Gay conversion therapy, or reparative therapy, is a term that describes efforts to convert LGBT people into heterosexuals. This treatment can range from counseling to electroshock therapy to labor camps. A 15-year-old boy reportedly died because of harsh conditions at one such camp in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2011 (video below).
The website Seeker posted a video on Dec. 13 that recalls the dark history of gay conversion therapy, which dates back to the 1920s when homosexuality was thought to be a physical birth defect. The earliest form of conversion therapy involved removing a testicle from a gay man, and replacing it with the testicle of a straight donor.
As this type of transplant therapy failed, mental health professionals, such as Sigmund Freud, classified homosexuality as a mental disorder, reports Seeker. Psychological therapy and drugs were used to try to make gay people straight. However, Freud would go on to retract his belief that homosexuality was a mental illness and, eventually, gay conversion treatments would change again.
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By the 1950s, electroshock therapy and hypnosis were used by the medical community to try to straighten out gay people. According to Seeker, medical professionals believed that if pain, sickness and embarrassment were associated with homosexual acts, then people would choose not to be gay.
However, studies in the early 1970s showed that LGBT people were not developmentally inferior to heterosexuals. The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and went on to debunk gay conversion therapy, reports Seeker.
The Human Rights Campaign notes that not one major medical association in the U.S. currently supports gay conversion therapy, and many say it is actually harmful.
Only five U.S. states -- California, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New Jersey -- and Washington D.C. have banned gay conversion therapy for minors.
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Five Christian pastors filed a lawsuit in August against the State of Illinois to seek legal protection from the state's law, which bans licensed counselors and mental health professionals from using gay conversion therapy on minors, noted The Washington Post.
While religious clergy members are not actually mentioned in the law, the pastors want an exemption from the law, which they believes violates their free speech and exercise of religion.
The religious leaders' lawsuit states: "These pastors teach that homosexual conduct is contrary to God’s purpose for humanity and a disorder of God’s creation which can be resisted or overcome by those who seek to be faithful to God and His Word. This is what they say to those who seek their counsel — including minors."