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America’s leading psychiatric organisation finally accepts being trans is not a ‘mental disorder’

Maggie Baska March 4, 2021
American Psychological Association opposes trans conversion therapy

Members of the trans community and their supporters hold a rally and march to City Hall before the midterm elections to protest against what they say are continual attacks from the Trump administration in Los Angeles, California on 2 November 2018. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP)

The American Psychological Association (APA) adopted a resolution rebuking conversion therapy on trans patients, correctly citing that being trans is not a “mental disorder”.

The APA is the leading scientific and professional organisation representing psychology in the US, with more than 122,000 researchers, clinicians, consultants and educators as its members. The prominent psychological association has decried the use of conversion therapy – the dangerous, discredited ‘treatment’ to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity – for trans people.

In a February resolution, the APA stated that “transgender and gender non-binary identities and expressions are healthy” and that “incongruence between one’s sex and gender is neither pathological nor a mental disorder”.

The American Psychological Association noted “many transgender and gender non-binary individuals lead satisfying lives and have healthy relationships”. It added conversion therapy only serves to promote “stigma and discrimination against transgender and gender diverse people”.

The resolution also emphasised that “individuals who have experienced pressure or coercion to conform to their sex assigned at birth or therapy that was biased toward conformity to one’s assigned sex at birth have reported harm resulting from these experiences, such as emotional distress, loss of relationships and low self-worth”.

Jennifer F Kelly, president of the APA, said there is a “growing body of research” that shows that transgender or non-binary gender identities are “normal variations in human expression of gender”.

“Attempts to force people to conform with rigid gender identities can be harmful to their mental health and wellbeing,” Kelly said.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) applauded the APA for denouncing trans conversion therapy. Alphonso David, president of the HRC, said there is “no question” that “denying a person’s gender identity is wrong”.

“It’s detrimental to their mental health, their physical health and their overall sense of self-worth—and this includes young people,” David said. “The consensus from the [APA] further reinforces that we must rely on transgender people and their healthcare providers to determine treatment for gender-affirming care in accordance with current medical best practices — this is not the place for politicians.”

He also warned it is “incredibly dangerous when strangers can legislate personal healthcare decisions”.

The Trevor Project’s 2020 national survey found that 10 per cent of the over 40,000 LGBT+ youth who responded to the survey had undergone conversion therapy. Seventy-eight per cent of LGBT+ youth who had gone through conversion therapy said it occurred when they were under the age of 18.

Sixty-one per cent said they were forced into conversion therapy to change their sexual orientation, eight per cent said it was to change their gender identity and 27 per cent said it was to forcibly change both their gender identity and sexual orientation.

Sam Brinton, vice president of advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project, said the organisation is “extremely grateful” to the American Psychological Association for using its platform and expertise to “advocate for better health outcomes for all LGBTQ youth”.

“When transgender and non-binary young people are pressured to conform to the sex they were assigned at birth and abide by society’s rigid gender norms, it can be incredibly harmful to their mental health and sense of self and contribute to increased risk for suicide,” Brinton said.

“That’s why we must come together to end the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy and to stop these proposed bans on gender-affirming medical care from becoming the law of the land.”

Across the pond, conversion therapy is still legal, even though the UK government vowed to ban it

On 28 March, it will have been 1,000 days since the Tories pledged in 2018 to “eradicate” the abhorrent practice as part of their LGBT+ Action Plan.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said conversion therapy “has no place in civilised society” last July, but he and equalities minister Liz Truss claimed the government would have to do more research before banning the practice, which has often been compared to torture.

Mental health professionals, faith communities and LGBT+ rights organisations have joined together in a coalition, organised by Stonewall, to urge the government deliver the ban, and end conversion therapy once and for all ahead of the 1,000 days mark of inaction by the government to stop conversion therapy.

“Being LGBT+ is beautiful, and there is no place in our society for any so-called ‘interventions’ which tell us otherwise,” said Stonewall chief executive Nancy Kelley.

“The UK government must stop dragging its feet and make good on its promise to bring in a full legal ban, and put a stop to conversion therapy in the UK for good.”

The coalition is encouraging people across the country to email their MPs and explain why the UK urgently needs a legislative ban on conversion therapy.

It is also campaigning for specialist support for LGBT+ conversion therapy survivors and victims.

More: american psychological association, conversion therapy, The Trevor Project, Trans

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