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.