It’s pretty universally understood at this point that so called “conversion therapy” — the promise of being able to alter someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity through counseling — is a huge pile of steaming garbage.
And that’s not even fair to the huge piles of steaming garbage of the world, because some of them might actually decompose and improve the soil beneath them (assuming you’re composting), while there is no conceivable benefit to conversion therapy.
Now HRC is going after the publication/website Psychology Today for continuing to offer paid listings for conversion therapists. The gay rights organization claims the brand is “propping up a fraudulent industry” by giving conversion therapy a “veneer of credibility.”
In February, a staff member with HRC’s legal department noticed a listing in Psychology Today for a conversion therapist in Riverside, CA who claimed to have “helped men with unwanted same-sex attraction (SSA) reverse their attraction to men and increase their attraction to women.”
This prompted Fred Sainz, a spokesperson for HRC, to reach out to the publication, asking them to retract current advertisements for conversion therapy on their website and bar future practitioners from placing ads.
“There is no credible evidence that conversion therapy can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, and it is abundantly clear that conversion therapy poses devastating health risks for LGBT young people,” Sainz wrote in a letter to Psychology Today’s chief executive and publisher. “Psychology Today has the opportunity to take a leadership role in protecting the public from these harmful and illegal practices by taking prompt action to limit this type of advertisement and creating awareness about the danger of conversion therapy.”
Charles Frank, who runs Psychology Today’s directory, told HuffPost that he has no intention of meeting the request.
Though Frank said Psychology Today is “not a fan” of conversion therapy, he wrote in an email, “We take care not to sit in judgement of others by allowing or denying individual participation.” The only metrics he uses to asses a potential advertiser are that they are “who they say they are,” licensed and are “under no sanction from their states (or countries) not to practice.”
“There are many reasons why one group of people take issue with another, especially around the sensitive subject of relationships and therapy,” he added. “The Therapy Directory cannot pick winners.”
Saiz sees this as a cop out. “They are simply not taking responsibility for their own actions,” he said. “What other discredited and dangerous therapies would they allow under that flawed rationale?”
Only a few states — California, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. — have passed laws banning conversion therapy on minors. A federal effort is currently underway to ban the practice nationwide on minors and adults. It seems that until such a time, conversion therapists will be welcomed advertisers in Psychology Today.