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.