The campaign against conversion therapy, aimed at changing the sexual orientation or gender identity of distressed LGBT individuals, has been a sustained effort by LGBT activists. These activists argue that such therapy is labeled as “pseudoscience,” citing claims that there’s a “scientific consensus” indicating its ineffectiveness and the potential for causing severe psychological harm, according to sources like Wikipedia. However, this reliance on a supposed “scientific consensus” has raised concerns reminiscent of other instances where such consensus claims have been questioned.
Over 20 states have prohibited conversion therapy, attributing it to an increased suicide risk among LGBT Americans. Yet, these assertions are contested by Paul Sullins, a research professor at Catholic University and a senior researcher at the Ruth Institute, who argues that sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) are, in fact, effective in averting suicide attempts. However, the studies used to support the ban have been criticized for fundamental flaws and manipulation of data to fit preconceived conclusions.
Joy Pullman, in The Federalist, highlights Sullins’ observations, emphasizing how these flawed studies have led to legislative actions restricting therapists from aiding individuals struggling with homosexual desires or gender dysphoria. What’s troubling is the recurrent scientific flaw found in these studies: they consistently fail to account for pre-existing suicidal tendencies among LGBT individuals before undergoing conversion therapy.
The critical omission of considering pre-therapy suicidal distress has resulted in an erroneous claim that “conversion therapy causes suicide.” Upon re-evaluating data and incorporating proper controls, Sullins found that a substantial portion of suicidal thoughts and attempts predated therapy. Essentially, the studies overlooked this crucial distinction, blaming therapy for thoughts and actions that preceded it. Notably, after adjusting for these pre-existing tendencies, Sullins discovered an 80% reduction in suicide attempts and intentions linked to so-called “conversion therapy.”
This revelation challenges the very foundation of the anti-conversion therapy movement, indicating that the initial studies were skewed to fit an agenda rather than uphold scientific integrity. Sullins criticized the selective disregard for scientific evidence in these studies, suggesting that they didn’t adhere to standards when establishing causation between SOCE and harm.
Despite these findings, the Supreme Court recently declined to review challenges against state laws banning conversion therapy. Pullman asserts that such restrictions on talk therapy could potentially worsen distress and self-harm among LGBT individuals. The reaction to Sullins’ published findings, including calls for retraction due to concerns over endangering legal privileges for the queer community, reflects the charged nature of the debate around conversion therapy.