announced the formation of the #BornPerfect Advisory Committee, a group of conversion therapy survivors, child welfare and mental health experts, and faith leaders with unique insights into the harms of conversion therapy.

NCLR’s #BornPerfect campaign is a national effort aimed at ending conversion therapy in the next five years by passing laws across the country to protect LGBT youth, fighting in courtrooms to ensure their safety, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by these dangerous practices. The campaign is managed by Sam Ames, an attorney at NCLR who focuses on conversion therapy and youth issues.

The committee, led by Ames, is co-chaired by Samuel Brinton and James Guay, MFT, both of whom are survivors of these dangerous and discredited practices. Samuel Brinton, the Fellow for the Clean Energy Program at Third Way, is a recent graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with dual graduate degrees in nuclear engineering and policy, as well as the recipient of the 2014 Courage Award from NCLR along with fellow committee member Ryan Kendall. James Guay is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in LGBTQ affirmative psychotherapy and a member of GAYLESTA, the LGBTQ Psychotherapy Association.

Other members of the committee include Bill Bettencourt, child welfare expert and senior associate at the Center for the Study of Social Policy; Dr. Caitlin Ryan, clinical social worker and director of the Family Acceptance Project; Deb Cuny, survivor and chaplain in residence at St. Francis Memorial Hospital; Rev. Debra W. Haffner, ordained Unitarian Universalist minister and co-founder and president of the Religious Institute; Judith Glassgold, PsyD, licensed psychologist and chair and report co-author of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation; Kimberly Inez McGuire, reproductive justice advocate and director of public affairs at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health; Peter Drake, survivor and co-founder of the Coming Out Into Light Foundation; and Ryan Kendall, survivor and witness in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case that invalidated Proposition 8.

Ames and Brinton are scheduled to attend the United Nations Committee Against Torture meeting in Geneva, Switzerland the week of November 10 to educate the committee about the practice of conversion therapy in the United States. NCLR will be joining the U.S. Human Rights Network delegation to elaborate on a shadow report it authored earlier this month explaining that practices attempting to change sexual orientation or gender identity, especially among vulnerable youth, constitute “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” when practiced by individuals and torture per se when facilitated by the government under the Convention Against Torture.

“The time is long overdue for the United States to address the severe harms inflicted on young LGBT people and their families by purveyors of these dangerous and discredited practices,” said Ames. “Persuading the Committee Against Torture to take up the issue of conversion therapy on the international stage has the potential to save the lives of countless LGBT youth in the United States and around the world. Many of the same groups who advocate in favor of conversion therapy in the United States have supported laws in other countries criminalizing LGBT people, such as the ‘Kill the Gays’ bill in Uganda. These laws are often linked with attempts to ‘cure’ sexual orientation or gender identity, whether by coercion or force. Conversion therapy is damaging our human rights record both at home and around the world and creating a crisis the United Nations can and should address this November.”

“Speaking to the U.N. in Geneva will be one of the highlights of my life and my work to end the torture of conversion therapy,” said Brinton. “While I’ve sat across the table from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the need for the elimination of nuclear weapons, it will be this conversation which brings a tear to my eye, one seeking the elimination of a more personal threat. A few years ago no one seemed to care about the horrific experiences of survivors like myself. They truly believed that conversion therapy had be relegated to the dustbin of history. All that has changed. This Kansas boy is about to speak to the most powerful members in the world in a quest to end conversion therapy. You can’t change what we never chose.”

Conversion therapy has been discredited by every major medical and mental health association in the country. Nonetheless, practitioners continue to subject countless LGBT children to efforts to change their sexual orientation and gender identity, causing serious harms that include alienation from their families, severe depression, and even suicide. NCLR has been at the forefront of the effort to protect LGBT young people from these practices for more than 20 years, helping draft and pass the nation’s first laws protecting LGBT children from the dangers of conversion therapy and working in more than a dozen other states to bring protections to LGBT children across the country.

Learn more about the campaign.


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.

NCLR Launches National Campaign to Protect LGBT Kids from Dangers of Conversion Therapy

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (June 24, 2014)—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is launching #BornPerfect: The Campaign to End Conversion Therapy, a national effort aimed at protecting LGBT kids from the harms caused by attempts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, including alienation from their families, severe depression, and suicide attempts.

Few practices hurt LGBT children more than attempts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity through so-called conversion therapy, also known as “reparative therapy,” “ex-gay therapy,” or “sexual orientation change efforts.” Yet some unethical counselors and therapists continue to subject young LGBT people to these practices—which often include the use of shame and verbal abuse—even though they have been condemned by every major medical and mental health organization in the country.

NCLR has been at the forefront of the effort to protect LGBT kids from these practices for more than 20 years, successfully working to help draft and pass California’s Senate Bill 1172 in 2012, the nation’s first to protect LGBT children from the dangers of conversion therapy. The following year, NCLR helped New Jersey pass a similar law and is now working with legislators and LGBT leaders in more than a dozen other states to bring protections to LGBT kids across the country.

“The time is long overdue to stop the severe harms being inflicted on young LGBT children and their families by these dangerous practices,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “These practices have been thoroughly discredited by every major mental health organization, and yet, every day, unethical therapists continue to abuse their professional authority to deceive parents and wreck the lives of youth who deserve nothing but support.” Through #BornPerfect, NCLR:

  • Provides state legislators and LGBT leaders with comprehensive resources and a solid foundation to build statewide campaigns;
  • Works closely with state legislators and LGBT leaders throughout the legislative process, including drafting legislation, coordinating hearings with key witnesses, and gaining support to pass legislation;
  • Raises awareness about these dangerous practices and the lasting harm they cause in the lives of LGBT children by empowering survivors and providing them with the support to speak out about their experiences;
  • Fights in court for the safety and well-being of LGBT kids.

Ryan Kendall was a teenager when he went through conversion therapy—an experience that altered his life, resulting in him running away from his family’s Colorado home and legally separating himself from his parents so he would no longer have to endure hurtful and traumatic visits with his therapist. The ordeal would cost Kendall his family and more than a decade of his life in which he sank into depression and substance abuse.

“By 16, I had lost everything,” said Kendall, now 31, and a recent graduate of Columbia University with plans on attending law school. “My family and my faith had rejected me, and the damaging messages of conversion therapy, coupled with this rejection, drove me to the brink of suicide. I am lucky that I survived, but I will never be able to recover the years I lost to feeling worthless and suicidal because a therapist convinced my family that being gay is a mental illness and that who I am is shameful and wrong. These practices are child abuse, pure and simple.”

“No LGBTQ kid should ever have to endure what I did,” said Deb Cuny, 34, who went through the practice as a teenager and spent years being prayed over and even exorcised in an attempt to keep her family intact and fulfill her dream of becoming a minister. “No child should ever be told that they are broken, pressured into being cleansed of evil that doesn’t exist, or forced to choose between being honest about who they are and being loved. I absolutely believe the #BornPerfect campaign is going to save lives and put a long overdue end to conversion therapy.”


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.