It’s almost the end of Pride Month and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on where we’ve come and where we must go.
This past weekend, I was asked by an individual why I decided to get my Ph.D. in American Religious History focusing on LGBTQ spirituality and sexuality. Now, I’ve been asked this before, and if you know anything about me, you know I like to shock people at times, so my usual response is: “I have always been fascinated with people telling me I was going to hell.”
Usually after a long pause or laugh from the people I’m speaking with, I get into the core argument that I have written about before on this site that I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones. In many of my interviews, I spoke with people who had similar upbringings just like myself: grew up in a small, conservative town, attended a religious institution with extremely homophobic ideology, and was told from the pulpit that being gay was a “sin.” However, unlike many of my interviewees, my response as a young child wasn’t one of fear or dread but instead a big ol’ eye roll at Father Schmidt and a realization that this “God,” the one that he mentions “love the sin, but hates the sinner” is not one I was going to invest any time in.
It’s been a while since I’ve written here and wanted to take a moment to say how good it is to be back but ask each and every one of you to do one thing for me. During the 2020 election, the Biden-Harris administration proposed to ban so-called “conversion therapy.” Otherwise referred to has “reparative therapy,” it is a pseudoscientific practice of attempting to alter one’s sexual orientation or gender identity through spiritual, psychological, and/or physical intervention. To say this practice is dangerous is an understatement because it is downright deadly and diabolical.
In a 2020 national survey, LGBTQA+ people in the U.S. found that youth who have been forced or underwent conversion therapy reported twice the rate of suicide attempts over the last year in comparison to non-victims. They are also 3 times more likely to use drugs and experience homelessness.
While many states (including my own here in California which banned it for minors in 2012) and others are banning conversion therapy as a practice in their state legislatures, little has been done by states or the federal government and the time to act is now!
This is why we have the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act (TFPA), which would federally ban all for-profit conversion therapy by classifying it as fraud under the Federal Trade Commission Act. Nevertheless, as Biden has stated, this “deeply harmful” practice needs action now and with the changing of the guard after the 2020 election, we must act before it is too late.
Please reach out to your local, statewide, and federal leaders today and urge them to take part in the movement by pushing for reintroduction of the TFPA. You can also support the Trevor Project’s 50 Bills 50 States initiative.
Your next action could save the life of someone you don’t know who fears that they’re different because they are LGBTQIA. Be the hero that I, and some many others, wished for when we sat in those pews or institutions and heard that being different was a “sin.” Do whatever you can to save the next “John.”
I was lucky but let’s make sure that living a full and happy life is no longer a matter of luck for LGBTQIA individuals but a basic human right.
John Erickson was elected to the West Hollywood City Council on November 3, 2020 with the commitment to uphold the city’s founding vision for a forward-thinking, diverse, and tolerant community. His advocacy work includes serving as a National Board member of the National Organization for Women and President of the ACLU Southern California. In 2017, he became Governor Brown’s appointee to the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls and served as an organizer for both the Resist March and the historic Women’s March Los Angeles. He serves on the Board of the Women’s March Los Angeles Foundation. Councilmember Erickson was part of the End Statute of Limitation on Rape (ERSOL) Campaign, which overturned California’s statute of limitations on rape and sexual assault in 2016. Councilmember Erickson received his Ph.D. in American Religious History from Claremont Graduate University and a Dual-Master’s Degree from Claremont Graduate University. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh with a B.A. in English and Women’s Studies.
14 thoughts on “Lucky by John M. Erickson”
Thanks for this post. I remember many years ago hearing an interview about this practice. They proudly told the story of a “success” – the man was inspired to feel up a woman on a bus. Any intervention that advocates assaulting strangers is not therapy!
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The practice is child abuse and we must end it. It’s truly awful and I appreciate you reading and taking action in your community!
I’m so glad you’re back! I’ve missed your posts and your comments, always insightful and witty.
As for that hell you and other “abnormal” people are consigned to by the standard-brand churches, I don’t think that hell exists outside their minds, so I’ve told people from time to time not to worry about the preachers. Besides, why can’t they preach the Sermon on the Mount? And as for conversion therapy and assaulting strangers, those are truly hellish. I’ve been signing online petitions about way to protect LBGTQ people, lots and lots of petitions. And the daughter of a good friend of mine (a UU minister) works for the Trevor Project in their office in Burbank. She’s doing good and useful work.
Bright blessings to us all, gay or straight or whatever. Who we love is nobody’s business, especially not the business of Republican politicians and bigots. (Are those two words now often synonymous?)
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It’s nice to be back and yes, right now, it seems like we’re facing off against the party of bigots versus the party of “trying to save our county.” We must all take action and do all we can to protect the next generation.
So glad to hear from you again, John! Yes, Conversion Therapy is group-sanctioned child abuse and should be illegal!!! It is TORTURE. Thank you for sharing the links to support the legislation to protect LGBTQ2-identifying people.
It is time we call upon elected leaders who campaign on these items to keep their promises.
Perfect. Love this post- only 19 states have laws making conversion therapy illegal- which means the MAJORITY of states still do. Pride is more than rainbows. #stonewallwasariot
Love you fairy godson ♡
Much more than rainbows! Pride started as a riot for our riots. :) Love right back to YOU!
So good to see you back in FAR!
Yes, that wretched practice should be outlawed. But why just “for profit” entities? Isn’t it churches that are the big proponents? Maybe banning the “for profit” actions is just the first step, and banning it everywhere will be the second step.
As best I can determine, Oregon only bans conversion therapy for children. Looks like it’s time for letters to my reps.
As you say John, it is a basic human right to be allowed to be who you are – regardless.
Thank you for this timely (and excellent) essay.
I love your answer to people where you say you are fascinated by those who tell you are going to hell. And that you can look at challenging parts of our life and find “luck.” Amen to that!
I wasn’t familiar with a national effort to ban conversion therapy but I am delighted to learn of this work. I will definitely get behind it and press my local politicos on it. Thank you for this blogpost!
Good to see you blogging for FAR again, John. Two of my three federal representatives are gay — Tammy Baldwin and Mark Pocan — and one is a bigot. But on the state level, we have Republican hegemony (because of gerry-pandering) and nothing will change. That breaks my heart.
It’s been in the news in Canada. there was a bill at the Federal level that is stalled in the Senate and may not come back because there may be an election. https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/canadas-senate-puts-lgbt-conversion-therapy-bill-hold-summer-2021-06-30/
I followed the link you provided and read the proposed law.
No doubt, the ban on conversion therapy as a fraudulent practice will help protect lesbian, bi-sexual and gay youth. Transgenderism, from what I have read, is a different dynamic, with many young people declaring themselves transgender who, as they mature, discover themselves as gay, lesbian or bi-sexual. Something like 80% of kids who claim transgender status realize that in fact they are gay, lesbian or bi.
Thus, the blanket ban on “conversion therapy” should distinguish “wait and see” or the therapy for Gender Dysphoria (GD) called “watchful waiting” from harmful or punitive conversion therapies. GD, indeed, is a rapidly evolving phenomena that is not uniform and that merits in its different forms different types of approach.
This legislation 1) lumps together disparate topics in an unhelpful manner, 2) does not provide for watchful waiting for pediatric GD (see Keira Bell case in UK 2020), 3) completely overlooks the well documented teen contagion of GD and how teens rush into irreversible invasive medical treatments because internet sites convince them that they are really the opposite sex. These are not minor interventions, but rather can result in permanent sexual disfunction and frequently entails the amputation of perfectly healthy organs.
The heavily medicalized trans movement is very distinct from the natural sexual orientation of gay, lesbian or bi communities. The medicalization of gender identity means that profits are made. Where profits are made … the true interest of the young and vulnerable need special safeguarding.
Teenagers and young adults can easily rush into serious medicalization of their identities, amputate body parts, and permanently change others via cross-sex hormones. We all know teens and young adults are susceptible to fads.
Progressives and liberals should gain more nuanced understanding of invasive medicalization of identity v. the promotion of natural healthy life. The current polarization of the trans issue on national stage of politics is deeply unhelpful.