The order, which was accompanied by a seven-page explanation, is one more salvo in the clash of rights in recent years over transgender issues. It describes conversion therapy as “efforts to suppress or change an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”
Keeping a campaign promise he made to the LGBT community, Biden called for an administration-wide push to eliminate the use of conversion therapy by therapists across the nation. He described it as a “harmful” and “discredited practice that research indicates can cause significant harm, including higher suicide rates…”
“My administration must safeguard LGBTQI+ youth from dangerous practices like so-called conversion therapy,” Biden said.
The Williams Institute at the University of California–Los Angeles estimates that there were 2 million Americans identifying themselves as transgender in 2021—about six-tenths of 1 percent of the nation’s population.
Twenty states and more than 100 municipalities have banned conversion therapy for minors.
To protect the rights of LGBT individuals from encroachment by other states, Biden is marshaling the resources of 10 departments of the federal government, along with numerous supporting agencies. The list includes the departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Justice, and Housing and Urban Development.
He said in his order that the Federal Trade Commission “is encouraged to consider whether conversion therapy constitutes an unfair and deceptive trade practice and to issue such consumer warnings or notices as may be appropriate.”
Such a designation by the FTC could expose therapists to prosecution.
The aggressive promotion of these and other LGBT policies has provoked a backlash around the country.
In the first quarter of 2022, 238 measures that would “limit the rights” of LGBT individuals were proposed by legislatures across the United States—half of which involved transgender people, according to NBC News.
The state proposals aim to limit LGBT curriculum in schools, affirm parental rights, defend religious liberties, and restrict gender-affirming care (GAC).
The World Health Organization defines GAC as psychological, behavioral, and medical interventions designed to support and affirm an individual’s gender identity when it conflicts with the gender the person was assigned at birth.
Biden’s order has drawn strong opposition from former gays and lesbians, clients and their therapists, and civil liberty legal foundations, who say that individuals have the right to voluntarily seek help to be free of unwanted same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria (an uncomfortable state of confusion).
Brothers Road is a Virginia peer support fellowship made up primarily of men seeking to align their sexual thoughts, feelings, and behaviors with their personal values, beliefs, faith, commitments, and life goals.
“Many of us have been harmed, sometimes deeply, by therapists who demand that we embrace a gay identity and engage in gay relationships as, supposedly, the only possible path to peace, even if doing so would mean leaving otherwise satisfying marriages or cutting ourselves off from faith communities, beliefs, and traditions that we greatly value,” Rick Wyler, the group’s founder, told The Epoch Times.
Elizabeth Woning of California is a co-founder of the Changed Movement, an international network of people who no longer identify as LGBT.
“So-called conversion therapy is a pejorative phrase that is being used to promote state-sanctioned viewpoint discrimination,” Woning told The Epoch Times. “LGBTQ-identifying people deserve the right to follow their conscience, even when it means receiving support to diminish unwanted sexual feelings.
“Such bans dramatically oversimplify the lived experience of anyone who identifies as LGBTQ. They offer only one route for people to follow, no matter their faith or conscience.
“And so, anyone who doesn’t endorse Gay Pride for their own life is disallowed counseling that addresses trauma and emotional distress related to their sexual identity.
“In the end, counseling bans cause harm and simply limit everyone’s freedom.”
Nevada therapist Robert Vazzo told The Epoch Times, “Don’t ban anything that is poorly defined and can lead to a witch hunt among therapists whose world view regarding homosexuality is different from the mainstream.”
Vazzo questioned the ability to determine at what point during a counseling session the therapist can be said to be actually practicing therapy and attempting to change a client’s sexual orientation.
“The desire to change one’s sexual orientation is often linked to one’s religious views and having thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are congruent with those views,” he said. “How a person expresses their sexuality and deals with attractions is a very personal thing, and we especially don’t need Joe Biden and the federal government telling us what we should like, dislike, or try to change in ourselves.”
Vazzo said the courts have consistently affirmed a therapist’s right to give his opinion during a session as part of free speech. He described Biden’s order as “an assault on both personal and religious freedom.”
Tampa, Florida, recently lost a case that challenged the city’s ordinance banning conversion therapy on First Amendment grounds. New York recently ended its ban on conversion therapy because of a civil rights lawsuit.
In a July 13 statement to The Epoch Times, Family Watch International, an organization that promotes and defends marriage and family values, said of Biden’s executive order:
“Elite leftists are seeking to prohibit parents and children from obtaining necessary, and demonstrably successful, care [while] the Biden administration is pushing ‘gender-affirming therapy’ as normative treatment. This ‘therapy’ includes such horrifying procedures as blocking normal adolescent development, administering cross-sex hormones, and performing mutilating surgeries that result in permanent sterilization.
“Federal bureaucrats should not be micromanaging matters of health and wellness, especially as it relates to children. It is the role, responsibility, and right of all parents to determine the upbringing of their children, especially as it relates to their healthy development.”
Attorney Mathew D. Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit organization that provides legal assistance in cases dealing with religious liberty and family issues, told The Epoch Times in an email, “I am confident that litigation will eventually doom these counseling bans. … To deny a client the right of self-determination is both unconstitutional and dangerous.
“The ultimate goal of this movement is to prohibit change-exploring therapies and counsel, and to abolish the Judeo-Christian ethic regarding human sexuality, and even the very understanding of God.”
He pointed out the irony in a system of laws where it isn’t considered harmful to take puberty blockers, receive opposite-sex hormones, or undergo life-changing surgeries, yet it’s regarded as harmful to learn about the causes of gender dysphoria and how to become comfortable with one’s birth sex.
Staver said that, under some laws banning conversion therapy, or what he calls “change counsel,” a counselor must either tell the client the type of counseling he may desire isn’t permitted or, even though the client wants to change, the counselor must, by law, override the client’s decision and counsel the client to accept unwanted attractions, behaviors, and identities.
“These laws unconstitutionally restrict only one viewpoint—change—on the subject matter of same-sex attractions, behavior, or identity. The U.S. Supreme Court has never upheld viewpoint discrimination. … Such viewpoint discrimination violates both First Amendment rights of the client and the counselor. … [The] government must not censor the viewpoint of any subject matter the client wishes to receive and what the counselor or therapist may provide.”
California therapist Joseph Nicolosi told The Epoch Times in an email: “In a client-therapist relationship, the client is in the driver’s seat. They set their own goals, which the therapist helps them achieve. Politicians have no business telling people that their therapy goals are illegal.
“Everyone should be free to choose a life consistent with their values. … No government should bar access to another person’s choice to live consistent with their faith and their values.”
Medical Experts Divided
The American Psychological Association, in a report released in 2009, stated that therapies used to try to change sexual orientation can be harmful and that most don’t succeed.
In a 2018 position statement on conversion therapy and LGBTQ patients, the American Psychiatric Association recommended that “ethical practitioners refrain from attempts to change individuals’ sexual orientation” and “respect the identities of those with diverse gender expressions.”
The psychiatric association stated that it encourages “psychotherapies which affirm individuals’ sexual orientations and gender identities.”
In a 2018 policy statement, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) stated, “’Conversion therapies’ (or ‘reparative therapies’) are interventions purported to alter same-sex attractions or an individual’s gender expression with the specific aim to promote heterosexuality as a preferable outcome. …
“These interventions are provided under the false premise that homosexuality and gender diverse identities are pathological. They are not; the absence of pathology means there is no need for conversion or any other like interventions.”
The American Psychiatric Association ceased classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973.
The AACAP statement reads, “There is evidence that ‘conversion therapies’ increase risk of causing or exacerbating mental health conditions in the very youth they purport to treat.”
Biden’s executive order and the current narrative of the professional psychiatric and psychological guilds upon which it’s based; have received strong criticism from other medical quarters.
“The habitually misquoted American Psychological Association’s Task Force’s 2009 report (on page 43) stated specifically that modern change-allowing therapy ‘since 1978’ was ‘nonaversive,’ meaning free of infliction of pain or shame,” Dr. Andre Van Mol wrote in an email to The Epoch Times.
André Van Mol, a board-certified family physician and co-chair of the Committee on Adolescent Sexuality of the American College of Pediatricians, said the Task Force’s report explicitly states on pages 43 and 82 that research meeting scientific standards didn’t allow attributing harm or help, inefficacy or efficacy, to change-allowing therapy.
“Banning counseling choice for gender dysphoria condemns already at-risk sexual minority youth to experimental and unproven hormonal and surgical gender-affirming therapy (GAT), which permanently and prematurely medicalizes children for a condition that overwhelmingly resolves by adulthood,” he said.
Van Mol said GAT hasn’t been proven safe and effective. It doesn’t reduce suicides and isn’t the international standard of care for gender dysphoric minors.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) have introduced legislation that would allow adults who undergo body-altering gender-transition surgeries as minors to sue surgeons for damages for up to 30 years after the procedure.