A Transgender Teen’s Tragic Suicide Leads The White House To Call For A Ban On Conversion Therapy

Leelah-Alcorn-2There aren’t many LGBT issues that President Obama hasn’t touched on during his tenure. Now he’s tackling one of the few that remain. Now his Administration is going on record against conversion therapy, the pernicious practice of trying make LGBT teens straight.

In a statement posted on the White House website, senior Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett came out in favor of laws that would make it illegal to force LGBT youth to undergo the scientifically discredited treatment.

“We share your concern about [conversion therapy’s] potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer youth,” the statement reads. “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”

The statement was prompted specifically by the suicide of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year old transgender teen who threw herself in front of a truck during the Christmas holidays last year. Alcorn left a heartbreaking note on Facebook, in which she recounted how her parents turned against her and forced her to go to Christian therapists in an attempt to “cure” her.

Leelah wrote that when she was 14, she told her mom she was transgender. “She reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong,” Leelah said. “If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.”

The administration’s statement came in direct response to an online petition on the White House website that honored Leelah. Jarrett told The New York Times that Leelah’s case wasn’t an isolated one.

“It was tragic, but I will tell you, unfortunately, she has a lot of company,” Jarrett said. “It’s not the story of one young person. It is the story of countless young people who have been subjected to this.”

Indeed, it’s all too easy to find example after example of LGBT youth subjected to harmful and destructive treatment, some of which have fatal consequences.

So far two states–California and New Jersey–and the District of Columbia have laws that ban conversion therapy for minors. Eighteen states have seen legislation introduced this year.


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