In June of 2017, a bill to ban conversion therapy – a treatment that was grounded in the belief that being LGBTQ+ is abnormal – in New York City was introduced. It was intended to change the sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression of LGBTQ+ people. Later that year, on November 30th, the bill was denied and in celebration, New Yorkers stampeded the streets for freedom from the torturous practice. But the celebratory period was only temporary. Two years later, New York City has completely destroyed the progress made by passing a repeal of the ban. Gay conversion therapy is now legal in New York City. It is necessary that we understand as well as acknowledge the massive disadvantages and obstacles that LGBTQ+ people have been forced to face as well as how now, the community must, once again, face oppression and neglect.
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, proposed the idea of repealing the ban of gay conversion therapy in New York City. This repeal came as a shock to many especially since Johnson identifies as gay. The repeal would allow practitioners to continue their toxic work and continue their homophobic practice. Johnson claimed, “Ultimately, I think this is the responsible, strategic thing to do.” Johnson spoke about this in the context of the current administration’s conservatism, specifically within the Supreme Court. The repeal is supposed to neutralize the federal lawsuit filed against the city by a conservative Christian legal organization. If the case were to be heard by the supreme court, their ruling could severely damage any attempt to ban conversion therapy. Brett Kavanaugh, the recent addition to the Supreme Court, has argued to strip away the rights of LGBTQ+ citizens as well as continues to fight for their constricted rights. Conversion therapy could be deemed legal nationally if this was to leave the realm of the federal government and move to the Supreme Court. Johnson’s intent was to stop this matter from reaching the Supreme Court, “The courts have changed considerably over the last few years, and we cannot count on them to rule in favor of much-needed protections for the LGBTQ community.”
According to the Williams Institute, these efforts can dramatically affect one’s mental health and suicidal behavior. Approximately, 698,000 LGBTQ+ adults in the U.S. have recieved conversion therapy, where 350,000 of them recieved the treatment as adolescents. It is now completely legal to practice amongst minors under the age of eighteen in the forty-one states that have not banned the hazardous practice. In addition, the American Psychological Association has publicly stated that the practice is unlikely to be successful and will involve some risk of harm.
At Grace, the repeal has not been a topic of conversation. Numerous students, when told about the repeal, had little to no knowledge about it. There seems to be some form of unwillingness amongst the students of Grace to speak openly about this repeal, as numerous students and faculty members declined to speak. The majority of the Grace community is unaware of New York City’s attempt to repeal. However, few students and faculty members were up to date on Speaker Johnson’s proposal. Reverend Hummell was willing to share his thoughts, “After all of the progress that was made from gay being considered a mental illness to the pride march, it is disappointing to have your own city completely shift. I was particularly saddened with the idea of any youth struggling to come out, especially because this repeal truly does not represent us as a city. It truly disaffirms who we are. Conversion therapy evokes the idea that it is okay to be homophobic and that what you have is so bad that is must be cured. One also has to deal with the fact that someone is attempting to fix you, to become normal.”
Leaders Isabella Park ’21 and Liya Yaniv ’21 of the Spectrum Alliance at Grace spoke about their belief that the repeal is truly unconstitutional, “I hadn’t heard of the repeal till recently, partially because I don’t think the LGBTQ+ community is represented in the media whatsoever. The repeal goes against everything that the Geneva Convention stood for. This is pure torture, and we are telling children to change a part of them. I have a friend who has been forced to go to conversion therapy because her parents want to fix her andthey have searched for the cure so she’ll become ‘straight’. The repeal will make it a possibility for her to attend conversion therapy regularly. She’s my age. No seventeen-year-old should have to deal with torture.”
It is truly unlike New York City to be in favor of such a far-right practice. Although, it does show the level of desperation our country has been faced with. Our government has now begun preventative action to avoid any executive or judicial power becoming involved. The most liberal states have, shockingly, begun to adapt to the right-wing policies. Isabella stated, “It is a turning moment, for New York City, and for our country”; a new New York City.