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Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms Stands Up for LGBTQ Youth, Calls for Conversion Therapy Ban

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Keisha Lance Bottoms

The mayor of Atlanta, Ga., is another U.S. leader fighting to protect LGBTQ people. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is asking state leaders to ban the practice and advertising of LGBTQ conversion therapy, which has been linked to increased suicide rates.

Bottoms passed a resolution on Monday asking the state of Georgia to completely ban conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy. The so-called therapy has never been scientifically proven to be effective and turn someone who is homosexual into a heterosexual. 

“State-sanctioned practices that inflict persecution and suffering on LGBTQ individuals — particularly young people— should end immediately,” Bottoms said in a statement. “Simply put — we cannot and should not endanger the well-being of the LGBTQ community for living their truth.”

The methods used in conversion therapy can be mentally, physically and emotionally damaging, including inducing nausea, vomiting or paralysis or shocking them with electricity while showing the person homoerotic images. There are other less physically invasive but still mentally and emotionally damaging techniques like trying to make a patient’s behavior more stereotypically feminine or masculine, teaching so-called heterosexual dating skills and even using hypnosis — all based on the (scientifically discredited) belief that being LGBT is something wrong or bad.

Related Article: Massachusetts Fights to Protect LGBTQ Youth Against Conversion Therapy

“Therapists who do them will try to sort of sexually arouse  the patient and do something really caustic to them so that a patient will associate being aroused with a bad outcome,” Ray Kotwicki, medical director at Skyland Trail treatment center and past president of the Georgia Psychiatric Physicians Association, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Kotwicki said using smelling salts or punching the patient are other common “therapies.”

According to the William Institute at the UCLA School of Law, roughly 698,000 adults have gone through conversion therapy and more than half that amount received the treatment as a teenager.

According to a study by the Family Acceptance Project, LGBTQ youth whose parents tried to change their sexual orientation had higher suicide and depression rates. Statistically, suicide rates among LGBTQ youth whose parents tried to change their sexual orientation were at a whopping 48 percent compared with 22 percent for LGBTQ youth who had no conversion experience.

It appears that youth who went through “therapeutic” conversion therapy or therapy in their own home combined with religious counseling, suicide rates were even higher: 63 percent.

Conversion therapy has been around since the 1950s, when being gay in the U.S. was considered a type of mental disorder requiring treatment to be “cured.”

It is not known exactly how many conversion therapy centers there are in Georgia, but there are roughly six, according to Kotwicki. Most of the centers that perform conversion therapy are tied to religious institutions.

Conversion therapy has already been banned in 16 states, the most recent being Massachusetts and New York, and is rejected by mainstream science and psychology.

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