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Walt Heyer

Opinion,

Freedom to change your life: Why the government shouldn’t ban ‘reparative therapy’

Walt Heyer

April 12, 2016 (The Public Discourse) -- The freedom of people with same-sex attractions to exercise their civil rights is under siege by legal bullies who hate redeemed and restored lives. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and two other groups are out to crush the civil rights of those who desperately desire therapy.

On February 24, the SPLC and other LGBT organizations filed a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission designed to silence People Can Change (PCC), an organization whose clients seek help in dealing with their same-sex attractions. Four liberal lawmakers added their names to the complaint in an all-out effort to penalize anyone who would offer therapies called “reparative therapy” or “conversion therapy” to anyone who freely asks for it.

The legal filing demonstrates a visceral hatred not only toward these therapies but also toward people who don’t want to act on their same-sex attractions, and want to minimize or perhaps even change them. The legal filing aims to take away the freedom, civil rights, and human rights of people who desire to engage in therapies rather than in same-sex relationships. The SPLC tactic is to harass organizations that offer therapy with which they do not agree. Having achieved success in a case filed in New Jersey state court against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), they are emboldened to go after People Can Change by filing with the United States Federal Trade Commission.

The complaint asks that PCC be barred from displaying the firsthand testimonies of courageous and compassionate people who want to share their experience of freedom and peace.

Why they’re doing it: to destroy any evidence that change is possible

If people want to resist acting on, minimize, or perhaps even change their same-sex attractions, why would anyone want to stop them from trying? This stubborn blocking of free choice seems to indicate another agenda at work.

Why do these groups so despise the notion that people can make choices about the actions they engage in and even change their attractions? Why do they want to silence any evidence that it has happened? The answer seems obvious: These advocates have the goal of stopping any therapy that proves people can change when it comes to sexual attractions.

The agenda is abundantly clear. Because the linchpin of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender civil rights deception rests squarely on the misleading narrative that people “are born that way,” anything that threatens their storyline must be discredited and destroyed:

  • Anyone who wants not to act on same-sex attractions, or seeks to minimize and even eliminate them, will be blocked from finding help.
  • Anyone who has successfully lived out chastity will be ostracized and marginalized.
  • Any organization that dares to point to objective results from people who have made progress with their sexual attractions will be silenced and financially destroyed.
  • Any evidence that shows that a person is not born homosexual, or that a person is not born transgender, will be banished and outlawed.

Clearly, the testimonies of numerous same-sex attracted and transgender people like myself who live out our new, changed lives are the evidence that invalidates the LGBT narrative of “born that way.” Restored lives are living proof that change is possible.

The targeting of PCC is only the beginning. For activist groups like the SPLC, each small victory builds on the previous win and is used as “evidence” in the next case filed against the next pro-counseling group. For example, the SPLC pulls in gender-identity counseling in its complaint, even though PCC focuses on same-sex attraction. The SPLC is conflating sexual attraction counseling with gender-identity counseling, saying that transgender people can’t change back to their birth gender, in order to set up the target for their next complaint.

What’s the danger in the therapy?

If conversion therapy didn’t work, it would die away naturally. There would be no demand. There would be no need for the Southern Poverty Law Center to seek to prevent such therapies from being offered to those who wish to try it. Their complaint is all the proof any court needs to understand that today’s “reparative therapy” is actually effective.

Techniques done in the name of “reparative therapy” in the past, such as using aversion methods based on Pavlov’s theory of rewards and punishments, or imposing involuntary and coercive intervention, were found to be harmful and are not being used today. Today, the same cognitive therapy traditionally used by psychotherapists for every other psychological issue is used for unwanted same-sex attraction. It is no different from traditional talk therapy, not coercive, not aversion-driven, not known to be harmful. Yet the SPLC is targeting organizations like PCC that offer traditional psychotherapy to people who are homosexual or transgender.

The truth is that some homosexual and transgender people change. The complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission is hateful toward us who live new lives.

Apparently the SPLC does not want the nation to know that recovery from the transgender and homosexual lifestyles is actually possible. We who tour the nation speaking about our transformed lives are living, breathing proof that recovery is possible. By exercising the freedom to choose which therapies we wanted to try, we found a new life apart from homosexuality and transgenderism.

We who have come out of the lesbian, gay, or transgender lifestyle found the serenity and satisfaction we had desired all our lives. Our lives should be celebrated, not condemned or dismissed. Our lives are proof of the effectiveness of therapy for some individuals, regardless of what the detractors do to disparage or ban it.

The People Can Change website contains numerous testimonies of men who affirm that, under PCC’s program, they have “experienced profound change in our sexual identity, behavior, interests and desires—change that has brought us great peace and satisfaction.” The founder himself is “a man who had personally experienced enormous transformation from unwanted homosexual attractions.” The organization only seeks to help those men who freely choose to try the therapy that has worked for others. For stating these things publicly, PCC is the subject of a consumer complaint from LGBT advocacy groups and supporters.

Our stories show the success of reparative therapy

I was diagnosed with gender dysphoria by a homosexual gender therapist. He advised me to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Because I trusted his expertise, I followed his advice, and it was a big mistake. Even though I lived the transgender life for eight years as Laura Jensen, a female, my gender issues were not resolved. The surgery was so therapeutically disastrous in my case that I attempted suicide as a way out. I was one of the 41 percent of transgender people reported in the National Transgender Discrimination survey that suffer from significant depression and attempt suicide. The lifesaving solution for me was therapy and restoration of my birth gender.

Now I share the story of “coming out” of that life. Along the way I have met others who were gay, lesbian, or transgender who share the same changed life experience I have come to love. Years of pain had turned many of our lives upside down. By turning to therapies, we healed the shame and deep hurt so that the pain no longer drives us to unwanted behaviors.

The actions of groups like the SPLC are an attempt to disparage our changed lives, to insist that we don’t exist—but that doesn’t change the reality that we do exist and we did change. Who is to say whether a specific person can change or not? If some persons have a deep desire to rid themselves of same-sex attractions, shouldn’t they be allowed to try?

Of course, not all therapy is always effective for every person. No one in the psychology field would ever claim that counseling will help every person, every time. Counseling doesn’t work that way.

The claims in the complaint are false and misleading

The SPLC complaint against People Can Change is a jumble of misinformation. It charges that conversion therapy methods “constitute deceptive, false, and misleading practices,” yet the charge itself is misleading. The American Psychological Association (APA) task force couldn’t say definitively whether the therapy helped or harmed: “There are no scientifically rigorous studies of recent SOCE [Sexual Orientation Change Efforts] that would enable us to make a definitive statement about whether recent SOCE is safe or harmful and for whom.”

The SPLC states that the therapies are “abusive and harmful to children” but the programs at PCC do not allow participation by children under the age of 18 and the average age of the men seen by PCC is 36 years of age, according to Rich Wyler, founder of PCC.

Ironically, the treatment that was recommended for me, gender change, caused substantial harm in my life and many other people’s lives, yet the Southern Poverty Law Center has not filed to eliminate all gender-change surgeries—quite the opposite, in fact. Their efforts are directed at silencing anyone who holds the opinion that encouraging four-year-old trans-kids to cross-dress at school, at home, and in public, and to use the bathroom of their preferred gender, is harmful.

New Jersey has enacted a ban on gay-to-straight conversion therapy for minors. The law signed by Governor Chris Christie prevents any licensed therapist, psychologist, social worker, or counselor from using sexual orientation change efforts with a child under age 18. In California, Governor Jerry Brown signed a similar bill that makes any therapy that doesn’t affirm same-sex attraction or gender transition illegal for children.

In these states, therapists can help children go through gender transition by affirming them in the other gender and recommending puberty blockers or cross-gender hormones or even surgery to transition, but talk therapy to avoid such invasive and permanent body-damaging measures is deemed “harmful” and outlawed.

According to a PhD counselor friend of mine in California, the law puts a chill on offering any therapy, even when requested, for children under the age of 18 who struggle with unwanted gender confusion or same-sex attraction.

I was personally offended and appalled when the Southern Poverty Law Center interjected kids into their complaint against PCC. I was a four-year-old trans-kid, and I can tell you there is nothing normal about it. Gender transition is being pushed today as the only treatment for gender issues, and that is a flat-out lie. Studies show that the majority of transgender people have co-existing mental disorders that go untreated.

Those of us who have willingly sought talk therapy and found it to work know we were not born that way and that the effects of traumatic childhood events can be overcome. It was only after engaging with skilled therapists to deal with the emotional trauma that we no longer needed to live in an unwanted lifestyle.

Outlawing effective treatments is unjust

Outlawing the therapies that help some people with same-sex attractions or gender-identity conflicts is, at its very heart, unjust. The civil liberty of individuals to choose therapies should be protected and preserved, not crushed by lawyers.

We need to make sure that LGBT organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center do not crush human and civil rights under the weight of their hatred for those who defect from the LGBT lifestyle. Even as many people are celebrating the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage, other people who want to get rid of their same-sex attraction are being stripped of their lawful, rightful access to effective therapies.

People who choose to not embrace their same-sex attractions should be afforded the same equal rights as those who embrace them. Laws should not take away their dignity and their free right to rid themselves of same-sex attractions. I have lived free of transgenderism for over twenty years, and I am just one of many examples showing that change is possible. The law should not prevent access to therapy that may save lives just because LGBT supporters want to silence the individuals who chose an alternative path.

Walt Heyer is an author and public speaker with a passion to help others who regret gender change. Through his website, SexChangeRegret.com, and his blog,WaltHeyer.com, Heyer raises public awareness about the incidence of regret and the tragic consequences suffered as a result. Heyer’s story can be read in novel form in Kid Dakota and The Secret at Grandma’s House and in his autobiography, A Transgender’s Faith. Heyer’s other books include Paper Genders and Gender, Lies and SuicideReprinted with permission from The Public Discourse.

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