A person’s sexual orientation and gender identity is innate. It is inseparable from the rest of their being, and thus it cannot be “broken.” Still, when someone’s deep-seated sense of who they are and who they love makes others uncomfortable, people come forward to say they can “fix” it.

When it’s a parent or a clergy member who is trying to change a young person’s fundamental self, however well-meaning the effort, it is damaging, and it puts that child at risk.

When it’s a licensed medical professional who does the same, it is professional misconduct, and it should be treated as such.

A bill now before the Legislature would make it so. L.D. 1025, from Rep. Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, would ban state-licensed counselors, therapists, psychologists, social workers and other professionals from advertising, offering or administering so-called “conversion therapy” to anyone under 18.

As defined in the bill, conversion therapy is “any practice or treatment that seeks or purports to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” It is a practice left over from a time when anything outside of cisgender heterosexuality was considered a mental defect or illness, rather than part of the natural spectrum of human development.

Conversion therapy certainly doesn’t work – you can’t “pray away the gay.” No amount of coercion, confrontation or conversation can change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

And it is harmful to the people that receive it, particularly those under 18. When LGBTQ youth are rejected by their parents – and that’s what conversion therapy is, a rejection of who they are – they are more likely to attempt suicide, report depression, and engage in risky behavior.

That’s why every major mainstream medical organization has rejected the practice, including the Maine Medical Association, the Maine Nurse Practitioner Association and the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, all of which are in favor of L.D. 1025.

A similar bill passed the Maine House and Senate last year, but a veto from then-Gov. Paul LePage killed it; he was the first governor to veto such legislation.

However, 16 states and Washington, D.C., have passed bans on conversion therapy. And it’s been a bipartisan issue – seven of the laws were signed by Republican governors.

Maine should join them. Conversion therapy is based on bigotry and misunderstanding, not science. It has no place in the medical field.

Under L.D. 1025, parents remain free to communicate their values to their children in whatever way they please. Nothing will stop religious leaders from expressing themselves on the matter either.

But medical professionals who put youth through something so harmful and unscientific should have their licenses revoked. Maine should no longer put its stamp of approval on this abhorrent practice.


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