Opinion: What conversion therapy cost me


My parents saved up for the so-called counseling, having heard from a network of Baptist preachers that in many cases clients needed months, sometimes years, of “treatment”. By the time I realized that conversion therapy wasn’t working, it had not only taken our money, but also caused deep emotional and psychological damage to our family.

Before the two weeks were up, the program director talked with my mother about extending my stay for a month, then three months, and after that, maybe even years. It was only after my mother saw me on the verge of suicide that she took me off treatment. Otherwise, we might have spent thousands more years and lost years of our lives to conversion therapy.

This week, JAMA Pediatrics released a economic study on the cost of conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth. Over a lifetime, the estimated cost is almost $100,000 per person, with the national burden totaling about $650 million.
These staggering numbers don’t even include adult or international populations. Taking into account the associated damages resulting from such “therapy”, the researchers then estimated a total national economic burden of $9.23 billion.
This study confirms what many survivors of conversion therapy already know to be true: that conversion therapy is extremely harmful and costly in many ways. For years I have met and interviewed dozens of survivors who have spent their life savings on conversion therapy practices, which the researchers found significantly increase the risk of depression, substance abuse and suicidal ideation. Not a single survivor I spoke with failed to mention the pressure they faced from so-called counselors who suggested, like mine, that the road to a “cure” would be long and expensive.
When someone is repeatedly told that their identity is shameful and mistaken, is it any wonder that they seek further healing in hopes of leaving the shame behind? Human rights organisations, such as the human rights campaignhave been discrediting the practice of conversion therapy for years.
This latest study provides more evidence that the practice is indeed ineffective and harmful. In contrast, research shows that positive therapy, which embraces and maintains a positive view of all identities, would save $1.81 billion nationally compared to no intervention and nearly 6.19 billion compared to conversion therapy, in addition to reducing the risk of self-harm and other negative outcomes. This suggests that when LGBTQ youth experience affirmative therapynot only are the costs lower, but the results are more positive.

In many ways, I was lucky. With the support of affirmative friends, I was able to convince myself and my family that I didn’t need to erase my identity. When one of my conversion therapy counselors contacted me later, begging me to give up my “sinful lifestyle” and re-enroll, I told him the truth: that I was much happier to accept who I was.

Although I didn’t spend more money on conversion therapy, I suffered for years from depressive episodes and suicidal thoughts, the true cost of which I couldn’t even begin to calculate. Because of the harmful religious bigotry I experienced during my sessions, I could no longer pray to God without feeling shame. I took Viagra when I was 19 because every time I tried to be intimate with my first boyfriend, I remembered counselors telling me I wanted male touch because that I had not experienced it from my father, which created a mental block that seemed insurmountable. without medical intervention.

What is the true cost of losing faith? His ability to experience love?

It is a tragedy that, despite evidence of harm, lawmakers in some states – like Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Caroline from the south – champion conversion therapy in the name of religious liberty and personal liberty, while others, like Florida, continue to create laws targeting LGBTQ youth. To this day, nearly half of the United States still allows harmful efforts changing sexual orientation and gender identity. As the editorial accompanying the study laments, “the human toll is simply not enough to eradicate (this) dangerous practice”.

Do abstract notions of personal and religious freedom always take precedence over real suffering? Is saving money more important than saving lives? Perhaps for many of these politicians the answer to both questions is yes.

While quantifying the financial impact of conversion therapy helps a lot in understanding its tangible costs, you can’t put a price tag on human life. My parents say they would give anything to get back what happened to our family, to reverse the ill effects of conversion therapy. If only they could.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Helpor by texting START to 678678.

If you are having a suicidal crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text line by texting HOME to 741741 for help.

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