My Turn: PFLAG opposes 'Conversion Therapy'

Posted: Friday, September 12, 2008

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) condemns a so-called "conversion therapy" or "ex-gay" conference scheduled for Saturday in Anchorage.

Love Won Out, which claims to "cure" lesbian and gay people through prayer and spiritual guidance, is a harmful practice with long-term consequences for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth who are often forced to attend, against their will, by parents struggling to deal with a child's sexual orientation. PFLAG supporters and allies will gather outside the conference on Saturday to offer support for youth attending and information for parents and families.

In my opinion, families never win at Love Won Out. The conference's organizers negatively target often well-meaning parents who are dealing with a difficult issue in their lives, and in the process put their kids' well-being at risk. Make no mistake: There is far more preying than praying taking place at these meetings, and far more harming than healing in the doctrine of Love Won Out.

Programs such as Love Won Out, which is a project of the far-right American Family Association, use outmoded medical theories and radical religious beliefs to justify trying to alter gay and lesbian people's natural sexual orientation. In 1990, the American Psychological Association (APA) stated that scientific evidence does not show that conversion therapy works, and that it can do more harm than good.

Programs like Love Won Out are dangerous for kids and divisive for families. Every bit of evidence available suggests that children who grow up in homes that accept them - and not try to change them - are far happier and healthier than those subjected to these anti-family tactics. It is nothing short of extremist to imply that families should do anything other than love their children as they are, and nothing short of outrageous to infer that LGBT kids aren't fine just the way they are.

Saturday's event in Anchorage has sparked widespread attention and protest following reports that Wasilla Bible Church, where Republican Vice Presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin is a member, has endorsed the Love Won Out conference. It is unfair, at this point, to assume that Palin endorses so-called ex-gay therapy like that espoused by Love Won Out, but Saturday's event in Anchorage provides an important opportunity for the first GOP mom on the party's presidential ticket to make clear that she will not condone such attempts at dividing our families and hurting our kids.

• Marsha Buck is a Juneau resident and treasurer of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

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