Tomorrow, February 7, 2018, the Washington State House Committee on Health Care & Wellness will hold a public hearing on SB-5722 which places restrictions on conversion therapy. On January 11 of this year, the Senate Committee on Health & Long Term Care held a public hearing. It is instructive to review what just a couple witnesses said, and might say again this time around.

I have edited the above video to include only two witnesses; Gretchen Stockman and Joseph Backholm. Seriously, how many brain cells would you want to put at risk?

First up is Gretchen Stockman, a licensed marriage and family therapist with an MA from Chapman U. Stockman is a piece of work and she has a transgender daughter (whom she refers to as her son). What Stockman fails to mention is that she isn’t just an ordinary therapist. Oh no. Ms. Chapman offers “Renovation Biblical Counseling Services:”

My Christ-centered approach emphasizes Biblical renewing of the mind and spiritual growth, in addition to practical, proven strategies to help you overcome. I will support and care for you, strive to restore hope, and walk with you on your journey!

This woman is profoundly confused … and confusing. I do not know how old her daughter is. I get the sense, from her testimony, that (then he) was suffering with gender dysphoria that went untreated, possibly because Mommy wanted to deny reality. When she says that the eventual psychiatrist (I assume psychiatrist) went straight to surgery options she is either lying or her child was well beyond puberty blockers or hormone therapy.

The bottom line is that she objects to the bill on religious grounds. Without the bill no one was able to change her daughter’s gender so she should know first hand that conversion therapy is nonsense. Stockman combines her belief system, based on faith, with science, which is based on evidence. It is impossible to amalgamate the two.

Christian supremacist Joseph Backholm also objects to the bill on religious grounds, a view that he obscures before the committee (although they probably know who and what he is). Backholm objects to the bill supposedly because the problem does not exist. He is basing this on a failure to identify any complaints about coercive counseling to the Department of Health.

Conversion therapy has no secular proponents. Kids who have been fucked over by an unprofessional intervention are not going to file formal complaints which, they believe, will only subject them to more shame and more ridicule. They have parents who desperately want them to be something that they are not. Those religious parents are not going to complain either. You think that they are going to file a complaint that there son or daughter is still gay or trans?

Backholm goes on to say that coercive therapy of any sort is already professional misconduct. That misses the point. Backholm ironically insists that the problem does not exist yet he is advocating for an intervention that addresses something that should not be viewed as a problem in the first place.

Nature does not seem to cooperate with scripture. Sexual orientation and gender are both continua that provide an infinite number of combinations. Attempting to change what cannot and should not be changed is coercive per se.

Backholm then claims that teens would be prevented from obtaining a desired therapeutic outcome. That sentiment and conversion therapy itself are based on the notion that there is something wrong with being gay or trans and that is not the case. If parents have convinced their child that something is wrong with them then what that kid really needs is some deprogramming in contrast to more shame and more guilt.

The very existence of so-called conversion therapy misinforms parents about the sexuality of their children as a choice. Furthermore, it instills in those same parents guilt over their child’s gender identity or sexual orientation. Parents are blamed, children are shamed.

Conversion therapy is pseudoscience having no real scientific support. There are no studies demonstrating that it is safe or effective. If a teen is already being pressured and feeling guilty, imagine what he or she goes through when they fail to become heterosexual or gender-conforming. Earlier in his testimony, the sanctimonious Backholm stresses the evils of child abuse. He doesn’t realize, or doesn’t want to accept, the obvious fact that conversion therapy is just that — child abuse to support religious dogma.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.