HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – On Tuesday, Governor Tom Wolf signed an executive order discouraging the practice of conversion therapy in the commonwealth.
Wolf says he hopes his signature sends a strong message both to those who practice the discredited therapy, and the victims.
“It is a bad and traumatic practice based on junk-science that actively harms people, the very people it’s supposed to help,” said Gov. Wolf. “Today, I am signing an executive order to protect Pennsylvanians from conversion therapy, to protect them from the damage it does to our youth and to our communities,” he added.
The controversial practice seeks to convert LGBTQ+ individuals to be heterosexual or cisgender, sometimes both. The practice is opposed by the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association and other leading medical organizations.
“The practice of so-called conversion therapy can lead to irreparable damage to an individual’s well-being,” said Rafael Alvarez Febo, the Executive Director of the PA Commission on LGBTQ Affairs.
The executive order directs state agencies to promote evidence-based best practices for LGBTQ+ individuals and to make updates to policies and procedures to be more inclusive. It also discourages the use of taxpayer dollars and state-sponsored health insurance plans for the practice of conversion therapy.
“Taxpayers’ dollars must never again be spent on the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion ‘therapy’ – which has been consistently associated with increased suicide risk and an estimated $9.23 billion economic burden in the U.S.,” said Troy Stevenson (he/him), Senior Campaign Manager for Advocacy and Government Affairs of The Trevor Project.
According to the Trevor Project, LGBTQ youth who underwent conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide in the past year. Additionally, advocates say conversion therapy costs the United States $9.23 billion annually to address associated harms like substance abuse and negative mental health outcomes.
A survey on LGBTQIA+ Youth Mental Health by The Trevor Project shows that 45 percent of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, 73 percent reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety, 58 percent reported symptoms of depression, and 36 percent reported they have been physically threatened or harmed due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“It’s still practiced in the here and now of 2022 Pennsylvania, and it must stop,” said Carla Christopher Wilson with the PA Commission on LGBTQ Affairs. Christopher Wilson, a survivor of conversion therapy, says today’s order sends a strong message to those who have suffered, and continue to suffer.
“I’m here today to say that healing is possible,” said Christopher Wilson. “But for many of us, it must begin today,” she added.
Gov. Wolf said the order is the most he can do in his capacity and that it’s time for lawmakers to pass legislation banning conversion therapy in Pennsylvania, for good.
“To fully ban conversion therapy and the damage it causes, we need the General Assembly to take action, to actually pass legislation that our friends here have proposed,” said Wolf. “Conversion therapy is causing horrific consequences for the mental health and well-being of a generation of young LGBTQIA+ individuals. But there is something very simple that we can all do to help. We can stand up and tell LGBTQIA+ youth that we hear them and we accept them exactly as they are,” Wolf added.