As part of our initiative called Curious Cornhuskers, an anonymous reader asked The Daily Nebraskan, “How effective will Lincoln’s conversion therapy ban be considering it’s just a city-wide ban? Has it affected any organizations? How prominent is conversion therapy in Nebraska? How does the university support LGBTQ students?”
JD McCown, assistant director of the LGBTQA+ Center, said conversion therapy is a process individuals try to make someone no longer LGBTQA+, and it includes different methods that are harmful to the LGBTQA+ person to try to change their identity.
McCown said they hope the city-wide ban on conversion therapy for minors will eventually lead to a state-wide ban.
“I think the city-wide [ban] is a great place to start,” McCown said. “I think it’s hard to get things to go state-wide.”
Pat Tetreault, director of the LGBTQA+ Center and the Women’s Center, said she thinks any place that makes it safer for youth to be who they are is a good thing, and the city-wide ban shows that it is not okay to engage minors in conversion therapy.
Tetreault said she believes most people who have utilized conversion therapy are not doing it in a professional counseling environment as part of an organization and are most likely doing it as an individual counselor, so she does not think the city-wide ban has had a particular impact on organizations.
Tetreault said the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality, found that 13% of respondents reported that a professional, such as a psychologist, counselor or religious advisor, tried to stop them from being transgender.
Tetreault said The Williams Institute found that 16,000 LGBT youth will receive conversion therapy from a licensed health care professional before they are 18 in the states that do not have conversion therapy banned.
McCown said the city-wide ban is important because there are some people who believe that LGBTQA+ people need to be fixed. McCown said, in an effort to fix them, they are willing to go through despicable means to change someone’s identity, which can be classified as either emotional or physical abuse.
“It’s important to stop these types of places from being able to do conversion therapy because there’s nothing wrong with being LGBTQA+, and we certainly shouldn’t be sending LGBTQA+ individuals to places to get changed,” McCown said.
Tetreault said there is a lot of data that show negative health outcomes for LGBTQA+ people, particularly LGBTQA+ youth, when they do not have a support system and are not able to be who they are. Allowing conversion therapy sends a message to people that it is an acceptable approach to dealing with youth or a family member, according to Tetreault, and this can cause individuals to report high levels of anxiety, depression and hopelessness.
“Hopelessness is directly related to the likelihood of somebody attempting suicide,” Tetreault said. “Conversion therapy is not really therapy. It is an attempt to convince somebody that they are not okay and that they should try to live their life as someone else, and that’s a very destructive thing to do to people.”
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has the LGBTQA+ Center, which does programming, education and outreach to LGBTQA+ people on campus, like students, staff and faculty, according to McCown.
There are new policies going into effect at UNL around gender identity, according to McCown. One policy is going to provide more structure around chosen name, pronouns and gender markers people can use. The policy should be released on March 31, according to McCown.
“That is something that will hopefully help make the process for particularly trans and gender non-conforming students to have a better experience at UNL, and also throughout the University of Nebraska system because it is a system-wide policy,” McCown said.
Tetreault said some people believe that people’s identities can change, and hopefully this city-wide ban will help people have a better understanding about LGBTQA+ people so they are more comfortable being able to be who they are.
“It’s not that people’s identities change,” Tetreault said. “It’s that based on knowledge and experience, people’s perceptions of their identity change, and so how people can see that is important, and being allowed to be who you are and having support for who you are is essential for everyone.”